The work to protect the last remaining Pacific fishers has taken a half-step forward and a half-step back.
The Pacific fisher—a small and rare carnivore that depends on old forests in California—is in dire need of protection. Fishers have been extirpated from the majority of the West Coast; California’s forests represent their last remaining significant populations. To recover the species across their historic range, we need to first protect the last remaining California fishers.
California’s fishers have never fully recovered from historic impacts, such as logging and trapping. And, new impacts, particularly forest fragmentation, increased predation, and rodenticide exposure associated with illegal marijuana operations, have acted to kick the species while it is down.
Last Wednesday, the Fish and Game Commission considered whether to protect the species under the California Endangered Species Act. Instead of the full protections needed (and warranted under the law), the Commission decided to only protect a small portion of California’s rare Pacific fisher. By a unanimous vote, the Commission adopted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recommendation that only fishers in the Southern Sierra Nevada be protected; fisher in Northern California are left to fend for themselves. It was a half-victory for the fishers. But a half-victory is not enough. All of California’s remaining fishers need protection.
This one setback won’t stop EPIC from its mission to protect the Pacific fisher. EPIC is also pushing for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Way back in 2000, EPIC and other conservation organizations petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the fisher. After 15 years of fighting—including numerous successful court battles—the Fish and Wildlife Service is set to make a final decision in early 2016.
Thank you to the thousand-plus supporters who took action to protect the fisher. We will need your voice again soon to make sure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not follow the California Fish and Game Commission’s example.