WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

April 22, 1998
Contact: Margaret Ainscough, (360) 902-2408

  Digg it!  StumbleUpon  Reddit

Protection listings for fisher and two fish species up for comment

OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comment on proposals to classify the fisher (a forest-dwelling carnivore) as a state endangered species and to add the margined sculpin and the pygmy whitefish to its list of sensitive species.

The three-month public review period begins May 1 on draft reports which outline the three species' status in Washington and recommend protection listings.

The fisher, which historically occurred throughout much of the state's forested area, was over-trapped in the past. Although the fisher has been protected from legal harvest for the last 64 years, its recovery is hampered by loss of habitat due to development, logging and past predator and pest control programs. Only a small number of fishers are believed still to be present in the state. Without recovery action the species is likely to be eliminated completely.

The margined sculpin (Cottus marginatus), a small fish currently found only in the Tucannon and Walla Walla drainages of the Blue Mountains, is vulnerable to local disturbances. Most of the waters inhabited by the species have been degraded by development, logging, agriculture, grazing and channelization which have resulted in sediment buildup, increased water temperatures, lack of pools and algae blooms.

The pygmy whitefish (Prosopium coulteri) occurs across the northern tier of the United States, western Canada and Alaska, with Washington state at the extreme southern end of its range. Favoring cool waters, the fish formerly resided in at least 15 Washington lakes, but currently inhabit only nine. The species' demise in the other six lakes is attributed to declining water quality and past fish management practices including the introduction of exotic fish species. Because of its small size (under 20 centimeters) and its tendency to inhabit deep lake waters, the pygmy whitefish is difficult to detect and current population levels have not been determined.

Status reports on all three species will be available May 1 at public libraries, WDFW headquarters in Olympia and WDFW regional offices in Mill Creek, Montesano, Vancouver, Ephrata, Yakima and Spokane. Written comments on the reports may be mailed by August 1 to Harriet Allen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia 98501-1091.

Public meetings will be scheduled on the draft reports during the comment period. After the public comment period ends, state biologists will prepare final status reports and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) documents, which will be available for public review. Final recommendations will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its Oct 2 and 3 meeting.

The WDFW maintains a list of threatened, endangered and sensitive state species separate from the list maintained by the federal government. Presently, there are 23 endangered, nine threatened and two sensitive species on the state's list. Endangered species are those in danger of becoming extinct in the state; threatened species are those likely to become endangered unless preventive steps are taken, and sensitive species are those which are vulnerable to decline.

Although WDFW can work with landowners to encourage habitat protection, it does not have regulatory authority to control land use to protect species' habitat.