photo: Chris Kennedy / USFWS
Late last week, the Obama administration denied endangered species protection to the American pika, which environmentalists and some scientists believe is imperiled by global warming. As I wrote Monday in The New York Times:
The Obama administration has determined that the American pika, a small rabbit-like mammal, is not threatened by climate change.
The decision underscores how the Endangered Species Act has become the latest battlefield in the fight over global warming.
Environmentalists consider the pika to be the animal most vulnerable to climate change in the continental United States due to its inability to survive even small increases in temperature.
The pika lives on alpine mountain ranges throughout the West, and as average temperatures have increased in recent decades, some populations have disappeared at lower elevations while others have moved to higher peaks, according to scientific studies.
In an initial finding issued last April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that protecting the pika under the Endangered Species Act “may be warranted because of the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range as a result of effects related to global climate change.”
But after a full review, government scientists have concluded that the pika could survive temperatures projected to increase 3 degrees Celsius in its mountain habitat as well as the loss of snow pack, which the animals depend on for shelter. “The American pika has demonstrated flexibility in its behavior and physiology that can allow it to adapt to increasing temperature,” the scientists wrote in the finding released Friday.
Greg Loarie, an attorney who represents the Center for Biological Diversity, the environmental group that petitioned to list the pike as endangered, said studies do not support the government’s position.
You can read the rest of the story here.