Oregon Board of Forestry Reverses Course, Will Develop Murrelet Protections

For Immediate Release, December 1, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Oregon Board of Forestry Reverses Course, Will Develop Murrelet Protections
Rulemaking Initiated to Protect Imperiled Seabird on State, Private Lands
 
EUGENE, Ore.— The Oregon Board of Forestry has reversed its prior decision to deny a petition from conservation groups that called for the identification and protection of marbled murrelet sites on state and private forest lands. The Board is now coordinating with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and other state land owning agencies to identify and protect important old-growth forest areas for the seabird threatened with extinction.
 
“It is reassuring to see the Board reverse course on this issue, especially given Oregon’s current efforts to sell off the Elliott State Forest,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The Elliott is a unique block of old-growth forest that is critical to the survival and recovery of this species, and should be the first area prioritized by the Board.”
 
Murrelets fly inland from the ocean to nest on wide, mossy limbs found in in the mature and old-growth forests of the Oregon Coast Range.  While most of Oregon’s coast range has been converted into industrial timberland that does not provide nesting habitat for the bird, the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest, located in the coast range just east of Coos Bay, is a crucial block of older forest habitat and essential to the reproductive success of the species.
 
”The marbled murrelet is the only seabird in the world that nests in old-growth forests and needs our help to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m thrilled Oregon’s Board of Forestry is finally stepping up to provide protections to this imperiled bird and the forests it depends on.”
 
The petition to the Board of Forestry was filed Sept. 9th in conjunction with a petition to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to uplist the species’ protection status from “threatened” to “endangered.” Given recent efforts by federal land managers to gut protections for the species and the substantial amount of habitat on state and private lands, the Department of Fish and Wildlife granted the petition, but the Board of Forestry denied its petition. After the Board’s denial, conservation groups filed a Petition for Review and asked the Board to reconsider its decision in light of requirements under Oregon law related to imperiled species.  The Board convened a special meeting on November 29, 2016 and stated it “withdraws and reverses its August 1, 2016 order denying the Petition for Rulemaking, accepts the Petition for Rulemaking, and immediately commences the rulemaking process.”
 
“Deforestation throughout the Coast Range have reduced habitat for marbled murrelets to just a few islands of old growth in a sea of clearcuts and monoculture tree plantations,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild. “Oregon is already decades overdue in developing a meaningful plan for conserving murrelet habitat. They cannot wait another 30 years.”
 
While murrelets have been listed as a ‘threatened’ species for nearly 30 years, Oregon has never developed a plan to recover them or protect the old-growth habitat that they depend on, and instead, the state has relied on the nesting habitat located on nearby federal forestlands.  This is no longer sufficient as murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest continue to decline, and a recent status review conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that conservation of nesting habitat on state and private lands is now critical to the species’ survival.
 
The Petition to the Board of Forestry can be found here.
 
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