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The Missoulian, January 11, 2016

Federal officials to reconsider protections for fisher

By Rob Chaney

 

A coalition of environmental groups has won a new government review on whether fishers need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The cat-sized predator lives in forests in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest. On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published notice in the Federal Register that it was reconsidering its 2011 decision that ESA protection for fishers was not warranted.

“Fishers need protection now,” Arlene Montgomery, program director for Friends of the Wild Swan, noted in an email Monday. “Intensive surveys between 2012 and 2014 in the Southwest Crown of the Continent failed to detect any fishers, yet trapping in Montana continues to kill them and logging is degrading their habitat.”

FWS will conduct a 60-day public comment period on the fisher’s status through March 12. Under its rules, the agency looks at “the amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted. If we find that substantial scientific or commercial information was presented, we are required to promptly commence a review of the status of the species, which will be subsequently summarized in our 12-month finding.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Clearwater, Western Watersheds Project and Friends of the Wild Swan combined for the petition to FWS regarding the fisher status. They asked that the Northern Rocky Mountains fisher population be listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Fishers are legal to trap in Montana, and are prized for their thick reddish-brown fur.

In a 2011 review, FWS ruled that the fisher wasn’t warranted for endangered or threatened listing. Monday’s announcement stated that new information presented since the 2011 review “presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the fisher ... may be warranted.”

“We’re glad to see that the Service recognizes the plight of this rare carnivore,” Andrea Santarsiere, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in an email Monday. “We urge the Service to act swiftly to ensure protection for the Northern Rockies fisher before the population declines any further.”

 

Copyright 2016 Missoulian.

This article originally appeared here.

Jeffrey pine photo by John Villinski.