ARCATA, Calif.— Conservation groups notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today of their intent to sue the agency for failing to finalize Endangered Species Act protection for Humboldt martens.
The rare carnivores were proposed for protection in October 2018 and should have received final protection by October 2019. Fewer than 400 of the secretive forest dwellers survive in four isolated populations in a narrow band of coastal habitat in Northern California and southern Oregon.
“Martens are the wild heart of our ancient forests, and we’ll keep fighting until they’re fully protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s frustrating that the agency charged with protecting our wildlife keeps dragging their feet on safeguarding these very special little carnivores.”
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center petitioned for federal protection for the Humboldt marten in 2010, but the agency caved to timber-industry pressure and issued a negative decision in 2015. In 2016 the groups challenged the decision, and a federal judge ordered the agency to reevaluate marten status leading to the 2018 listing proposal.
“Nearly a decade after we first petitioned for their protection, we are still having to push the Fish and Wildlife Service to stand up to the timber industry and give Humboldt martens the protection they need to avoid extinction,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center.
Humboldt martens were once common in the coastal mountains from California’s Sonoma County north to the Columbia River in Oregon. Due to trapping and logging, the animal is now so rare it was considered extinct until it was rediscovered in the redwoods in 1996. In California martens are found in Del Norte, Humboldt and Siskiyou counties. In Oregon they survive only on the Siuslaw and Siskiyou national forests.
Martens are threatened by the ongoing logging of mature forests, loss of closed-canopy habitat to wildfires, rodent poison used in marijuana cultivation, and vehicle mortalities. California banned trapping of Humboldt martens in the 1940s, but Oregon did not ban trapping until 2019 after a petition and lawsuit from conservation groups. The animals have been wiped out from 93 percent of their historic range.
Martens have triangular ears and a bushy tail, and are related to minks and otters. They grow up to 2 feet long but weigh less than 3 pounds and must eat a quarter of their body weight daily to keep up with their high metabolism. Martens eat small mammals, birds, berries, reptiles and insects, and are eaten by larger mammals and raptors.
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