The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday designated the North American wolverine as a threatened species, extending federal protection to the population under the Environmental Protection Act.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing its final rule to list the distinct population segment of the North American wolverine in the contiguous U.S. as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act," the FWS said in a press release.
Officials said the ruling would help address population declines.
"Based on the best available science, this listing determination will help stem the long-term impact and enhance the viability of wolverines in the contiguous United States," said Pacific Regional Director for the Fish and Wildlife Service Hugh Morrison.
Morrison said climate change had likely contributed to "habitat degradation and fragmentation."
The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy organization that brings legal actions for environmental protection, welcomed the designation.
"The decision represents the culmination of a campaign by conservationists over decades that required six rounds of successful litigation to secure federal protections," the CBD said in a statement.
The CBD said that conservationists have been petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate the North American wolverine since 1994.
"The service repeatedly delayed and obstructed the proposed wolverine listing, forcing wolverine advocates to turn to the courts for enforcement of the act," the CBD said.
The CBD said scientists place the number of North American wolverines in the lower 48 states is around 300 and that the designation would help ensure the safety of wolverine populations.