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Marbled Murrelet Delisting Intervention

A nesting marbled murrelet.

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

Case Overview

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 actually build nests, instead laying their single egg only when they can find a natural, moss-covered platform where the massive branches of old growth Douglas fir and redwood trees join the tree’s trunk.

In 1992, Earthjustice successfully fought to get federal protections for marbled murrelets and their habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed marbled murrelets in Washington, Oregon, and California as a threatened species due to over-logging of coastal old growth forests. Despite undisputed scientific evidence that murrelets are disappearing from the Pacific Coast, the timber industry has set its sights on the small seabird in order to increase logging of forests over 100 years old.

Timber industry attorneys have tried to force the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove the threatened marbled murrelet from the Endangered Species Act. Earthjustice represented several conservation groups requesting "intevenor" status in the lawsuit.

On February 2008, a federal district court rejected the timber industry's suit. In a related matter a few weeks later, the FWS announced that it would not finalize a proposal that would have slashed murrelet habitat by almost 95 percent.

In July 2008, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled in favor of retaining federal Endangered Species Act protections for the marbled murrelet.

In April 2012, Earthjustice, representing seven conservation groups, moved to intervene in a federal lawsuit brought by the timber industry to gut protections for the marbled murrelet and its critical nesting habitat.

Case Updates

October 29, 2013 | In the News: The Columbian

Federal Judge Rules to Protect Habitat of Threatened Seabird

A federal judge in Washington D.C. rejected a plea made by timber industries to expand logging into the habitat of a threatened species. Marbled murrelets, which need old growth forest to nest, are listed on the Endangered Species Act and this was the timber industry's fourth attempt in the past decade to eliminate protections for the forests.

April 1, 2013 | Press Release

Protections Retained for Threatened Seabird

Earthjustice defended the marbled murrelet in the Pacific Northwest from a proposal to delist the seabird as a threatened species and open up its old-growth-forest nesting habitat to development.

April 1, 2013 | Legal Document

D.C. District Court Murrelet Decision

D.C. district court rejects both a proposal to eliminate critical habitat protections as well as a direct challenge to the murrelet’s protections under the Endangered Species Act.

June 17, 2009 | Report

Marbled Murrelet - Final 5-Year Review

2009 USFWS report which finds for the continued protection of marbled murrelets in Washington, Oregon, and California, in contrats to the 2004 review.