Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 22, 2023


Quinn Read, (206) 979-3074,

Lawsuit Seeks Protections for Humboldt Martens, Tall Western Penstemon

Biden Administration Moving Slowly to Protect Endangered Wildlife, Plants

PORTLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to finalize critical habitat for Humboldt martens and to protect the tall western penstemon under the Endangered Species Act. Both species are imperiled and need strong federal protections to prevent their extinction.

The two Oregon species are among 13 that were included in today’s lawsuit seeking federal protections.

“These adorable martens and gorgeous wildflowers need all the help they can get to survive,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center. “The Endangered Species Act is powerful enough to keep them from going extinct, but it only works if we use it the way it was intended. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s system for listing imperiled species is broken, and our most vulnerable plants and animals are suffering the consequences.”

Fewer than 400 Humboldt martens remain. These elusive, cat-sized furry carnivores survive in four highly isolated fragments of the species’ historic habitat. Once common in coastal forests in northern California and southern Oregon, they were decimated by unchecked trapping and logging of their habitat.

The Center first petitioned the Service to protect Humboldt martens nearly 15 years ago. After multiple lawsuits by the Center, the agency listed the martens as threatened in September 2020. The Service later proposed approximately 1.4 million acres of critical habitat for the marten but has yet to finalize these protections.

Martens are threatened by the ongoing logging of mature forests, high-severity fires, rodent poison used in marijuana cultivation and vehicle strikes. The animals have been wiped out from 93% of their historic range.

Martens have triangular ears and a bushy tail and are in the weasel family, related to minks and otters. They grow up to 2 feet long but weigh under 3 pounds and must eat one quarter of their body weight daily to support their high metabolism. Martens eat small mammals, birds, berries, reptiles and insects.

“It’s absurd that imperiled Humboldt martens have waited almost 15 years to get the protections they need to survive,” said Read. “The Endangered Species Act is our best tool for addressing the extinction crisis, but it’s useless if the Fish and Wildlife Service won’t follow the law.”

The tall western penstemon is an imperiled Oregon wildflower that exists in just five known populations, narrowly distributed from southwestern Washington to northwestern Oregon. It is part of a genus of plants commonly known as beardtongues. Its vivid purple-blue flowers, perched high atop unusually long stems, make a distinctive and beautiful presence in the region’s rare, ecologically intact wet prairies.

The species’ historic wetland habitat was almost lost by extensive agricultural and urban development throughout the Portland-Vancouver metro area. It was presumed extinct until 2008, when local botanists rediscovered the species on the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.

The Center petitioned the Service in December 2020 to protect the wildflowers, triggering a 12-month deadline to issue a proposed rule, which the agency missed.

The Biden administration has consistently missed the Act’s deadlines, which were established to ensure imperiled plants and animals receive timely protections. Overall, the administration has protected just 11 species per year compared to 65 species a year under the Clinton administration and 36 species each year under the Obama administration.

In addition to the Humboldt marten and tall western penstemon, today’s lawsuit includes 11 other species unduly waiting for protection: the pygmy owl, Mt. Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan, Peñasco least chipmunk, six Texas mussels (Texas fatmucket, Guadalupe fatmucket, Texas fawnsfoot, Texas pimpleback, Guadalupe orb and false spike), pyramid pigtoe mussel and four distinct populations of the foothill yellow-legged frog.

Humboldt marten. Credit: Mark Linnell, U.S. Forest Service. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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