Skip to main content

Logging Industry Fails Again to Strip Threatened Seabird of Protections

Victory: Court upholds marbled murrelet protection in Washington, Oregon, and California
A marbled murrelet.

A marbled murrelet.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Photo
March 2, 2015
Washington, D.C. —

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last Friday rejected yet another attempt by the timber industry to remove federal endangered species protections from the marbled murrelet, a unique coastal bird found in the Pacific Northwest. The appeal was the timber industry’s fifth attempt in the past decade to eliminate protections for the old-growth forests that marbled murrelets call home, despite undisputed scientific evidence which has shown that murrelets are continuing to disappear from the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California.

“The D.C. Circuit soundly disposed of industry’s arguments, most of which it called ‘frivolous,’” said Kristen Boyles, staff attorney with Earthjustice. “Five strikes and you’re out—there is no support in science, law, or public opinion for the industry’s continued demand to log the public old-growth murrelet forests.”

The marbled murrelet is a shy, robin-sized seabird that feeds at sea but nests only in old-growth forests along the Pacific Coast.
National Park Service Photo
The marbled murrelet is a shy, robin-sized seabird that feeds at sea but nests only in old-growth forests along the Pacific Coast.

The marbled murrelet is a shy, robin-sized seabird that feeds at sea but nests only in old-growth forests along the Pacific Coast. Murrelets don’t build nests, instead laying their single egg on large, moss-covered branches in old growth Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and redwood trees. In 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected marbled murrelets in Washington, Oregon, and California as a threatened species due to logging of coastal old-growth forests. The timber industry has waged a 15 year legal campaign to eliminate protections for the small seabird in order to increase logging of some of the region’s last-remaining mature and old-growth forests.

“It’s time to move forward with recovering these unique seabirds,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We know what we need to do to save the marbled murrelet and that is protecting the last coastal old-growth forests in Washington, Oregon and California.”

Tom Wheeler, program and legal coordinator with the Environmental Protection Information Center in Arcata, California, agreed. “Murrelets down here in the southern end of their range need more, not less, protection and recovery.”

An old-growth forest in Oregon, Coast Range, Coos Bay. The marbled murrelet feeds at sea but nests only in old-growth forests along the Pacific Coast.
Photo courtesy of Frances Eatherington
An old-growth forest and marbled murrelet habitat in Oregon, Coast Range, Coos Bay.

“The marbled murrelet’s coastal old-growth habitat is known the world around for its biological treasures,” said Dave Werntz, science and conservation Director at Conservation Northwest. “This court ruling ensures the murrelet and its old forest habitat have a shot at recovery.”

“Marbled murrelet populations have continued to decline in the Pacific Northwest, even as the timber industry has continuously tried to strip their protections ,” said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director of Audubon Society of Portland. “We stand ready to defend murrelets if the time industry continues to push for their extinction.”

Represented by Earthjustice, Audubon Society of Portland, Seattle Audubon Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Environmental Protection Information Center, Oregon Wild, and Sierra Club intervened in the lawsuit to defend the murrelet listing and critical habitat.