ARCATA, CA – The Environmental Protection and Information Center (EPIC), the Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Sierra Forest Legacy filed a notice of intent to sue the Department of the Interior last week, for its failure to protect the Pacific fisher. The fisher is a relative to the mink and otter with populations in northwest California and southwestern Oregon as well as the Sierra Nevada.
In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that the threat to fishers—whose populations were diminished by historic fur trapping and logging in old-growth forests—warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, the USFWS has failed to protect the fisher, arguing that the agency lacks the resources to do so. The environmental groups suing the agency assert that the USFWS’s failure to make sufficient progress toward listing the fisher under the ESA is illegal.
“We must use every measure available to prevent the Pacific fisher from going extinct. Budgetary concerns cannot be the litmus test on whether an entire species gets to survive or not,” said Kerul Dyer, EPIC’s Outreach Director. “As usual, the grassroots must force the hand of management agencies to follow the laws that govern them. The declining numbers of Pacific fishers indicate a dangerous loss of habitat, food sources and changing conditions. I only hope that this 60 day notice of intent to sue can outrun the mechanisms of destruction these critters are up against.”
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the fisher is one of 249 species designated as candidates for listing as endangered species. Many species have been waiting decades for protection and most are gravely endangered. Although lack of resources is the purported reason for delaying protection for these species, the Obama administration has proposed to cut funding for listing of endangered species by 5 percent. To date, the administration has only protected two species under the Endangered Species Act. By comparison, the Clinton administration protected an average of 65 species per year.
The fisher has a long, slender body with short legs. Its head is triangular, with a sharp, pronounced muzzle and large, rounded ears. Fishers are mostly brown, with a long bushy tail. Males range up to 47 inches in length, while females typically reach 37 inches. Fishers run in a bounding gait, with their front feet leaping forward together, followed by the back feet. The fisher has a diverse diet, preying on small mammals, snowshoe hare, porcupine, and birds, and also eating carrion, fruit, and truffles. Because it is the only animal that regularly preys on porcupines, which often kill or damage small trees, the timber industry reintroduced the fisher to parts of the United States, including the southern Cascades of Oregon.