Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-opened the comment period and extended the deadline for acting on the agency’s proposal to list a distinct population segment of the North American wolverine under the Endangered Species Act. Generally, the ESA requires that the Service finalize a listing proposal within one year, but the Act allows the Service to extend the deadline by six months if it finds substantial scientific disagreement concerning the proposed listing. The Service has determined that such disagreement exists with respect to the wolverine’s habitat requirements and the extent to which climate change will affect its habitat.
Recall that PLF submitted comments on the proposed listing, arguing that, whatever the science, the Service has no legal authority to list the proposed sub-population of wolverine. Our comments explain that the ESA allows for the listing of species, subspecies, and distinct population segments of species. The proposed listing, however, constitutes a distinct population segment of the subspecies North American wolverine. To date, no federal appellate court has ruled in a published decision whether the Service may list a distinct population segment of a subspecies. Perhaps a wolverine listing will provide the opportunity to decide the issue.