Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 6, 2014

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Fisher Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection in California, Oregon, Washington

Rare Forest Carnivore, Decimated by Decades of Old-growth Logging and Fur-trapping,
Now Being Poisoned by Marijuana Growers

PORTLAND, Ore.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Endangered Species Act protection today for a secretive carnivore that lives in old-growth forests in California, Oregon and Washington. The decision to protect the West Coast population of the fisher results from a landmark 2011 settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions on 757 imperiled plants and animals across the country; fishers are cat-like, medium-sized members of the weasel family with slender, brown bodies and long, bushy tails. They were extirpated from all of Washington, most of Oregon and half of California by a combination of trapping and logging. They are the only animals that regularly prey on porcupines.   

Photo courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This photo is available for media use.

“I’m elated that 14 years after we first tried to get these elusive animals protected, they’re finally proposed for the Endangered Species Act protection they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center and original author of the petition for protection of the fisher in 2000. “Now more than ever fishers need protection from old-growth forest logging, trapping and poisoning.”

Though the fisher was once wide-ranging, today only two naturally occurring populations survive, one in the southern Sierra and another in southern Oregon and Northern California. A population was reintroduced into Olympic National Park in Washington in 2008.

Although Pacific fisher trapping was outlawed in the 1940s, logging and development have decimated the large blocks of forest the species needs to survive. Fishers prefer old-growth forests due to the thick canopy of overhead cover and also because old trees and snags provide the structures they rely on for nesting, denning and protection from larger predators.

“In addition to Endangered Species Act protection, the strong protections provided by the Northwest Forest Plan for old forest habitat need to be maintained, including on O&C lands,” said Greenwald. ”And the dangerous rodenticides being used by illegal marijuana growers that have poisoned fishers need to be completely banned.”

“O&C” lands are public forest lands in western Oregon that are under threat by legislative proposals from Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D.-Ore.) and others to turn over to a private logging trust to increase revenue from clearcutting. “O&C” stands for Oregon and California Revested Grantlands. They were set aside in 1937 for sustainable forestry and watershed protection.

The Service responded to the 2000 petition from the Center and allies to protect the fisher by placing it on the candidate waiting list for protection in 2004. In 2011 the Center and the agency reached a settlement to speed protections for all the species on the candidate waiting list as of 2010, as well as a host of other species previously petitioned for protection. To date 138 plants and animals have received protection as a result of the Center’s 2011 agreement, and another 13 have been proposed for protection, including the fisher.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has made incredible progress in addressing the backlog of plants and animals facing extinction,” said Greenwald. “Now Congress needs to designate sufficient funding for recovery to make sure our country’s endangered species get what they need to thrive.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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