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A push to bring wolverines back to California fizzles amid budget woes

Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

Those who want to see wolverines reintroduced to California were dealt a setback this week.

Proposed legislation to explore what it would take to reintroduce the rugged and elusive apex predator to the state’s high mountains died Thursday at the state Capitol.

A similar effort in Colorado, however, is moving forward.

Wolverines vanished from California more than a century ago, a casualty of trapping, hunting and poisoning. Rare sightings of one in Yosemite National Park and other areas last year spurred a flurry of excitement — and played a role in the timing of the legislation.

While the passage of Assembly Bill 2722 wouldn’t have triggered the immediate importation of the animals, it would have required state wildlife officials to conduct a feasibility study on a reintroduction or supplementation program with the goal of restoring a viable population.

But the bill also arrived as the state faces a staggering budget deficit totaling tens of billions of dollars. It met its end in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which reviews bills that affect the budget. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife estimated the feasibility study would cost $235,000, the amount needed to hire a scientist to carry out the work.

 

Assemblymember Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, who introduced the bill, said in a statement that a tough budget year meant some proposed laws would fizzle to allow other more vital ones to move forward.

“My hope is that in a better budget year, a bill just like this will move forward,” said Friedman, who is likely headed to the U.S. House of Representatives. “California must support recovery efforts to bring this iconic animal back to California’s wilderness.”

Brendan Cummings, conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity, which sponsored the bill, said he wasn’t surprised by the bill’s fate, given the budget woes, but wasn’t going to give up on the underlying goal.

“These animals shared this landscape — are part of California,” he said. “As a Californian, I feel it’s my obligation to do everything possible to bring back the extirpated, missing species that are no longer here in a functional way because of human activity.”

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