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Pacific Fisher Gets Stronger Habitat Protections In Southern Oregon

Photo of a cat-sized member of the weasel family.
Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The pacific fisher will have new habitat protections in southern Oregon as a result of an agreement between the Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A cat-size animal in the weasel family native to Southern Oregon will receive greater habitat protection thanks to a new agreement announced this week between the Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Habitat of the Pacific fisher is restricted primarily to parts of Southern Oregon and Northern California. The fisher is currently under consideration to be listed as a federally threatened or endangered species. The agreement between state and federal land managers expands protections on nearly 184,000 acres of land owned by the Oregon Board of Forestry where fishers historically lived.

“The traditional process is, you list a species, develop a recovery team and work with landowners to try to do those things,” said Paul Henson, the Oregon state supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “What this does is it front-end loads that. Instead of doing it after a listing, you’re trying to do it before a listing.”

The agreement includes land in Santiam, Gilchrist and Sun Pass state forests, as well as Board of Forestry land in Lane, Douglas, Coos and Josephine counties.

“It’s essentially a proactive measure,” said Jason Cox, a public affairs specialist with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The agreement, known as a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, stipulates that in exchange for conservation efforts now, land owned by the Board of Forestry will not be subject to “additional conservation measures or future restrictions.”  

“We agree to have Fish and Wildlife be able to monitor how we’re doing on the agreement and it provides assurances so long as we’re holding up our end of the deal,” Cox said.  

If active fisher dens are found on state forest land, timber operators would take conservation steps to ensure the species isn’t impacted by forestry activities. The agreements are similar to past sage grouse management plans in eastern Oregon, according to Henson. There are currently no known fishers on the Oregon Department of Forestry land designated for protection, according to Cox, but that could change if fishers are reintroduced in the future.  

The Pacific fisher is a candidate for being listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The future status of the animal is currently being evaluated at the federal level by U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials. Henson says addressing habitat issues with state landowners early is typically more effective than after a listing occurs.

“The bottom line is you’re encouraging good activity from those land owners,” Henson said. “After a listing they’re much less likely to want to engage.”

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.