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Fishers Deserve Protection, Enviros Claim

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The West Coast fisher remains "in bureaucratic limbo" because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not listed the weasel-like mammal as an endangered species, despite determining that such protection is "necessary to its continued existence," conservation groups claim in Federal Court.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Forest Legacy, the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center say the agency has taken six years to find that the fisher is endangered, yet has shown no signs of adding it to the endangered species list or taking steps to conserve its habitat.

The groups say populations of the fisher, a forest-dwelling mammal found throughout Washington, Oregon and northern California, have dramatically declined in recent years "due to trapping, predator and pest control, car-related mortality" and "the loss of habitat caused by logging, farming and fire."

In April 2004, the Fish and Wildlife Service found the fisher warranted classification as endangered, but was "precluded by other higher priority actions" and assigned it a priority number of 6. The agency continues to drag its feet, the lawsuit claims, and the fisher remains unprotected by the Endangered Species Act.

The environmental groups demand a declaration that the agency violated the Act in listing the fisher as "warranted but precluded." They also seek an order forcing the service to withdraw its finding and add the fisher to the endangered species list immediately.

They are represented by Deborah Reames with Earthjustice in Oakland.

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