Environmental groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week over the agency’s decision to withdraw its own proposed rule that would have listed the Pacific fisher under the Endangered Species Act.

The federal agency in 2014 had proposed protecting the bushy-tailed mammals as threatened under the federal act, finding that they would likely become endangered. Rather than issuing a final rule, the agency in April 2016 “inexplicably and illegally abandoned years of work and withdrew its Proposed Rule, leaving Pacific fishers unprotected,” the lawsuit stated.

Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Sierra Forest Legacy filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Pacific fishers — related to minks, otters, martens and wolverines — once ranged through the forests of the West Coast, from the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades into Canada. Deforestation, trapping, poisoning and other threats have largely wiped them from that range, the lawsuit noted. But two small populations survive in southern Sierra and the Klamath-Siskiyou region straddling northwest California and southwest Oregon. Members of the weasel family, fishers have thick, dark fur and long tails. They are native only to North America.

The groups called for the fish and wildlife agency to issue a final rule listing Pacific fishers as threatened.

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