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Federal wildlife officials withdrew proposed protections for the snow-loving wolverine Tuesday, a reversal that highlights debate over what a warming climate means for some temperature-sensitive species. "Climate change is a reality," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said, but predictions about localized impacts remain "ambiguous." Rejecting conclusions of the agency's own scientists, Ashe said that made it impossible to determine how that would affect snow-covered den habitat and put wolverines in danger of extinction.
The decision carries potential ramifications for other species affected by climate change — from Alaska's bearded seals and the Pacific walrus to dozens of species of corals — as scientists and regulators grapple with limits on computer climate models. Wildlife advocates blamed the reversal on pressure from state wildlife agencies. They said they intend to sue to force Ashe’s agency to adopt protections. Ashe said when the evidence is clear his agency will act, such as the 2008 decision to list the polar bear as threatened because of Arctic sea ice losses from global warming.
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