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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Murrelet Still Threatened

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife will keep the Pacific Northwest population of the marbled murrelet on its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency's action comes after a 12-month review of a petition by the American Forest Resources Council, the Carpenters Industrial Council, and Douglas County, Oregon, to delist the Washington-Oregon-California population of the murrelet.

The marbled murrelet is rare among seabirds, as it avoids coastal colonies and nests on branches of old-growth and mature conifers such as Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir and Coastal Redwood, as far 60 miles inland. It lays one egg on a platform of lichen or moss on these branches, which it incubates for a month. Then it feeds the chick for 40 days, after which then chick leaves the nest and flies unaccompanied to the sea.

Because the murrelet lays only one egg at a time it is especially susceptible to sudden population declines. The greatest threat to the murrelet is timber harvest by the forest products industry.

The populations in Washington, Oregon and California were listed as threatened in 1992 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to concerns about loss of nesting habitat, entanglement in fishing gear and oil spills. The agency reports that while loss due to entanglement in fishing gear and oil spills has declined, the species still faces fragmentation and loss of habitat.

Because of its dependence on old growth forests the murrelet has become, along with the spotted owl, a flagship species of the conservation movement.

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