In response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a positive 90-day finding today on a petition filed in 2000 by the groups to list the Pacific fisher as an endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service will now begin a one-year review of the rare mink-like carnivore to determine if endangered status is warranted.
An old-growth dependent species, the Pacific fisher has been decimated by a combination of logging and historic fur trapping. It has been extirpated from Washington, Oregon, and half its range in California. "Without immediate protection from continued logging on private and federal lands, the fisher will go extinct," states Noah Greenwald a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Bush administration has recently announced plans to substantially weaken protections for old-growth forests in the Sierra Nevada, which were enacted in a Clinton era plan called the Sierra Framework. Bush would double the amount of logging currently allowed under the Framework. Bush has also recently weakened protections in the Pacific Northwest developed under the Northwest Forest Plan. "By placing resource extraction over conservation, Bush is setting forest management back thirty years," states Craig Thomas, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. "His policies ignore science and are a recipe for gridlock in forest management."
In California, the fisher is reduced to two small populations -- one in the southern Sierra Nevada and one in northwestern California. Endangered status for the fisher requires protection for old-growth forests, benefiting the entire ecosystem. It would also provide additional funding for research and boost efforts to reintroduce the fisher into parts of its range where it no longer occurs, such as the northern and central Sierra Nevada. "Protection of the fisher and the old-growth forests it depends on will provide a range of benefits to society," notes Greg Loarie, an attorney with Earthjustice who represented the groups on the suit to force Fish and Wildlife Service's decision today. "These benefits range from the clean water provided by intact forests to the potential discovery of new medicines derived from the diverse array of species found only in old-growth forests."