Lawsuit Seeks State Protection for Rare Forest Mammal

For Immediate Release

Earthjustice / Center for Biological Diversity
Contact: 
Greg Loarie, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6700
Justin Augustine, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 302

Lawsuit Seeks State Protection for Rare Forest Mammal

California Fish and Game Commission Ignored Studies Showing That Fishers Face Significant Threats

SAN FRANCISCO - The Center for Biological
Diversity filed suit today challenging the California Fish and Game
Commission’s decision to deny state Endangered Species Act protection to
the Pacific fisher, a rare, forest-dwelling carnivore. The Center is
being
assisted by lawyers at Earthjustice.

A close relative of the wolverine and mink, the fisher once thrived
in old-growth forests along the West Coast. Today, because of logging,
trapping and development among other factors, fishers are almost extinct
in Washington and Oregon, and just two small
populations remain in California: one in the Klamath Region and another
in the southern Sierra Nevada. These isolated populations are at
substantial risk from logging, habitat fragmentation, disease, traffic
and development.
 
“Scientists have been very clear that the Pacific fisher is in
trouble and yet the Fish and Game Commission ignored that information
and refused to throw it a lifeline,” said Justin Augustine, a Center
attorney. “Now we’re going to court to get the protections
that fishers need and deserve.”
 
The Center petitioned the Commission in January 2008 to list the
fisher as a threatened or endangered species under the California
Endangered Species Act. The Commission initially tried to reject the
petition without conducting a full scientific review.
Only after the Center exposed correspondence showing that many of the
Department of Fish and Game’s own scientists believed fishers may be at
risk of extinction did the Commission reverse course and direct the
Department to conduct a full review. At the conclusion
of that review, Department managers again ignored their own scientists,
as well as peer reviewers, and significantly altered a draft of the
status review to downplay threats to the fisher.
 
The Department’s official, final review of the fisher’s status in
California was heavily criticized by independent biologists. Only the
timber industry supported the Department’s decision to recommend against
state protection. The Commission denied the
petition September 15.
 
“The fact is that there are probably fewer than 150 breeding female
fishers left in the entire Sierra Nevada,” said Greg Loarie, an
attorney at Earthjustice. “If ever there were an animal that desperately
needs protection, this is it.”
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