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Logging plan threatens Marbled Murrelets, coastal martens

Marbled Murrelet
Marbled Murrelet. Photo by Kim Nelson and Dan Cushing (Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0)

A coalition of Oregon conservation organizations intends to sue the Bureau of Land Management to protect Marbled Murrelets and coastal martens from a plan by the agency to log 17,000 of acres of old-growth forest in areas designated as late-successional reserves. The reserves were designated as part of the Northwest Forest Plan to protect the two threatened species, as well as hundreds of others.

“The Bureau’s plans to remove thousands of acres of old-growth forests from late-successional reserves in southern Oregon is a death sentence for wildlife that are on the brink of extinction,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands.

The Bureau’s “Integrated Vegetation Management Project” proposes using a wide array of activities, including commercial logging across 17,000 acres of mature and old-growth forest that would destroy habitat for threatened and endangered species. The area proposed to be logged equals about 26.5 square miles.

Marbled Murrelet is a seabird that builds its nest on branches of old-growth and mature conifers such as western hemlock, Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir and coastal redwood, as far as 80 km (50 miles) inland. Habitat loss has reduced its breeding areas significantly in Washington, Oregon, and northern California. Overall, it is estimated to number 260,000 mature individuals; the number in Washington, Oregon, and northern California totals fewer than 24,000. 

In 2021, Oregon elevated the murrelet from threatened to endangered status in the state.

“These agencies will find any excuse to cut down bigger and older trees, even if it means devastating Oregon’s beautiful wildlife reserves,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This plan rubber-stamps the destruction of the Marbled Murrelets’ nesting habitat, and it’ll allow Oregon’s tiny population of coastal martens to be picked off one by one. It makes a mockery of our wildlife reserves as these species edge closer to extinction. We won’t stand by and watch this happen.”

The project covers a period of 10 years and would degrade tens of thousands of acres of public land. Although intended to promote more effective wildfire management practices, the project allows for the removal of larger diameter trees and the reduction of canopy cover — both of which make forests less resilient to fire.

“As a resident of southern Oregon who lives in a town that was decimated by the 2020 Almeda Fire, I am frustrated by the Bureau’s refusal to work with its neighbors,” said George Sexton, conservation director for KS Wild. “Instead of targeting backcountry wildlife reserves for timber production, the Bureau should be working to thin timber plantations and protect homes and communities.”

“It is past time that the Biden administration and the Department of Interior deliver on the promises they have made to the public regarding the conservation of imperiled species,” said Susan Jane Brown, wildlands and wildlife program director with the Western Environmental Law Center. “The BLM’s Integrated Vegetation Management Project is not based on the best available science and will push at-risk species past the brink of extinction. The BLM and Fish and Wildlife Service must change course now to protect treasured wildlife.”

Thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity for providing this news.

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