Nearly two years after petitioning to include West Coast fishers under California's Endangered Species Act (ESA), wildlife officials denied federal protection to the furry, mid-sized forest carnivores on April 14.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) was poised to officially declare West Coast fishers as endangered species but withdrew the proposal, saying that the animal's population is not in danger of extinction.

The agency's move follows "voluntary agreements" between regulators and timber holders in the industry, saying that the regulations will be enough to return territory for West Coast fishers and prevent population decline.

Moreover, the agency believes that research reveals no threat to the population of West Coast fishers.

"We arrived at our decision following a comprehensive evaluation of the science and after a thorough review of public input," said Ren Lohoefener of the USFWS. "Listing is not necessary at this time to guarantee survival."

However, wildlife conservationists are insisting against the USFWS's decision, saying that there are overwhelming scientific evidence pointing to the threat of logging and poisonous chemicals to the rare animals.

Attorney Tanya Sanerib of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said fishers may be strong enough to prey on porcupines, but these animals still need the ESA protection to survive.

Ecologist Ben Solvesky said the USFWS's decision was very disappointing.

"If we are going to save the fisher for future generations then it needs range-wide protection," added Solvesky.

The fisher, a short-legged, bushy-tailed member of the weasel family, was once endemic throughout forests in North America, but has seen a dramatic drop in its West Coast population due to timber harvesting, trapping, as well as the use of rodenticides.

In fact, a study by Dr. Mourad Gabriel revealed that rodenticides from illegal marijuana farms pose serious harm to the West Coast fisher.

In 2014, the population of West Coast fishers reached an alarming number. Now, the CBD estimates that there are only about 300 individual fishers in southern Sierra Nevada and 250 to a few thousand in North California and Southern Oregon.

The USFWS has said there has been a significant boost in the interest and support of federal, state, tribal and private stakeholders in conducting proactive measures to prevent the decline of the animals.

For instance, to halt the population decline of West Coast fishers, lumber maker Weyerhaeuser Company vowed to adopt measures that will manage 3 million acres of its Washington and Oregon timberlands.

The company wants to reduce the impact of timber harvesting on the habitat of fishers. Additionally, it will fund efforts to reintroduce the fisher to parts of its original range.

Meanwhile, Lohoefener is optimistic regarding the state of West Coast fishers in the country.

"We look forward to continuing to work with our federal, state and local partners to help ensure future habitat for this population," added Lohoefener.

Photo: USFS Region 5 | Flickr

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