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As Wolverine Gets a Second Chance, No Endangered Listing for Pacific Fisher

Pacific Fisher are being threatened by logging and illegal marijuana grows, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. (USFS Region 5 Reg/ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Region)
April 18. 2016
Pacific Fisher are being threatened by logging and illegal marijuana grows, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. (USFS Region 5 Reg/ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Region)

SEATTLE - As Earth Day approaches, two West Coast members of the weasel family may be heading in different directions when it comes to protection as endangered species.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied protections for the Pacific Fisher, a mid-sized weasel estimated to number anywhere from a few thousand down to 250 on the Pacific Coast.

Steve Pedery, director with conservation group Oregon Wild, says logging has hurt the Fisher's habitat.

"They depend on old growth forests, so they haven't done very well," says Pedery. "They have new threats coming at them from things like illegal marijuana grows using poisons on public lands to kill rodents that these Fisher end up eating and then dying."

The Center for Biological Diversity, which originally petitioned Fish and Wildlife to protect the species, says the action was politically motivated. The Center is considering legal action over the decision.

Conservation groups took similar legal action against the agency after the wolverine, cousin to the Fisher, was denied listing as an endangered species.

The ruling on that case came earlier this month, with a federal judge ordering Fish and Wildlife to reconsider that decision, saying the agency's action appeared to be politically-motivated.

Managing attorney Tim Preso, with the conservation advocacy law firm Earthjustice, says Fish and Wildlife reversed its own decision on wolverines.

"After a campaign of opposition to the proposed protection of the wolverine by affected state governments," says Preso. "The Fish and Wildlife Service backed down and withdrew its proposal to protect the species."

Fish and Wildlife denies the decision was based on politics. It says climate change has affected the wolverine, which needs deep snow to den, but "it was not causing the wolverine to be threatened or endangered now nor in the foreseeable future."

Wolverines have made a tenuous comeback to the northern Cascades in Washington, and only number around 300 in the lower 48.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA