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The Green Life: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Shoots Down Pika's Chance for Climate-Change Protection

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February 12, 2010

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Shoots Down Pika's Chance for Climate-Change Protection


The West's mountain-dwelling American pika could have become the first critter to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act because of climate change. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service denied the protection last Thursday, stating that because the pika's decline doesn't appear to be universal, the species doesn't merit ESA protection.

The Center for Biological Diversity begs to differ. Under representation by Earthjustice, it brought forward the lawsuit to extend protection to the species. "We've already lost almost half of the pika that once inhabited the Great Basin, and scientists tell us that pika will be gone from 80 percent of their entire range in the U.S. by the end of the century," said Greg Loarie, an attorney with Earthjustice representing the Center. "To conclude that this species is not threatened by climate change is an impossible gamble that we can't afford," he continued.

In 2008, Sierra magazine reported about how the southern populations of these small, close relatives of rabbits are disappearing or moving northward as temperatures rise. This alpine-dwelling (and, need we add, adorable) mammal can die from overheating when exposed to temperatures greater than 77 degrees, and is thought to have disappeared from most of the Great Basin.

--Jamie Hansen


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