The best available science from ODFW is clear – habitat loss on state lands is putting the marbled murrelet at high risk of extinction within decades. The status quo has failed this iconic Oregon seabird. The only question for the Fish and Wildlife Commission is whether it will support the conclusions of its own scientists and vote to change the status of the marbled murrelet to endangered in Oregon.
For Immediate Release
Oregon Wildlife Commission to Decide Fate of Threatened Seabird
Responding to a petition from conservation groups, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will hold a public hearing this Friday and decide whether to increase state endangered species protections for the marbled murrelet by listing it as endangered. Its current status is threatened.
The marbled murrelet is a seabird that nests in old-growth and mature forests and forages at sea. Its population has declined dramatically over the decades because of extensive logging in Oregon’s Coast Range. The commission’s decision could have implications for forest protection on state and private timberlands.
“The marbled murrelet has been listed as threatened under the Oregon Endangered Species Act for more than two decades and during that time it has slipped closer and closer to extinction in our state,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “It’s critical that the state increase protections for this species right away if there is to be any hope of saving the Oregon population.”
In response to a petition from multiple conservation organizations, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife developed a status review to assess the murrelet’s condition. The review demonstrated that murrelets need increased protections under the Oregon Endangered Species Act due largely to loss of nesting habitat from ongoing clear-cut logging. State protections are critical, because although many of Oregon’s Coast Range old-growth forests have been logged and converted into industrial tree farms, some of the best remaining older forests occur on state-managed lands.
“While federal laws have stabilized habitat loss on federal lands, the state of Oregon has continued to allow logging of older forests at an alarming rate and failed to adequately address new threats to the species,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “Changing the murrelet’s status to endangered will help ensure that Oregon takes the steps necessary to do its part to save this species.”
The murrelet was listed as threatened in 1995. However, the recent status review conducted by Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife concluded that the “key threats identified at the time of listing have continued or increased, and many new threats have been identified since the 1990s … the life history exhibited by this species provides little opportunity for the population to rapidly increase even under the most optimal circumstances.” It also noted that the primary causes of marbled murrelet declines — loss and fragmentation of older forest habitat on which the bird depends for nesting — have “slowed, but not halted … since the 1990s,” with greatest losses occurring on lands managed by the state. The review specifically notes that existing programs and regulation have “failed to prevent continued high rates of habitat loss on nonfederal lands in Oregon.”
“There can be no question the marbled murrelet is endangered in Oregon,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The murrelet is a tough bird that flies 70 miles or more daily to bring fish to its young. But it may not survive the ongoing logging that’s destroying its habitats, declining prey in the ocean or climate change unless the commission protects it as endangered.”
"The best available science from ODFW is clear – habitat loss on state lands is putting the marbled murrelet at high risk of extinction within decades,” said Quinn Read, Northwest director for Defenders of Wildlife. “The status quo has failed this iconic Oregon seabird. The only question for the Fish and Wildlife Commission is whether it will support the conclusions of its own scientists and vote to change the status of the marbled murrelet to endangered in Oregon.”
The conservation groups that initiated the petition to declare the marbled murrelet endangered in Oregon were Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Coast Range Forest Watch and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.