Lawsuit filed for pika's survival

While the American pika cannot boast the majesty of the polar bear or the symbolism of the gray wolf, scientists insist the furry mammal is just as deserving of protection from global warming.

The Center for Biological Diversity accuses the government of giving the pika the back of its hand, and the nonprofit is in two Sacramento courtrooms to force regulators to work for the creatures' survival.

The tiny mammals live in the boulder fields near mountain peaks in the western United States, including the northern Sierra. Because they are extremely heat-sensitive and susceptible to hyperthermia at temperatures above 75 degrees, climate changes threatens their survival.

According to climate experts, temperatures in the nation's western states in this century will increase twice as much as they did in the last century. This could eliminate the pika in much of its habitat.

"The pika is the American West's canary in the coal mine," said Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "As temperatures rise, pika populations at lower elevations are being driven to extinction, pushing pikas further upslope until they have nowhere left to go."

A California Fish and Game Commission report issued earlier this year declared neither it nor its corresponding department have any legal responsibility for how wildlife adapts to increased greenhouse gases, "despite numerous state laws and policies that require the agencies to consider and respond to climate change," one of the suits said.

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