SAVING THE HUMBOLDT MARTEN

A stealthy, cat-sized forest carnivore in the weasel family, the Humboldt marten (once/also called the coastal marten) is so rare that it was thought extinct until rediscovered in 1996. Now, due to extensive logging of coastal old-growth forests in Northern California and Oregon — the only places it's found — the marten has been eliminated from 95 percent of its historic range. Other threats to the marten abound, including wildfires and loss of genetic diversity due to population separation and a tiny overall population size. Fewer than 100 of these beautiful mammals are known to survive in California.

To make sure the Humboldt marten never slips out of human awareness again, in September 2010 the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection and Information Center (EPIC) filed a scientific petition to protect the species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Although the U.S. Forest Service subsequently said protection may be warranted, the agency missed the deadline to make its next listing decision, so the Center filed a notice of intent to sue in April 2012. Luckily for this marten, in response to another petition by the Center and EPIC, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended protection for the coastal marten under the California Endangered Species Act.

In 2015, the Center and EPIC filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the Humboldt marten under the Endangered Species Act. After the Service refused to protect the species, in response to a lawsuit brought by the Center and EPIC, in 2017 a federal judge overturned this decision denying safeguards.

Saving the Humboldt marten means protecting its habitat and reestablishing population connectivity. Martens are secretive hunters that only move through dense shrub cover or areas with closed forest canopy, so extensive clearcutting has dramatically fragmented their range, isolating populations in Oregon and California.

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