Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wolverine case being heard in Missoula court asks if FWS made rational decision

In a room packed with wolverine legal experts, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen may have had the best brief. He actually saw the rare carnivore on three separate occasions. “I don’t know what the odds are of seeing a wolverine three times,” Christensen told the attorneys, “but there’s no reason for any of you to explain it’s a member of the weasel family with large feet that eats marmots. I’ve seen that.” Christensen added he also had read the scientific reports on the wolverine’s habitat and population, was aware of how elusive the animal is and how hard it is to study. What he wanted to know in the case of Center for Biological Diversity et. al. v. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was whether an agency decision denying Endangered Species Act protection to wolverines was reasonable or arbitrary. Everybody in the Missoula courtroom agreed about 300 wolverines remain in the continental U.S., mostly in Montana. And they agreed that a 2011 study by Rocky Mountain Research Station scientist Kevin McKelvey was a solid block of evidence showing how climatic changes would affect where wolverines can live. What they disputed was whether McKelvey’s study was enough to warrant federal protection for wolverines. The Fish and Wildlife Service decided it wasn’t, and ruled there was not sufficient evidence that wolverines might near extinction without agency action. Preso and Bishop argued there was, noting FWS used the same research in a draft decision granting wolverines protection in 2013, only to reverse course and deny it in the final decision a year later...more

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