EPIC Fights for North Coast Wildlife

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Humboldt marten. Photo: Charlotte Eriksson, Oregon State University.
Humboldt marten. Photo: Charlotte Eriksson, Oregon State University.

Humboldt Marten Protected in California, Run Over in Oregon

Advocates celebrate Humboldt marten victory at September 14, 2018 Fish and Game Commission Hearing in Fortuna. Photo: Briana Villalobos.
Advocates celebrate Humboldt marten victory at September 14, 2018 Fish and Game Commission Hearing in Fortuna. Photo: Briana Villalobos.

On August 23, the California Fish and Game Commission unanimously voted to list the Humboldt marten under the California Endangered Species Act. The decision is a result of a listing petition that EPIC filed with the Commission in 2015. As a result of the listing, the marten will enjoy greater protections for both itself and its habitat, as well as provide additional funding for marten conservation efforts. An EPIC victory!

Oregon, like always, is behind us enlightened Californians. On September 14, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to deny EPIC’s petition under the Endangered Species Act. Oregon’s marten population is as precarious as California’s. Only two isolated populations of Humboldt martens survive in Oregon—one in the Siskiyou National Forest and another in the Siuslaw National Forest. A 2018 study concluded that Humboldt martens on Oregon’s central coast could be wiped out within three decades with trapping or roadkill of just two or three individuals annually.

Green Diamond’s Special Treatment Continues

The company has gotten another sweetheart deal that allows them to clearcut with impunity, once again proving that the rules don’t apply to the big boys. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has just released a draft Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that would allow Green Diamond to clearcut more northern spotted owl habitat than otherwise permitted in exchange for a promise to shoot barred owls. We think this deal stinks. Here’s why:
Green Diamond is currently operating under an older HCP for owls, approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1992. Under the 1992 HCP, Green Diamond set up a series of 40 “reserves,” no-cut areas set aside for the benefit of the owl, totaling 13,243 acres. The set-asides were designed to be large enough to support multiple pairs of owls and were spread out across Green Diamond’s ownership.

Under the new HCP, the set-asides disappear in favor of a “dynamic” reserve system. Under the dynamic reserve system, the company will “protect” 44 owl nest sites, but just barely. The company will set aside 89 acres of forest around individual nest sites that are at minimum 46 years old and 233 total acres within 0.5 miles of the nest that are at least 31 years old.

You might think, “at least they have agreed to protect some habitat. Surely that’s better than nothing!” Sorry pal, you are mistaken. Absent the HCP, Green Diamond would presumably have to follow “take avoidance” guidance established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for THPs in the redwood region. That take avoidance guidance would preserve 500 total acres of habitat within 0.7 miles of a nest site, including the 100 acres of the highest quality habitat near the nest site. In other words, Green Diamond would preserve more habitat if they had to follow the law that everyone else is bound by.

Why did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agree to this? Green Diamond has agreed to kill barred owls on its property. Barred owls are a problem for our spotties and a limited experiment on Green Diamond land has shown that barred owl removal can help reestablish owl sites abandoned to barred owls. But is this deal enough? If barred owl removal doesn’t arrest the decline of the owl on Green Diamond’s property, then we are looking at the potential loss of barred owls along much of the coast.

The northern spotted owl is going extinct before our eyes. The rate of owl decline is increasing and in some areas, the owl has entered an “extinction vortex,” whereby owl declines reinforce processes that further hasten the owl’s decline, leading ultimately to its extinction. EPIC is on the case. We drafted comments on the draft Habitat Conservation Plan and are prepared to defend our spotties in court, if necessary.

EPIC Fall Celebration flyer.