Landowners can help fisher recovery

Pacific fisher
Listed in 1998 by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission as an endangered species, the Pacific fisher was reintroduced into the Olympic Peninsula in 2008. Photo: Pacific Southwest Region-USFS.

The fisher, a member of the weasel family that all but disappeared from Pacific Northwest forests during the last century, is returning to Washington state. In 2008, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and partners worked together to reestablish the species in Olympic National Park. Currently, reintroduction of the species is underway on federal lands within the Cascade Mountain Range.

In a separate action, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide whether to list the fisher as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in April 2016. Regardless of the federal agency’s listing decision, wildlife managers are seeking help from forest landowners to work as partners in the recovery of fishers in Washington State. To promote this partnership, WDFW has drafted a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurance (CCAA) with the help of private, state, and tribal landowners.

How a CCAA works

A CCAA is a voluntary agreement in which landowners agree to help promote the conservation of a species that may later become listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. In return, landowners receive assurances against additional land-use restrictions should that species ever become listed for protection under federal law. Fishers also benefit from these agreements, because conservation measures outlined in a CCAA are designed to encourage landowners to support fisher reintroduction and recovery efforts.

Requirements under a CCAA

While wildlife managers expect that most fishers will remain on the national parks and national forests where they are released, they want to provide protection for any that may move onto non-federal lands. As part of a CCAA, landowners agree to:

  • Work with WDFW wildlife managers to monitor fishers and their dens in the event that a den site is found on their property.
  • Avoid harming or disturbing fishers and their young associated with active denning sites (March to September).
  • Report den sites and sick, injured, or dead fishers on their property. Landowners can enter into a CCAA only until such time as fishers are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

For more information about enrolling in the program, please contact:

Fisher recovery areas
Fisher recovery areas in Washington state. Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Bringing back the fisher

The fisher (Pekania pennanti) is one of the larger members of the weasel family and is found only in North America’s forests. Through excessive trapping and habitat loss, fishers were eliminated from Washington state by the middle of the 20th Century.

In 1998, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission listed the fisher as endangered in the state.

Recovery of the species is now well under way. From 2008 to 2010, WDFW worked with the National Park Service and other partners to reestablish the species in the state, relocating a total of 90 fishers from central British Columbia to Olympic National Park. Additional releases have been ongoing on federal land in the South Cascades and others are planned for the North Cascades in the next few years.

Since the 1940s, wildlife managers in 27 states and provinces have translocated (relocated) fishers 30 times to reestablish local populations within the fisher’s historical range. Twenty-two (73 percent) of these translocations are known to have been successful and two others are still being evaluated.

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