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 closed-canopy 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 thanks to historical trapping and extensive logging and development in mature and old-growth forests, it’s now in danger of extinction in the western portion of its range along the Pacific Coast, in the Sierra Nevada and in the northern Rockies.
Northern Rockies fishers live in mature forests along the border of Montana and Northern Idaho. They’re threatened by logging and habitat loss and also by trapping. Fishers are legally trapped in Montana, and in recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of them caught in traps set for other species, like bobcats and wolves. The Center and a coalition of other groups petitioned for protection of these fishers in 2009, but the Service refused to protect the species. In September 2013, in light of the increased trapping pressure and new information on habitat requirements and loss in the region, the Center and allies re-petitioned for protection of fishers in the northern Rockies.
The Pacific fisher ranges from California to Washington state, including the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Although Pacific fisher trapping was outlawed in the 1940s, logging and development have decimated the large blocks of forest the species needs to thrive.
To help save the Pacific fisher from extinction, the Center and 17 other environmental groups petitioned to list the species 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 decision on the Pacific fisher’s U.S. listing proposal is due in 2014.