Olympic National Park Releases Environmental Assessment on Fisher Recovery

Olympic NP officials have developed a plan to return fishers to the park. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife photo.

A cat-sized carnivore long missing from the forests of Olympic National Park could soon be roaming the park under a plan drawn up to return the animal to one of its native haunts.

Fishers are native to Washington's state's Olympic peninsula, but over-trapping early in the 20th century wiped them out. While trapping fishers has not been allowed on the peninsula since 1934, the animals have not naturally returned to the region.

Though fishers are not on the Endangered Species List, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did list them as a candidate species in 2004. However, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission listed fishers as being endangered in its state in 1998. As a result of that listing, Washington officials already have a recovery plan developed.

The bottom-line of the EA calls for fishers to be transplanted to the park from a source possibly in British Columbia, as those animals are the most closely related to those that used to roam Washington state. The proposal calls for fishers to be released in the Elwha-Sol Duc area, the Hoh-Bogachiel area, and the Queets-Quinault area.

The plan calls for releases to continue over a three-year period and that at least 100 fishers would be released in the park. The first release could happen as soon as later this year or early in 2008.

The park is now embarking on a 30-day public comment period on the EA, running through October 10. After that period closes, the comments will be reviewed and park officials will make a recommendation on the recovery proposal to the Park Service's Pacific West regional director, who will make the final decision.

You can find the EA at this site. You also can make your comments at that site, or mail them to the park superintendent, addressed to "Superintendent--Fisher Reintroduction, Olympic National Park, 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, Washington, 98362.