On July 2, the Idaho Conservation League and other conservation groups reached a legal settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on potentially adding the wolverine to the Endangered Species List.

There are fewer than 300 wolverines left in the lower 48 and they’re threatened by climate change and winter recreation. The tenacious wolverine inhabits Idaho’s high country and depends on persistent late winter and early spring snowpack. Female wolverines take shelter in dens under the snow to rear their kits (or young). Unless steps are taken to reduce carbon emissions, wolverine numbers are expected to continue to decline as the Earth’s atmosphere warms. Growing recreational pressures in wolverine habitat can also disrupt breeding.

Efforts to add wolverine to the Endangered Species List have been on-going for two decades. Represented by Earthjustice, ICL joined the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Rocky Mountain Wild, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in first petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service to add the species to the Endangered Species List in 2000.

The Obama Administration issued and then retracted a proposal to list wolverine in 2014. Conservation groups then successfully sued the Fish and Wildlife Service for withdrawing the proposal despite overwhelming scientific evidence that wolverines are on the decline. Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to take any action during the intervening years. So in March, the conservation groups went back to court to compel action. In response, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to decide by August 31st whether wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

While this legal settlement does not ensure that wolverines will receive the protection that they deserve, the settlement potentially brings us one step closer.