Fisher to be considered for endangered species status
July 10, 2003
By DON THOMPSON
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SACRAMENTO -- The Pacific fisher will be considered for endangered
species protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday
after completing a 90-day review ordered by a federal judge.
The service will now take a year to further review whether the species
that once lived in California, Oregon and Washington should be listed
under the Endangered Species Act.
The weasel-like fisher once lived in ancient forests from the Sierra
Nevada north through western Oregon and Washington. But trapping and
habitat loss killed off much of the Washington and Oregon populations,
and only half its California habitat remains, environmental groups
said in petitioning for protection of the species.
The service said recent studies have found three fisher populations:
one in the Siskiyou, Klamath, and Trinity ranges in northwestern California
and southern Oregon, another in the southern Sierra Nevada, and a
reintroduced population in the Cascades in southern Oregon. The fisher
is extinct or reduced to scattered individuals in Washington, the
U.S. Forest Service researchers determined that the southern Sierra
Nevada population, which is critical to the survival of the entire
species, "may face imminent extinction" if something isn't
Environmental groups said the Forest Service's plans for more logging
in Giant Sequoia National Monument and across 11.5 million acres of
Sierra Nevada national forest will further decrease the fisher's habitat.
"Without immediate protection from continued logging on private
and federal lands, the fisher will go extinct," said Noah Greenwald,
a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
His was one of 20 organizations and individuals that joined in the
petition seeking protection for the fisher.
The Fish and Wildlife Service missed its legal deadline for considering
the mink-like carnivore's status by more than two years, U.S. District
Judge Samuel Conti ruled in April.
He rejected the service's request for an additional year's delay despite
its plea that Congress didn't give it enough money to review all the
endangered species' petitions and lawsuits filed by environmental
groups. Though the service has now met the new 90-day deadline set
by Conti, he noted the service is instantly in violation of a second
deadline in federal law by more than a year.
If the service finds the fisher should be listed, it would have to
set up rules to protect the species and its habitat. However, the
service has frequently found that listings are warranted but precluded
for protection because the service has higher priorities for protection
under its financial, time and staffing constraints.