Howdy All. Thanks for being part of the Friends of the Clearwater bi-weekly blasts. Today I have good news about one of the rarest predators in the Clearwater, a bad project in need of democratic action, and a lot of fun photos from our spring events.
Wolverine become ESA candidate species – again
This court case, in which Friends of the Clearwater was one of several plaintiffs represented by EarthJustice, threw out the US Fish and Wildlife’s 2020 decision to remove the species from consideration for ESA protections. Now they are back on the candidate list for the third time since 2000, and time to ensure their survival is slipping away. The agency now has 18 months to come to another decision, which we strongly hope will result in a threatened or endangered listing.
Some 250-300 wolverine roam the US. These are the largest mustelid (weasel relative) of the Clearwater. They are largely solitary, traveling up to fifteen miles per day through some of the most rugged and remote parts of the country, although these intrepid predators have been found as far from the Rockies as North Dakota.
There are an estimated 250-300 wolverine in the entire country, and that population is at serious risk from climate change, wildland development, and genetic isolation. The USFWS website says that “climate changes are predicted to reduce wolverine habitat and range by 23 percent over the next 30 years and 63 percent over the next 75 years.” Wolverine are the canary in the coal mine (or maybe the Caribou in the clearcut?) for climate change, and swift material protections are necessary to ensure this remarkable species can adapt to a hotter, drier West.
The agency has been criminally hesitant to protect the wolverine, citing mixed scientific information. In reality, the State governments of Idaho and Montana, the snowmobile lobby, and industrial extraction industries don’t want to see limitations to their various forms of profit in the most remote alpine regions of the United States.
Nauseatingly, the USFWS has obliged Team Extinction for over 20 years. Hence the lawsuits.
But this is a big win, and one that resets the clock for this rare and misunderstood ‘skunk bear’. You can read the entire news release from EarthJustice here.
The Bitterroot Mullet: Wild in the Back, Clearcut in the Front?
The Bitterroot Front Project is the next stages of planning. The landscape-scale logging project covers the eastern slope of the Bitterroot mountains. Not a few acres of the range but 85+ square miles of the eastern slope, including over 13,000 acres in roadless country adjacent to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.
The project plans an untold mileage of roads, which they claim will be decided on the ground in what they call “condition based management.” In reality it’s to avoid a thorough environmental analysis and pushes the NEPA process away from democratic participation.
This project would be a loss for the Bitterroot, the Clearwater, and the many species that inhabit both. The Bitterroot range acts as a bridge between the Northern Continental Divide (in the Glacier-Bob Marshall region) and Idaho’s Big Wild.
For grizzly bears in particular, this massive development could seriously hinder their recolonization in Idaho and the viability of the species in America long term. This is not something we can afford to lose, and FOC will be working with Friends of the Bitterroot and the Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force to keep this from coming to pass.
But we need your help too. Pre-scoping has just wrapped up on the project. Comments are still being accepted, and I strongly urge you to comment on the project through the Forest Service website.
Events (IE, how you missed out!)
Here are some snapshots from the last couple months.