For Immediate Release, February 4, 2010
||Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Craig Thomas, (530) 622-8718
Lawsuit Launched to Defend Pacific Fisher From Federal Negligence
SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Forest Legacy, Environmental Protection Information Center, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Department of the Interior over its failure to protect the Pacific fisher – a relative of the mink and otter that has been decimated by historic fur trapping and logging of old-growth forests. Following a petition from the groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged in 2004 that the fisher warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act, but has yet to provide that protection, arguing that it lacks resources. The groups’ notice asserts that continued delay of protection for the fisher is illegal because the Service is failing to make sufficient progress listing species that are waiting for protection.
“The fisher and hundreds of other species have been waiting too long for protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The failure to protect the fisher is nothing but foot dragging.”
The fisher is one of 249 species that are designated as candidates for listing as endangered species – a designation that in itself provides no protection. Many 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.
“Secretary Salazar is not prioritizing protection of endangered species,” said Greenwald. “With threats from habitat loss, pollution, invasive species, and climate change all on the rise, budget cuts are the last thing the nation’s endangered species need.”
The fisher once roamed from British Columbia to the southern Sierra. Today, it has been reduced to two native populations – one in the southern Sierra Nevada and one in Northern California and extreme southwestern Oregon and an introduced population in the southern Oregon Cascades. These populations continue to be threatened by logging.
“The Pacific fisher has been devastated by a combination of historic fur trapping and logging of its old-growth forest habitats,” said Craig Thomas, executive director of Sierra Forest Legacy. “Without adequate protection measures on private and federal lands, the fisher will go extinct.”
Fisher Description and Natural History
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 only reach 37 inches. Fishers run in a bounding gait, with their front feet leaping forward together, followed by the back feet. Unlike other carnivores, such as cats and dogs, fishers walk on their whole foot.
Contrary to its name, the fisher does not eat fish. The name probably relates to a poor translation of the name for the European polecat, which is a relative of the fisher and is called the fitch ferret, fichet or fitche. Rather than fish, 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 many parts of the United States, including the southern Cascades of Oregon. The fisher kills porcupines with repeated bites to the face, devouring the porcupine via the quill-less underbelly. Where fisher reintroductions have been successful, porcupines have indeed declined in number.