The Crag Law Center is representing Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Audubon Society of Portland in a lawsuit against Governor Kitzhaber and Oregon State forestry officials for clearcutting habitat for the imperiled marbled murrelet in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The Oregon Department of Forestry continues to authorize industrial-scale clearcutting of mature and old-growth forest used by the murrelet for nesting habitat where it raises its young.
Marbled murrelets are rare seabirds that nest inland in big, old trees. The birds have large webbed feet and require large tree limbs upon which they can crash land and moss in which they can nest. Murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest have been dwindling each year largely due to the loss of the mature and old-growth forests the birds require for nesting. Since 1992, the marbled murrelet has been protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Years ago, Oregon was on track to protect murrelets on these three forests by obtaining a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service in exchange for a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that would ensure conservation of murrelet populations and their habitat. Unhappy with the conservation measures required by the federal government, the State abandoned its efforts to obtain a permit and implement a management plan, instead deciding to increase harvest on state forest lands with no effective protections in place under the Endangered Species Act. Rather than improving wildlife protections, the State turned its back on murrelets and other listed species by walking away from the HCP process and deciding instead to increase logging. The lawsuit seeks to force the State to develop a conservation plan that will truly protect murrelets and the mature forests on which the birds and other species depend.
The State received notice of the lawsuit this winter through a 60-day notice letter. To handle this matter, Crag is partnering with Eugene attorney Daniel Kruse, Cascadia Wildland’s staff attorney Nick Cady, Portland attorney Scott Jerger, and WELC’s Susan Jane Brown to represent the groups in the lawsuit against the state.
Visit Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity; and the Audubon Society of Portland to learn more about this issue and marbled murrelets. To contribute to this effort, visit the Murrelet Defense Fund.