Forest landowners can help protect the fisher


The fisher, a large member of the weasel, mink and otter family, disappeared from Washington by the mid-1900s because of overtrapping and loss of habitat. But the fishers have returned to their historic home in recent years because of efforts by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other leaders to reintroduce the mammal to the Olympic Peninsula and the Cascade Mountains.

Now it’s time for forest landowners to play a critical role in the fisher’s recovery.

State fish and wildlife leaders have drafted an agreement in which individual forest landowners in the fisher’s range (see map here) can enroll that will give the landowners regulatory certainty in the event that the fisher is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In exchange, the forest landowners agree to monitor any fishers that venture on their property and to not disturb the animals. The agreement is called a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA).

More from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife:

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 the proposed CCAA, landowners agree to conservation measures such as:

  • 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.

If forest landowners in the fisher’s range enroll in the CCAA, they “receive assurances against additional land-use restrictions should the species covered by the CCAA ever become listed for protection under federal law,” according to the state.

There’s one major fact left to mention: landowners must enroll in the CCAA before the fisher is officially listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The timeline for the listing is fluid, but landowners likely have no more than a couple months to enroll in the CCAA.  

Technically, the CCAA is still under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and won’t be official until the end of the month, but the state is already taking applicants.

WDFW is enrolling landowners now, with the understanding that the terms and conditions – including landowner assurances – will become effective only if and when the USFWS approves the CCAA and issues the requested permit.

Interested landowners should contact Gary Bell (360-902-2412 or or Jeff Azerrad (360-696-6211 ext. 6754, or at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

The CCAA, allowing forest landowners to participate in the success of the fishers, has been long in the works.

Doug Hooks, director of environmental programs at the Washington Forest Protection Association, said his organization has been working with WDFW, USFWS, tribes and others for more than a year to extend the program to landowners in Washington state.

“The work we are doing together is a testament that landowners, the state and federal government can develop voluntary measures that protect wildlife and the forestry business at the same time,” Hooks said.