Legal Victory: Oregon Must Update Coastal Marten Trapping Regulations Before Next Season
PORTLAND, Ore.— In response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has agreed to issue new regulations addressing the trapping of critically imperiled Humboldt martens in Oregon’s coastal forests. The regulations must be finalized by September, according to a legal agreement. Fewer than 200 Humboldt martens survive in Oregon due to historical over-trapping and clear-cutting of coastal forests.
Conservation groups petitioned the state for a ban on trapping in May. In August, the Fish and Wildlife Commission granted the petition. The department, however, failed to issue new regulations prior to the start of this year’s trapping season. This left martens vulnerable to continued trapping across the state.
On Dec. 19, the groups sued the department in Multnomah County Circuit Court, leading to today’s legal victory that will require the department to take action before the 2019 winter season opens next November.
“Humboldt martens are Oregon’s feral teddy bears that shouldn’t be sacrificed for their fur,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “Marten pelts sell for as little as $20 each, but saving the subspecies is priceless.”
Following the largest mammal survey ever conducted in the state, researchers from Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service recommended eliminating trapping of coastal martens as a first step in rebuilding the state’s imperiled populations.
Scientists concluded that the human-caused mortality of just two or three martens per year could wipe out the population on the central coast within three decades. Three coastal martens were killed by traps each year in 2013 and in 2014.
“It’s a shame that it takes a court case for Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife agency to take any action that benefits imperiled wildlife, even actions supported by the Fish and Wildlife Commission,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is outdated and broken, and it is Governor Brown’s urgent responsibility to fix it because the extinction of iconic animals like the Humboldt marten hangs in the balance.”
The Humboldt marten is proposed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, and is protected as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. California banned the trapping of Humboldt martens in 1946.
Humboldt martens are cat-like carnivores that are related to minks. They are so rare they were thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in 1996.
There are only four surviving populations, with two in Northern California, one on the southern Oregon coast and one on the central Oregon coast. They are also threatened by vehicle collisions on Highway 101, rodenticide poisoning and climate change.
There are two subspecies of Pacific martens in Oregon. Humboldt martens on the coast are critically imperiled, but interior martens from the Cascades and eastern mountain ranges are not imperiled.
Top: Juvenile marten (photo by Tatiana Gettelman) license. Above: Marten (photo by USFW).