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Endangered Bird Trumps Chainsaws

A Feather in Our Cap

UPDATE: In two separate rulings in June 2008, a federal judge in Washington, DC, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled in favor of retaining federal Endangered Species Act protections for the marbled murrelet.

A small Pacific northwest seabird that nests in old growth forests had dodged some chainsaws that were headed its way thanks to the legal efforts of Earthjustice. The marbled murrelet is one of several threatened species that were targets of political pressure from the timber industry and their allies in the Bush administration. The bird's nesting habitat happens to be in some of the same old growth forests timber corporations have had their eyes on for years. The timber industry filed a lawsuit seeking to strip Endangered Species Act protections from the birds in order to log the forests where they live but Earthjustice attorneys mounted a successful defense on behalf of the bird. A federal judge in Washington DC rejected the timber industry's lawsuit and left protections in place.

The marbled murrelet is declining in numbers from California to Alaska and was a key species in development of the Northwest Forest Plan, a 1994 federal plan which reduced national forest logging by more than 80 percent in the region to protect fish and wildlife habitat.

Still Under Threat

Marbled murrelets continue to face threats -- habitat destruction is still the major threat to the murrelet even with protections in place -- and will need the continuing vigilance of conservationists. In February 2009, the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Obama administration announced that it was reopening the comment period on the proposed revision to critical habitat.