Pikas Aren’t Endangered, Agency Rules

Published February 25, 2010

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has denied extending endangered species protection to the climate-sensitive American pika, a small, mountain-dwelling mammal.

Sufficient Range Will Remain
Arguing global warming is shrinking the range of pikas on cool western mountaintops, the activist groups Earthjustice and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned in 2007 to list the species as endangered.

The American pika inhabits high-elevation boulder fields and alpine meadows in the Western mountains spanning through ten states. It cannot endure a temperature higher than 104 degrees. In New Mexico, Nevada, and Southern California, populations rarely exist below 8,200 feet.

In response to the endangerment petition, the Fish and Wildlife Service analyzed four potential factors that could affect the habitat or range of the American pika. It found only climate change as a potential threat to the species.

Global warming alarmists claim summer temperatures may rise up to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit during the next century in pika mountaintop habitat. Fish and Wildlife, however, found there would be enough suitable high-elevation habitat to prevent the pika from being threatened or endangered even if such warming occurred.

“[W]e have determined that the species as a whole will be able to survive despite increased temperatures in a majority of its range and is not in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future,” said Steve Guertin, Fish and Wildlife’s director of the Mountain-Prairie Region, in a press statement.

Petitioners Leave Options Open
Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, expressed disappointment with Fish and Wildlife’s decision. Wolf says global warming is chasing pikas from the Great Basin area of Nevada and Oregon.
“The pika is a warning bell that climate change is harming our western mountain ecosystems,” said Wolf.

The Center for Biological Diversity is consulting Earthjustice and weighing its options for challenging the agency’s decision, said Wolf.

“When Fish and Wildlife Service denies listing the pika, it’s taking a head-in-the-sand approach, saying that climate change isn’t harming the pika [and] it isn’t harming our wildlife. [This] isn’t supported by the science,” said Wolf.

Warming Fears Unfounded
“The entire premise behind the Center for Biological Diversity petition—that substantial global warming will occur in the upcoming century—is flawed,” countered Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute. “Claims that humans are causing global warming are based on false scientific premises, as shown by the recent Climategate and United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scandals.”

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.