For Immediate Release, January 23, 2008
Contact: Paul Spitler, (541) 306-4772
Conservation Group Seeks Protection for Pacific Fisher
Under California Endangered Species Act;
Petition Opens New Front in Effort to Protect California Forests
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed a scientific petition with the California Fish and Game Commission to protect the Pacific fisher as a threatened or endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act. Protection could alter forest management on millions of acres of private forest land across the state.
The Pacific fisher is a genetically distinct population of the fisher, a small forest carnivore related to otters, weasels, and wolverines. Pacific fishers depend on healthy, old-growth forests and large trees for their survival, and their populations have declined by more than 50 percent in California; only two isolated populations remain. Logging and road construction are the primary threats to fishers in California, and protection under the California Endangered Species Act could lead to curtailment of logging on private lands.
“Scientists have warned for over a decade that the fisher is heading toward extinction, and still this gorgeous forest dweller has no substantial protection under state or federal law,” said Paul Spitler, the Center’s public lands director. “We have a moral obligation to ensure the Pacific fisher persists into the future, and right now we’re failing to meet that obligation.”
In 2000, the Center submitted a petition to list the Pacific fisher as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. In 2004, the Bush administration determined that the Pacific fisher warranted protection. However, despite concluding that “existing regulatory mechanisms are not sufficient” to protect the animal, the administration refused to extend it federal protection.
“The fisher is perilously close to extinction, partly because of the Bush administration’s wholesale failure to protect it. The state of California can’t just keep fiddling while Rome burns. Where the feds have failed to act, we have to take action ourselves,” said Spitler.
Fishers depend on large trees for denning and resting and on older forests with intact canopies for foraging and dispersal; historically they existed across the Sierra Nevada and northwest California. The two remaining isolated populations are in the southern Sierra Nevada and the northwest of the state.
No individual may “take” — that is, harm or kill — a species that is protected under the California Endangered Species Act, and no state agency may authorize the take of a protected species. Further, the state’s “Forest Practice Rules” prohibit the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection from approving a timber harvest plan if the plan will result in the harming or killing of a state-listed species.