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Marbled Murrelet
The Oregonian , January 19, 2012

Conservation groups say logging approved by Oregon Department of Forestry harms marbled murrelets

By Eric Mortenson

Three conservation groups plan to sue the Oregon Department of Forestry, saying logging on three state forests is killing or displacing protected marbled murrelets.

The lawsuit notice, announced Thursday, is the latest smack against the department's management of the Elliott, Clatsop and Tillamook state forests. The conservation groups Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands and Audubon Society of Portland are particularly critical of the department's decision to increase logging on state forests.

The groups allege logging has killed or displaced murrelets and fragmented its habitat. In addition to directly harming the murrelets, reducing its habitat and logging near the edge allows predator jays and ravens access to raid murrelet nests, the groups allege.

Josh Laughlin, campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands, said the groups have retained experts who will testify the department's practices have harmed the birds.

Marbled murrelets are robin-sized seabirds that forage in the ocean but nest in mature or old growth forests. They are listed as threatened in Oregon, Washington and California under the federal Endangered Species Act.

State officials maintain they take prudent measures to avoid harming murrelets. According to department documents, officials conduct about 1,500 surveys for murrelets annually and manage forests through a "take avoidance" policy. In an April 2011 report to the Oregon Board of Forestry, the department said it has designated more than 20,000 acres as marbled murrelet management areas in northwest Oregon.

According to the report, four timber sales totaling 654 acres have taken place inside or adjacent to murrelet management areas since 1996. "Seasonal restrictions" on logging are applied so nesting is not disrupted, according to the department.

Conservation groups believe the department should adopt more restrictive habitat conservation plans for murrelets.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton