The Fish and Wildlife Service announced a 90-day finding that listing the whitebark pine as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) previously petitioned the Service to list the whitebark pine in 2008. It filed a lawsuit in March 2010 to force the Service to act on the listing petition. In its petition, NRDC claimed that climate change posed one of the most significant threats to whitebark pine. According to NRDC, whitebark pines are being threatened by several factors, which are exacerbated by climate change, including being attacked by mountain beetles that are now capable of moving to higher elevations due to rising temperatures.
The Service’s decision initiates a 60-day period for the public to provide information on the status of the species. After the Service has conducted its status review, it will issue a 12-month finding on the petition, which will address whether listing is warranted. The Service’s 90-day finding does not necessarily mean that the Service’s 12-month finding will result in a "warranted" conclusion because the 12-month finding is based on a more rigorous "best scientific and commercial data" standard.
The Service’s decision is one of several recent listing decisions involving climate change. The Service may adopt rules listing several species of penguins due to climate change. The National Marine Fisheries Service previously determined that a petition to list 83 species of coral due to climate change presented substantial information indicating that listing might be warranted for 82 of the species. However, the Service declined to list the American pika as endangered or threatened due to climate change.