For Immediate Release, July 18, 2011
Contact: Jay Lininger, (928) 853-9929
Mount Ashland Ski Area Expansion Challenged
Project Would Hurt Pacific Fisher, Rare Forest Carnivore
ASHLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity today formally appealed the latest U.S. Forest Service decision to expand a ski area on Mount Ashland, citing irreversible harm to old-growth forest occupied by the Pacific fisher, a rare and declining forest carnivore.
“Expansion would destroy old-growth forest, which fishers need to survive, at a site where fishers are known to live,” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center.
Trapping, logging and road building have reduced West Coast fisher populations to a fraction of their historical range. A recent study shows a steep decline in fisher numbers in Northern California over the past decade; protection of the animal under the federal Endangered Species Act has been deemed “warranted” but precluded by competing priorities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Forest Service admitted in its newest impact statement that the ski area expansion will displace fisher from the middle fork of the east fork of Ashland Creek. Last year, the agency documented 12 fishers in the Ashland watershed.
In 2007, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the ski area expansion, in part because the Forest Service failed to show that removal of 220 acres of fisher habitat was compatible with the animal’s long-term survival.
“Mount Ashland is critical to fisher recovery,” Lininger said. “Ski expansion would cut off a vital route that males have to travel to find mates.”
The Center first petitioned for the fisher’s protection in 2000. Last week, under the terms of a far-reaching settlement negotiated by the Center to advance protections for 757 species, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to make a listing determination for the fisher by 2014.
Today’s appeal is a required precursor before the Forest Service’s decision can be challenged in court.