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Fish and Wildlife Service Reverses Bush Policy, Protects Rare Seabird

Victory: Decision one more reason to withdraw Bush Oregon logging plan
June 17, 2009
Seattle, WA —

Rebuffing the anti-science stance of the Bush administration, the US Fish and Wildlife Service today released a report finding that continued protection of marbled murrelets in Washington, Oregon, and California is required. This report replaces a 2004 review where Bush political appointees reversed scientific and legal conclusions to try to eliminate protections for murrelets. The new report finds that the tri-state murrelet population is distinct and separate from other populations in Canada and Alaska.


"Science has won the day," said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "The marbled murrelet is severely imperiled and needs the protections of the Endangered Species Act to survive."    


The report concluded that "[t]he species decline has been largely caused by extensive removal of late-successional and old growth coastal forest which serve as nesting habitat for murrelets." The report comes as Obama administration officials reconsider a Bush administration decision to increase logging of murrelet habitat in old growth forests in western Oregon. Protection for the murrelets, as well as for salmon and northern spotted owls, stands in the way of this decision.


"Today's report affirms the need to protect old-growth coastal forests used by this seabird to nest and raise their young -- yet another in a growing list of reasons that the Obama administration should withdraw the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (also known as WOPR)," said Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney. 


"Protecting murrelet forests also helps recover salmon and spotted owl populations, clean our air from excess carbon, and prevent pollution from entering drinking water sources for communities all up and down the coast," continued Boyles, who has litigated to protect and defend the birds. 


Tragically, today's report finds a 26 percent decline in the Washington, Oregon, and California marbled murrelet population since 2002. It also admits that the genetically distinct Central California population has declined by 75 percent since 2003.


"Because we've failed to protect it, this unique California murrelet is sliding into an extinction vortex," said Scott Greacen, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center.


The timber industry has filed multiple lawsuits to remove protections from the murrelet. To date, those lawsuits have been unsuccessful.  With today's report confirming the dire straits of murrelets, Fish and Wildlife Service moved to dismiss the last of these pending cases.


The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that nests in old growth forests along the Pacific Coast of North America. In 1992, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the marbled murrelet population in Washington, Oregon, and California as a threatened species due to logging of its old growth habitat.


Represented by Earthjustice, the Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Environmental Protection Information Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Oregon Wild, Seattle Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society intervened in the timber industry lawsuit to defend the murrelet.


Read the report (PDF)

Contacts

Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext. 33
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Scott Greacen, EPIC, (707) 822-7711

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