For Immediate Release, April 29, 2016
Justin Augustine, (503) 910-9214 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Forest Service Approves Habitat Destruction in Sierra Nevada Roadless Area
Decision Allows Post-fire Logging in Habitat Occupied by Rare West Coast Fishers
FRESNO, Calif.— The U.S. Forest Service this week issued a decision approving more than 1,000 acres of post-fire logging in a roadless area in the Sierra National Forest that U.S. Forest Service surveys, conducted post-fire, show to be occupied by rare West Coast fishers (Pekania pennanti).
|Photo courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This photo is available for media use.
The Forest Service’s decision to log the area comes just weeks after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied protections to West Coast fisher populations under the Endangered Species Act. Instead of listing the species, the Fish and Wildlife Service bowed to pressure from the timber industry and withdrew its 2014 proposal — a proposal that had recommended protecting fishers on the basis of overwhelming scientific evidence showing threats to their survival from logging, toxic chemicals used by illegal marijuana growers and other factors such as climate change. The Forest Service’s action to approve logging in fisher habitat further demonstrates why fishers need Endangered Species Act protection to recover in the Sierra.
“It’s appalling to see the Forest Service allowing important wildlife habitat to be destroyed, especially in a roadless area,” said Justin Augustine, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Roadless areas represent some of the last, best places for wildlife like fishers to survive. The Forest Service needs to be protecting these places, not logging them.”
Late last year a court found the Forest Service in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act for failing to properly address the impacts of logging in roadless areas within the footprint of the 2014 French fire. The court sent the Forest Service back to the drawing board, but the Service has now issued yet another decision authorizing the same logging it had illegally approved. The Center will head back to court to ask that the existing prohibition against logging remains in place, especially given the presence of West Coast fishers.
Fishers are cat-like, medium-sized members of the weasel family with slender, brown bodies and long, bushy tails. They once roamed from British Columbia to the southern Sierra in California, but due to intense logging and trapping pressure, today only two naturally occurring populations survive — there are about 300 fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada, including Sierra National Forest, and a population of 250 to a few thousand fishers in southern Oregon and Northern California. In the Sierra fishers are found in mature, dense conifer forest, as well as in burned forest such as that created by the French fire. Post-fire logging, however, removes the vast majority of the trees and prevents the natural regeneration of trees, shrubs or other vegetation, thus rendering the area unsuitable for wildlife.
“This logging project will destroy the very complex forest ecosystems that fishers need to survive and ruin the roadless character of these beautiful public lands,” said Augustine. “The Forest Service should be maintaining the integrity of roadless areas and wildlife habitat, not logging them.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.