Science should dictate species protections, not politics. Ignoring the facts of the Humboldt marten’s plight is more than neglect, it’s a death sentence.
For Immediate Release
Oregon Denies Protection for Gravely Imperiled Humboldt Martens
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted today to deny state Endangered Species Act protection to the fewer than 200 Humboldt martens estimated to remain in the state.
The commission rejected a June petition from six conservation groups to protect the rare carnivore that would have required a review of its current status in Oregon.
“Humboldt martens have been nearly wiped out in Oregon, but state wildlife officials are obstinately refusing to protect them,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oregon’s decision to ignore the available science could lead to the extirpation of the state’s cutest creature.”
Only two isolated populations of Humboldt martens survive in Oregon — one in the Siskiyou National Forest and another in the Siuslaw National Forest. The lack of mature forest habitat on state and private forests stretching between the two populations has isolated them and put them at high risk.
“We believed Humboldt martens extinct until not too long ago, and instead of celebrating the discovery that the species still exists, Oregon is refusing to even consider the matter,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “Without state protection these little carnivores are unlikely to survive for future generations of Oregonians.”
The martens were once common in the coastal mountains from the Columbia River south to Sonoma, Calif. But logging of old-growth forests and fur trapping decimated and separated populations.
Populations on the southern coast are now threatened by severe wildfires and rodent poisons used in marijuana cultivation. Populations on the central coast are threatened by vehicle mortalities on Highway 101 and lack of suitable mature forest habitat for dispersal.
“Science should dictate species protections, not politics,” said Sristi Kamal, senior Northwest representative at Defenders of Wildlife. “Ignoring the facts of the Humboldt marten’s plight is more than neglect, it’s a death sentence.”
A 2018 study concluded that Humboldt martens on Oregon’s central coast could be wiped out within three decades with trapping or road kill of just two or three individuals annually.
"If any species needs our help, it's the Humboldt marten," said Joseph Vaile with KS Wild based in southern Oregon.
Earlier this year conservation groups petitioned the state to ban marten trapping west of Interstate 5. The state has agreed to implement future trapping restrictions for Humboldt martens, but the extent of the new guidelines is currently unknown.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under court order to publish a decision on federal protection for the Humboldt marten by Sept. 30.
In August the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to protect the marten as endangered in the state. Martens in California face a similar level of imperilment as those in Oregon, with fewer than 200 surviving in two populations.
The Oregon petition was filed by Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Oregon Wild.
Martens, typically 2 feet long, have large, triangular ears and a long tail. They eat small mammals, birds, berries, reptiles and insects, and are eaten by larger mammals and raptors. They are so rare they were thought to be extinct until a remote camera snapped a picture in the redwoods in 1996. Genetic studies then revealed that Oregon’s coastal martens are part of the Humboldt marten subspecies and are a different subspecies than the martens in the Cascade Range, which are not imperiled.
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