Judge to U.S. Fish and Wildlife: Don’t ‘cherry pick’ science

Now the agency must reconsider protections for the rare Pacific fisher.

 

In September, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its decision not to federally protect Pacific fishers, ruling that the agency had ignored and mischaracterized research about the species. At a time when the Endangered Species Act faces increasing politicization, the decision re-affirms the role of science in deciding when and how to protect the West’s disappearing species.

Rodenticides from illegal marijuana operations have threatened the Pacific fisher in recent years. The Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to grant fishers federal protections in 2016; now, a judge has ordered the agency to reconsider.
Bethany Weeks/USFWS Pacific Southwest Region

About the size of large house cats, Pacific fishers hunt birds, rodents, hares and even porcupines. Once found throughout the Pacific Coast mountains, fishers have been dwindling for generations, first because of widespread logging in their range, and more recently because of illegal marijuana operations in remote forests. Growers put out rodenticides that work by stopping blood from clotting, and fishers consume poisons and small critters laced with them. Before dying, poisoned fishers bleed from the nose and gums, are bruised and anemic, and struggle to breathe.

Since 2004, Fish and Wildlife has stalled over whether to protect Pacific fishers, but in 2014, it finally proposed protecting fishers as federally threatened. Two years later, the agency changed course, deciding that fishers did not need protection after all. Conservation organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity sued, saying that Fish and Wildlife had caved to pressure from the timber industry. Indeed, multiple industry organizations joined the suit as defendants alongside the federal agency.

Now, Judge Alsup has ordered Fish and Wildlife to reexamine the issue. According to Alsup, the agency “cherry picked” scientific evidence to make the results of being poisoned seem less severe than they were for the animals, while also ignoring evidence that poisonings are on the rise. Alsup also questioned why the agency — which says that not enough evidence exists to know whether poisoning threatens fishers with extinction — didn’t conclude that it needed to study fisher poisonings more, rather than declining to list them.

Additionally, the agency ignored a conclusive finding about the species: Female fishers are on the decline. That’s not surprising, given that rodenticides are especially dangerous for pregnant fishers. 

Alsup has given Fish and Wildlife until March 2019 to issue a new decision on whether to protect Pacific fishers. It’s been nearly 20 years since the listing process began, and in his ruling, Alsup suggested that the agency give scientific evidence about Pacific fishers another look as it reconsiders protections for one of the region’s rarest carnivores.

Maya L. Kapoor is an associate editor at NewTowncarShare News. Email her at [email protected]

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • in Southwest Colorado. $60K plus costs.
  • with six+ years of experience, broad knowledge of home and facilities maintenance. 207-805-4157, https://spark.adobe.com/page/8R7Ag/
  • Seeking full-time experienced farmer on 52-acre organic farm Union, OR. [email protected]
  • Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Government Affairs Manager that is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to support...
  • Metal roofing & siding, thru-fastened & seam profiles. Stronger, more attractive and longer lasting than any other panel on the market. 970-275-4070.
  • The Central Colorado Conservancy, a nationally accredited and state certified land trust, is seeking an innovative and dynamic Executive Director to guide the Conservancy into...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time, Lake Tahoe West Senior Project Lead. Position is responsible for working with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) to...
  • Forever Our Rivers Foundation seeks a driven and creative individual to lead this national movement for river health. Deadline 6/14/19.
  • We are looking for an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry, specifically focused on fighting fossil fuel expansion...
  • 7/12-7/14/19 in Taos, NM. With over 21 workshops and keynote speaker, poet Arthur Sze.
  • Badlands Conservation Alliance is seeking an Executive Director. For job description visit https://www.badlandsconservationalliance.org/hiring.
  • Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • Clean off, cool off & drink. Multiple spray patterns. Better than you imagine. Try it.
  • Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...