PORTLAND, Ore.— Conservation groups filed a formal notice today of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its denial of Endangered Species Act protection to the majority of fishers on the West Coast.
Relatives of minks and otters, West Coast fishers once roamed forests from British Columbia to Southern California. Fishers throughout the West Coast range continue to face threats from intense logging, increased fire related to climate change and the use of toxic rodenticides by marijuana growers, which has caused a decline in their populations.
The Service’s May 2020 decision to deny the animals protection reversed previous determinations that West Coast fishers, from northern Washington to the southern Sierra, deserved protection as threatened.
“The Trump administration’s denial of protection to West Coast fishers disregarded the Service’s own findings and completely ignores key science on these amazing and elusive carnivores,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If the fisher’s going to survive and recover in this warming world, it needs Endangered Species Act protection now.”
The groups first petitioned for endangered species protection for West Coast fishers in 2000, leading to a 2004 determination by the Service that the fisher should be listed as threatened throughout its West Coast range.
Rather than provide that protection, however, the Service delayed it, arguing that it was precluded by listings of other species. The agency reaffirmed the fisher’s imperiled status in annual reviews through 2016, when it abruptly reversed course and denied protection.
After the groups successfully challenged that decision, the Service in 2020 granted protections to fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada, but nowhere else.
“The fisher has had to endure 20 years of political games, as the Service has repeatedly violated the law to placate the timber industry,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “It is sad that we are forced, once again, to go to court because the Service refuses to abide by its mandate.”
“The combination of widespread poisonings and extensive loss of habitat have fishers at death's door," said George Sexton, conservation director for the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center. "We refuse to see this iconic species disappear forever on our watch."
The groups filing the notice were the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center.