SAVING THE FISHER

Despite its name, the fisher doesn't eat fish or live by the ocean. In fact, this shy, plush-furred member of the weasel family inhabits mature forests and munches on everything from birds to small mammals to fruit. The fisher is the only animal tough and clever enough to prey regularly on porcupines — no easy feat. But due to historical trapping and extensive logging and development in the West Coast's mature and old-growth forests, the Pacific fisher (the fisher's West Coast population) is now in danger of extinction. And although the secretive old-growth predator once ranged through five states, habitat loss and trapping has limited the fisher's Northern Rockies population to the border of northern Idaho and Montana.

Although Pacific fisher trapping was outlawed in the 1940s, logging and development have decimated the large blocks of forest the species needs to thrive. And because the fisher doesn't fly or live in the water, its recovery requirements aren't sufficiently addressed by management plans like the Northwest Forest Plan, designed primarily to benefit the spotted owl, marbled murrelet and salmon. In 2007, the Center published Species of Concern in the Tillamook Rainforest and North Coast, Oregon, a report documenting the status of more than 200 imperiled species in the Tillamook and North Coast — which showed that the Pacific fisher had been eliminated from the area.

To help save the Pacific fisher from extinction, the Center and 17 other environmental groups petitioned to list the animal as federally endangered in 2000. It took four years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide that listing was “warranted but precluded” and put the Pacific fisher on the candidate list to await protection indefinitely — so in 2010, the Center and allies filed suit against the Service for neglecting the species. Unfortunately, the state of California has also decided to neglect the fisher — after making it a candidate for protection due to a 2008 Center petition, in 2010 the state announced it wouldn’t place the imperiled mammal on its own endangered species list. In November 2010, we sued California as well, because the Pacific fisher needs protection on every level — and in July 2012, a California Superior Court ordered the Fish and Game Commission to reconsider its decision to deny state Endangered Species Act protection to the Pacific fisher.

In a tide-turning victory for the Pacific fisher and 756 other government-neglected plants and animals, in 2011 the Center reached a settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Service to move forward on protection decisions for all of them. Under our agreement, the fisher’s U.S. listing proposal was due in 2014. When the Service failed to respond on deadline, we filed a notice of intent to sue for failure to respond.

In 2015, in response to our petition and lawsuit, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended state Endangered Species Act protection for the fisher in the southern Sierra Nevada portion of its range. And in 2016, in response to the petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Northern Rockies fisher might warrant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. But after years of no federal decision, in 2016 the Center had to file a lawsuit to propel action for this population.

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PACIFIC FISHERS RELEASED INTO THE WILD

Pacific Fishers Released into the Wild!

During the winter of 2015–2016, more than 20 Pacific fishers have been released in Washington’s Cascades by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mount Rainier National Park and Conservation Northwest. Fishers on the West Coast are proposed for endangered species protection now, thanks to our petition and litigation.

Posted by Center for Biological Diversity on Monday, February 8, 2016
During the winter of 2015–2016, more than 20 Pacific fishers have been released in Washington’s Cascades by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mount Rainier National Park and Conservation Northwest. Fishers on the West Coast are proposed for endangered species protection now, thanks to petition and litigation by the Center and allies.

KEY DOCUMENTS
2016 lawsuit to protect the Northern Rockies fisher
2013 federal Endangered Species Act petition to protect the Northern Rockies fisher
2011 Center report: Species of Concern in the Tillamook Rainforest and North Coast, Oregon
2010 notice of intent to sue to protect the Pacific fisher
2008 California Endangered Species Act petition
2000 federal Endangered Species Act petition for the Pacific fisher
1998 map of the fisher’s historic and current range

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROFILE

ACTION TIMELINE

NATURAL HISTORY

RELATED ISSUES
Carnivore Conservation
Rodenticides
Forests
Golden State Biodiversity Initiative
The Endangered Species Act

MEDIA
Press releases
Search our newsroom for the Pacific fisher

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Sierra Forest Legacy, Center-participating coalition to protect the 11 Sierra Nevada national forests

Contact: Noah Greenwald

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Bethany Weeks