Hearing set on reintroducing fisher into Olympic National Park

Peninsula Daily News


FORKS - A public hearing about the proposed reintroduction of the fisher, a cat-sized member of the weasel family, into Olympic National Park will be held in Forks on Tuesday.

It will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the state Department of Natural Resources Conference Room, 411 Tillicum Lane.

A presentation about the federal plan for the fishers' reintroduction will be followed by an opportunity for the public to ask questions and provide comments.

In addition, a 30-day public review and comment period for the Fisher Reintroduction Plan environmental assessment is underway and will continue through Oct. 10, according to Bill Laitner, park superintendent.

100 fishers for three areas
Long missing from North Olympic Peninsula forests, the reintroduction of fishers could begin later this year, or in 2008, and would continue for about three years.

It would involve at least 100 fishers, many of them adult females, transplanted from Canada.

The proposal calls for about 35 fishers to be released during the fall and winter months during each of the three years along roads, trails and river corridors in Olympic National Park's Elwha-Sol Duc area, the Hoh-Bogachiel area and the Queets-Quinault area.

Fishers prey on snowshoe hares, deer mice, rats and mice, squirrels, shrew, deer and elk carrion, birds as well as porcupines and mountain beavers.

The environmental assessment, which was released Sept. 7, and the Forks meeting comprise the latest chapter in a lengthy process that began in 2006 when state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials proposed reintroducing the fisher into Olympic National Park and possibly other locations in the state.

Fishers are native to the forested areas of Washington, including the Peninsula, but largely vanished because of overtrapping in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the loss of old-growth forest habitats.

For the past several years, state Fish and Wildlife biologists have been conducting a study to assess the feasibility of reintroducing the fisher back into Washington.

In January 2006, state and federal officials said Olympic National Park had been singled out as the best site for fisher restoration in the state.

Fishers have been re-introduced successfully in 12 states and five Canadian provinces to establish a fur trade, control porcupine populations (which destroy trees) and as "feel good" measure to enrich the ecosystem.

"Reintroducing fishers will help restore ecosystem functions by reestablishing a member of the predator community and restoring a balance between native predator and prey species," said a fact sheet from Olympic National Park.

"A goal of the National Park Service is to preserve and restore native animals and processes; reintroducing fishers to Olympic National Park would be a step towards that goal."

$200,000 a year
Cost for for obtaining, transporting, releasing, and monitoring fishers over three years is estimated at about $200,000 a year.

The fishers would be protected inside Olympic National Park from trapping and hunting.

State officials say a ban on the use of body gripping traps in Washington has resulted in fewer people buying trapping licenses and actively trapping in areas outside the park.

Fishers weigh between 4½ pounds and 12 pounds and are between 2½ feet and 3½ feet long, about a third of the length being the animals' long, bushy tails.

Several public meetings on the proposed reintroduction of the fisher were held in 2006 in Port Angeles.

Public comments on the proposed reintroduction can be submitted online by selecting Olympic National Park at the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment Web site, http://parkplanning.nps.gov.

Comments may be mailed to: Superintendent - Fisher Reintroduction, Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362.

All comments must be received by Oct. 10.

Those who make public comments should be aware that their entire comments - including personal identifying information - may be made publicly available at any time.

While they can request that identifying information be withheld from public review, the park service cannot guarantee that this will be possible.

For more information, phone the park at 360-565-3004.



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