Marbled murrelets and their old-growth forest nesting habitat in the Pacific Northwest remain protected today, after a Washington, D.C. district court rejected both a proposal to eliminate all critical habitat protections and a direct challenge to protection of the murrelet as a threatened species.
The lawsuit is the timber industry’s third attempt in the past decade to eliminate murrelet protections, despite undisputed scientific evidence that murrelets are disappearing from the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. Several claims in the lawsuit will continue to be reviewed by the court in the coming months.
“Bottom line: murrelets and their old-growth forest habitat remain protected today, surviving another attack from the timber industry,” said Kristen Boyles, staff attorney with Earthjustice. “As this lawsuit continues, we will keep insisting on the protections these rare seabirds need to nest and raise their young.”
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 on natural, moss-covered platforms where large branches join the tree trunks of old-growth Douglas fir, sitka spruce, western hemlock, and redwood trees. In 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed marbled murrelets in Washington, Oregon, and California as a threatened species due to logging of coastal old-growth forests. The timber industry has once again set its sights on the small seabird in order to increase logging of forests more than 100 years old.
“This timber industry attack ignores the biological reality that murrelets in our region continue to struggle to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Without old-growth forest protection, murrelets will disappear from our coast.”
Shawn Cantrell, executive director with Seattle Audubon added, “The focus should be on recovering murrelets and restoring their habitat, not on repeated attempts to return us to an era of unsustainable logging.”
“It’s time to stop fighting over who will get to log the last of our old-growth, and focus on science-based management of our forests that improves habitat for wildlife and strengthens our diverse economy which is founded on the Northwest’s unique quality of life,” said Steve Pedery, Conservation Director for Oregon Wild.
Represented by Earthjustice, Audubon Society of Portland, Seattle Audubon Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation NW, Environmental Protection Information Center, Oregon Wild, and Sierra Club are defending the murrelet in the timber industry lawsuit.