Friday, September 27, 2013

Groups seek ESA protection for fisher

Animal lives along Idaho-Montana border

Express Staff Writer

    Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project is one of a coalition of conservation groups that filed a petition earlier this week with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the Northern Rockies fisher, a secretive carnivore that lives in old-growth forests along the border of northern Idaho and Montana.
    The fisher is a cat-like, medium-sized member of the weasel family with a slender, brown body and long, bushy tail. The fisher nearly went extinct in the early 20th century because of trapping and of logging of old-growth forests.
    Fishers are legally trapped in Montana, and in Montana and Idaho are sometimes accidentally caught in traps set for other species, such as martens and bobcats, a news release from the coalition of environmental groups stated. In recent years, the number of fishers caught in traps set for other species has increased dramatically, the groups stated, raising concerns for the rare carnivore’s survival.
    According to the groups’ data, twice as many fishers have been incidentally trapped in Idaho since 2008 as were captured from 2002 to 2007. In Idaho, reported non-target catch of fishers by individual fur-takers was 46 fishers in the 2010-11 trapping season, four of which were killed, and 30 fishers in the 2011-12 trapping season, 18 of which were killed. There has also been an increase in the number of trapping licenses sold in recent years, likely related to trapping for wolves.
    “Fisher habitat faces a variety of threats as a result of landscape manipulation and other human activities in the northern Rockies,” said Travis Bruner, public lands director at Western Watersheds Project. “Endangered Species Act protection for the fisher is overdue, and listing under the act would help protect and restore the striking Western landscapes that fishers call home.”
    According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website, the agency must make a finding within 90 days as to whether there is “substantial information” indicating that the petitioned listing may be warranted. If the preliminary finding is positive, a status review is conducted. Within one year of receipt of the petition, the agency must make a further finding that the listing either is or is not warranted. A positive one-year finding can be incorporated into a proposed listing or, if a proposal is precluded by other listing activities, it may be deferred.

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