Court agrees with SCB that decision to not list wolverine was poorly grounded in science
The wolverine is the largest terrestrial member of the mustelid family. The species is primarily found in boreal regions, but was formerly found throughout montane areas of the western United States. Today, the wolverine population in the lower 48 states numbers only a few hundred individuals. This decline has prompted efforts over two decades to list the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The wolverine is threatened by loss of snow covered habitat that is used for denning and caching of prey. The wolverine may serve as an umbrella species for a much larger group of taxa that share the wolverine’s habitat and are also threatened by the effect of climate change on snow cover.
US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) staff scientists and two independent scientific peer reviews have concluded that these threats qualify the species for listing as threatened. However, in August 2014, FWS leadership overruled these conclusions and withdrew its draft proposal to list the wolverine as threatened. SCB’s North America section (SCBNA) and the American Society of Mammalogist (ASM) submitted comments at that time stating that the decision was flawed and did not accurately represent what was known about threats to the species.
Today, the Montana District Court agreed with objections to the FWS decision, and vacated the decision to not list the wolverine (decision here). As the court concluded:
“No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change. It has taken us twenty years to get to this point. It is the undersigned’s view that if there is one thing required of the Service under the ESA, it is to take action at the earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation. For the wolverine, that time is now.”
The Society for Conservation Biology is global community of conservation professionals dedicated to advancing the science and practice of conserving Earth’s biological diversity.
SCB’s Marine and North America sections today submitted comments identifying significant shortcomings in NOAA’s proposed Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammals. These issues included missing data, statistical shortcomings, and an apparent conflict of interest in which the US Navy exerted undue influence over the crafting of the regulations. The full comments can be accessed here.
Microplastic has been reported in every major open ocean and in many freshwater lakes and rivers. Microbeads, tiny plastic fragments or beads included in the ingredients of hundreds of products, are one of the many sources of this growing contamination in aquatic habitats. We estimate that the United States alone emits 2.9 trillion beads per year. If you line these microbeads up end to end, the US emits enough microbeads to wrap around the planet >7 times. Among mitigation strategies for microplastic pollution, we saw legislation banning microbeads as the low hanging fruit. This simple solution would prevent one form of microplastic from entering aquatic habitats. Thus, we got involved. We showed how the scientific evidence regarding microplastic was enough to support a ban on microbeads. We communicated this through the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) in a policy brief and in a Viewpoint published in Environmental Science and Technology. We delivered our work to policy makers who asked us to provide input on the text for several bills, including Maryland and California (the country’s strongest bills regarding this issue) and to testify in support of the bill in front of California Assembly Members. This webinar will cover these topics and more.
Dr. Chelsea Rochman is an Ecologist with emphases in Marine Ecology, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Chemistry. Her research interests cover the ecological effects of anthropogenic contaminants on wildlife and our resources (e.g. water, seafood). More specifically, her current focus is the implications of the infiltration of plastic debris into aquatic habitats. Chelsea is currently a Davis H. Smith Postdoctoral Fellow in Conservation Biology working with Dr. Swee Teh in the Aquatic Health Program at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and in the lab of Dr. Miriam Diamond at the University of Toronto, St. George campus.
To listen to the webinar, see this link: Recording Information
Check out our latest posts on National Geographic’s Voices blog:
A recent policy statement written by SCB’s Smith Fellows, and endorsed by SCB North America, on the risks that microbeads (plastic particles commonly found in cosmetics) pose to biota and the environment, has helped achieve passage of a bill (AB888) restricting use of microbeads in California. More on the story here.
SCBNA is teaming up with the Southwest Climate Science Center, Northern Arizona University, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to put on our second climate change adaptation workshop in Tucson, AZ. Contact us for more information.
SCBNA board member Kristin Carden has written a blog post for National Geographic on human-grizzly bear conflicts in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
The North America Policy Program of the Society for Conservation Biology (“SCB”) has recently submitted comments regarding the newly proposed rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (“Services”) that changes the procedures that scientists must comply with when submitting a petition to the Services to protect a species under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). Recently, the Services proposed several new requirements that all petitions must contain, including a requirement that a petitioner submit the petition in advance to every State where the species is located prior to filing the petition and incorporate all information received from every state to the petition. The proposal also requires a petitioner to gather and append “all relevant information” that is “reasonably available” to the petitioner. These requirements will be difficult for individual scientists to comply with and make it less likely that they will attempt to engage in the listing process.
Fresh off the presses, the March issue of SCB North America’s policy program newsletter.