Judge upholds protections for marbled murrelets
Apr 03, 2013
Marbled murrelets and their old forest habitat in the Pacific Northwest will remain protected after a federal judge in 2013 rejected the timber industry's third attempt to deny them critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
Marbled murrelets and their old forest habitat in the Pacific Northwest will remain protected, for now, after a federal judge rejected a timber industry claim that murrelets do not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The Washington, D.C., district court also turned down a proposal to eliminate murrelet habitat protections on nearly four million acres of federal forest land. Additional claims in the lawsuit will continue to be reviewed by the court in coming months.
The marbled murrelet is a shy, robin-sized seabird that depends on old-growth forests for nesting along the Pacific Coast. Each year, murrelets lay a single egg on a lichen or moss covered platform formed by huge branches found mostly in the oldest conifers. Murrelets prefer areas with high concentrations of old-growth forest and avoid fragmented and partially developed forest landscapes. Old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest provide essential habitat for more than a thousand species and store more climate-warming carbon than most other forests in the world.
In 1992, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed marbled murrelets as a threatened species in Washington, Oregon, and California due to the spectacular declines in the abundance and distribution of their habitat. Murrelets also face threats from nest predation by crows and ravens, and reduced prey quantity and quality from changing ocean conditions. Despite protections on federal land, between 9 to 11 percent of murrelet habitat has been lost in Washington since listing and murrelet populations have declined by almost 30 percent in the last decade.
Conservation Northwest joined seven other conservation organizations in defending the murrelet and its old forest habitat against the timber industry lawsuit.
"This is a big victory. The science is clear: Murrelets face extinction and need our help to rebound," said Dave Werntz, science and conservation director for Conservation Northwest. "Its time for the timber industry to stop fighting the battles of the last decade and refocus its efforts in less ecologically sensitive areas."