22 Feb 2010, 9:42pm
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Groups ready fisher lawsuit against feds

by Walt Cook, The Union Democrat, February 11, 2010 [here]

An alliance of environmental groups plans to sue the U.S. Department of the Interior for failing to place the West Coast fisher on the Endangered Species List.

The historical trapping of the animal, a relative of the mink that weighs as much as a house cat, and logging of old-growth forests have “devastated” West Coast fisher populations, the groups contend.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Forest Legacy, Environmental Protection Information Center and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Interior Department on Feb. 4. The groups can file a complaint in federal court 60 days after that date.

Fishers once ranged throughout the forests of Canada and the United Sates, including Washington, Oregon and California. They were almost completely wiped out in the United States, due to a desire for their pelts, which fetched $150 apiece in 1900. They are now making a comeback in some parts of the country.

Today, in California, two native fisher populations exist: Near the California-Oregon border and in the southern Sierra Nevada, about half of the animals’ historic statewide territory, say the groups bringing the lawsuit.

Timber industry groups worry placing the West Coast fisher on the Endangered Species List will hinder logging operations, as such a designation places restrictions on human activities in areas deemed critical habitat.

Chris Conrad, president of the Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment, sees the environmental groups’ push to list the fisher as an underhanded way to stop logging operations. Twain Harte-based TuCARE defends the interests of cattle and logging operators in the Stanislaus National Forest.

Forests in the Sierra Nevada are so overgrown in places that a catastrophic fire is inevitable without more logging, Conrad said.

“I think it’s evident that these groups have another agenda, and that is to completely shut down forest management,” Conrad said. “It’s unfortunate because the thing that endangers the fisher right now is the incredible buildup of forest fuels. If we don’t address that, their whole habitat is going to burn down.” … [more]

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