Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Status Review Demonstrates that Marbled Murrelet Urgently Needs Endangered Status
In response to a petition from multiple conservation organizations, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has released a status review that demonstrates that the Marbled Murrelet warrants uplisting from threatened to endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act and is seeking public comment.
“The Marbled Murrelet has been listed as threatened under the Oregon Endangered Species Act for more than two decades and during that time it has slipped closer and closer to extinction in our state,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director for Cascadia Wildlands. “It is critical that the state increase protections for this species right away if there is to be any hope of saving the Oregon population.”
The Department’s status review documents that the iconic seabird, which nests in old-growth and mature forests and forages at sea, is headed for extinction in Oregon if stronger measures are not taken. Oregon conservation groups are calling on the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to uplist the Murrelet from threatened to endangered at their February 2018 meeting.
“While federal laws have stabilized habitat loss on federal lands, the State of Oregon has continued to allow logging of older forests at an alarming rate and failed to adequately address new threats to the species,” said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “Changing the Murrelet’s status to endangered will help ensure that Oregon takes the steps necessary to do its part to save this species.”
The report concludes the “key threats identified at the time of listing have continued or increased, and many new threats have been identified since the 1990’s….the life history exhibited by this species provides little opportunity for the population to rapidly increase even under the most optimal circumstances.” It also noted that the primary cause of Marbled Murrelet declines, loss and fragmentation of older forest habitat on which it depends for nesting, has “slowed, but not halted…since the 1990s” with greatest losses since on lands managed by the State of Oregon. The review specifically notes that existing programs and regulation have “failed to prevent continued high rates of habitat loss on nonfederal lands in Oregon,”
If the Marbled Murrelet were uplisted from threatened to endangered in Oregon, the Department of Fish and Wildlife would be required to establish survival guidelines at the time of reclassification and a species management plan within 18-months.
“The Marbled Murrelet is the proverbial canary in the coal mine,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The species survival guidelines and management plan will help ensure the State of Oregon addresses not only loss of older forests but a whole array of other threats faced by Murrelets, such as energy development, oil spills, power lines and declining forage fish populations.”
“It’s time for Oregon to catch up with our neighbors,” said Danielle Moser, Wildlife Coordinator for Oregon Wild. “California and Washington have already uplisted the Murrelet from ‘threatened’ to ‘endangered’ at the state level, recognizing that more protections are needed to ensure the survival of this imperiled species.”
“The data presented by ODFW staff is clear – habitat loss on state lands is putting the marbled murrelet at the risk of extinction,” said Shawn Cantrell, Northwest Director for Defenders of Wildlife. “The only question for the Fish and Wildlife Commission is whether it will follow the science by changing the status of Marbled Murrelet to endangered in Oregon.”
The data in the review overwhelmingly supports uplisting the Marbled Murrelet to endangered status in Oregon,” said Rhett Lawrence of the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We urge the ODFW Commission to recognize the dire situation faced by the murrelet and the state forests on which they depend and move forward with this critically important step to save murrelets in Oregon.”
The conservation groups who initiated the petition to uplist the Marbled Murrelet in Oregon were Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Coast Range Forest Watch and Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.