For Immediate Release, October 18, 2021

Contact:

Justin Augustine, (503) 910-9214, jaugustine@biologicaldiversity.org

Pacific Fishers to Gain Half Million Acres of Protected Critical Habitat in California

New Protections Cover Current Range of Southern Sierra Nevada Population

OAKLAND, Calif.— Following years of efforts by the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to designate 554,454 acres in the southern Sierra Nevada as critical habitat for a distinct and endangered population of Pacific fishers.

The protected habitat includes areas in Tulare, Kern, Fresno, Madera, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties.

“With the increasing threats this tiny population faces, it’s crucial to protect the vulnerable habitat of these fishers now,” said Justin Augustine, a senior attorney at the Center. “While these new protections are good news for the southern Sierra Nevada population, it’s disappointing that the Service neglected to also protect habitat in the northern Sierra to help fishers to fully recover.”

Relatives of minks and otters, Pacific fishers once roamed forests from British Columbia to Southern California. But because of intense logging and historical trapping, only two naturally occurring populations remain: About 100 to 500 fishers survive in the southern Sierra Nevada, and another few thousand live in southern Oregon and Northern California. They have recently been reintroduced into Washington state.

The Center for Biological Diversity, along with Sierra Forest Legacy, the Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and others, first petitioned for endangered species protections for fishers in 2000. The Service found they warranted protection in 2004, but that such protection was precluded by listing of other species.

Following further litigation, the agency proposed protection for fishers in 2014 but again reversed course in 2016, denying protection. Represented by Earthjustice, the groups sued, and the decision was remanded — resulting in the species again being proposed for protection in 2019. In May 2020 the Trump administration denied Endangered Species Act protection to Pacific fishers from the central Sierra to the Canadian border but granted them endangered status in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Pacific fishers continue to be threatened by loss of habitat due to logging, wildfires, use of toxic rodenticides by marijuana growers and other factors. In a 2015 study, scientists conducting necropsies on fishers found that 75% had been exposed to rodent poison.

Fisher_Pekania_pennanti_WashingtonDeptofFishandWildlife_FPWC_2.jpg
Pacific fisher. Photo courtesy of WDFW. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.