This is a very brief alert for wolverine-interested people who are in Colorado. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a public hearing on the proposed listing rule this coming Tuesday, March 19th. The hearing will be held at the Hampton Inn in Lakewood, Colorado beginning with an informational session from 2:00 – 5:00 pm, with a public comment session to follow in the evening. You must sign up to make a comment; sign-up starts at 6:00 pm.
Several environmental NGOs, including Defenders of Wildlife and Rocky Mountain Wild, will host an event at the same location to discuss wolverine science and conservation, the 10j designation, and the implications of the proposed listing rule and reintroduction. They will provide talking points and synopses of the major issues and opportunities for use during the public comment session.
I haven’t been involved with the development of these materials, and I don’t know what they say, but I have seen an alert from a snowmobile interest group asking for turnout at the hearing to counter the influence of “misinformed” environmentalists. I’m confident that the environmental groups in Colorado will encourage everyone to take a measured approach to the discussion. The snowmobilers are concerned that environmentalists will try to use wolverines to enforce restrictions on recreation, although as far as we know, motorized recreation does not have an effect on wolverines. We have two choices here: pick a fight over land use, based on scientifically shaky “feelings” that wolverines must be influenced by snowmobiles (despite lack of evidence); or try a different approach. I recommend that wolverine advocates take the opportunity to emphasize that wolverines, skiers, and snowmobilers depend on the same resource – snow – and that we have a shared interest in figuring out how to protect that resource, and the associated ecosystem. That means building broad-based coalitions to address climate change. Wolverines are a test case for a new era of conservation and we need to move that dialogue forward, immediately.
I wish I could be there, but I will be somewhere over the Pacific, en route to Mongolia, as the lead scientist on a National Geographic-sponsored expedition that we hope will collect DNA samples and establish some baseline information on distribution of wolverines within the Darhad region. More on this soon.