Archive for June, 2015

State Wildlife Action Plan Update & Alert

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
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Photo Credit: USFWS

Take Action: Advocate for a strong conservation legacy of California’s imperiled wildlife by asking the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to prioritize the protection of species in the North Coast Klamath Province and Pacific Northwest conifer forests.

CDFW is updating the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). The public review and comment period on the draft is open until July 2, 2015. California is the wildlife state, harboring more species and endemic plants and animals than any other state in the nation and it is the most populous, which makes this plan no small task.

The SWAP is a “comprehensive plan for conserving the state’s fish and wildlife and their vital, natural habitats for future generations.” Rather than concentrate on single species, the CDFW targets conservation through defined provinces and different natural habitat types. It includes the consideration of climate change and revises the list for the Species of Greatest Conservation Need and also reiterates the need to promote partnerships with federal, state and local agencies, tribes and non-governmental organizations. The Draft plan outlines goals, key ecological attributes, objectives, pressures and threats, strategies, companion plans, adaptive management and monitoring.

There are over 1,000 species of invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, mammals and plants that are considered as Species of Greatest Conservation Need! The list includes 414 fish and wildlife species. National forests account for 15.8 million acres (48%) and other public lands account for 4.2 million acres (13%) of the golden state.

The North Coast and Klamath Province encompasses 14 million acres and the vegetation consists of predominantly conifer and mixed conifer forests.  Logging is one of the pressures outlined in the Draft plan. Forestry is the most widespread land use consisting of 1.9 million acres of privately owned timberlands mostly in the coastal portion and 4.8 million acres of national forests and public land managed by the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Other pressures in our province include agriculture, dams and water management/use, housing and urban areas, invasive plants/animals, fire and fire suppression, livestock, farming and ranching and climate change.

Strategies and objectives, in the Draft plan, to conserve wildlife in Pacific Northwest Conifer Forests are: data collection and analysis, outreach and education, management of invasive species, advocating for wildlife-friendly fire management, management planning to ensure the conservation of redwood habitat, improving fire management plans and influencing management of federal lands with partnerships.

While much consideration has gone into the SWAP Draft Update there is a need to prioritize and strengthen working relationships between CDFW and the US Forest Service. Because of increasing pressures and dwindling populations of threatened and endangered species there is also a need to prioritize the conservation of old-growth and mature forest habitat throughout the state, primarily within the Pacific Northwest.

Please take action to ensure a strong conservation legacy for California’s people and wildlife!

Click here for more information or to read a copy of the SWAP Draft Update


State of Elk River—Cumulative Impacts, Contemporary Challenges

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
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Source: Lost Coast Outpost.  According to local Angela Tellez who took the photo, “It floods like this at least once a year, though this year this is the third time it’s flooded this much. It’s from the hole in the Headwaters, all the logging over here and it’s getting worse every year.”

Source: Lost Coast Outpost. According to local Angela Tellez who took the photo, “It floods like this at least once a year, though this year this is the third time it’s flooded this much. It’s from the hole in the Headwaters, all the logging over here and it’s getting worse every year.”

It is said that those whom forget history are doomed to repeat it. When it comes to the Elk River watershed, located just south of Eureka, in Humboldt County, California, perhaps the saying should read “those whom forget history are doomed to exacerbate its effects.”

Over 150 years of intensive forestland management in the Elk River watershed have profoundly changed the landscape, and left behind a legacy that continues to confound contemporary forest policy debate. The Elk River watershed has long been a focal point of EPIC’s advocacy efforts. While much of this effort has been focused on preserving the remaining old-growth of Headwaters Forest, the solutions to recovering the forest, watershed, and wildlife are much less clear.

There can be little debate that forest management practices in Elk River have improved dramatically over the last several decades. In particular, forest management has significantly improved on the former Pacific Lumber Company Lands, now owned by Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC). HRC serves as a stark contrast to the intensive liquidation logging conducted in Elk River by Pacific Lumber during the MAXXAM days. HRC has ended the practices of clearcutting and the logging of old growth, and has proven itself to be a law-abiding citizen, in stark contrast to its predecessor.

Questions remain, however, as to whether or not this change in heart and practice is enough. The forests of Elk River have been depleted, the watershed is in a state of disrepair, fish and wildlife species continue to struggle, and downstream residents continue to feel the effects of a century and a half of resource extraction. These cumulative impacts persist and serve to confound contemporary management, law, regulation, and policy.

While both HRC and Green Diamond Resource Company continue to produce forest products, conditions in the Elk River watershed have been slow to respond and recover from past management. While the debate about the effects of contemporary management rages on, the watershed, the wildlife, and downstream residents continue to suffer, thus begging the question about forest and watershed recovery. In-stream remediation projects which could benefit residents, fish, and wildlife, are mired in regulatory red-tape, and even the most optimistic estimates indicate that these projects could still take years to implement.

State regulatory mechanisms, which were largely responsible for enabling Pacific Lumber to perpetrate much of the contemporary damage that has been done to Elk River, have proven ineffective and inadequate to address pre-existing cumulative impacts in the context of modern timber harvest permitting. CAL FIRE continues to approve THPs in Elk River, while the Regional Water Quality Control Board flounders at its efforts to develop meaningful and effective regulations and permits to protect and recover water quality.

Clearly, a new approach is needed. EPIC is dedicated to working with land managers, agencies, residents, and restorationists to find collaborative, creative, and lasting solutions. Elk River is historically, biologically, and socially significant, and will be a focal point of our advocacy efforts going forward.


Northwest Forest Plan at 20: It’s Working!

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
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The Northwest Forest Plan is working according to schedule. Like a fine wine, the Plan predicted our forests would get better with age; as forests that were cut in the 20th century eventually matured, the landscape would slowly regrow beautiful and bountiful old forests. In the 20 years that the Plan has been in place, our federal forests have recruited new old-growth habitat and have dramatically slowed the loss of high-quality habitat. And while losses still outnumber gains, according to the Plan, we should begin to see net gains in old-growth forests by mid-century.

On June 9, 2015, an inter-agency group composed of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, released its 20 year status review of the Northwest Forest Plan. The study found:

  • The Northwest Forest Plan makes a big difference in forest management. The loss of old-growth has been nearly stopped on federal forests (and the loss that does exist is almost exclusively due to natural disturbances) while non-federal old-growth continues to be lost to logging
  • Outside of Washington State, marbled murrelet populations appear stable. (Flip side: Washington’s murrelet population is plummeting precipitously.)
  • While murrelet habitat is largely stable on federal lands, it is still disappearing from non-federal lands. To ensure murrelet’s long-term survival, we need to arrest the loss of habitat on non-federal lawns.
  • For northern spotted owls, the good news is that the loss of habitat on federal lands has been drastically slowed. The bad news is that non-federal lands are still getting hammered, placing greater strain on federal lands for spotted owl conservation.
  • Our federal forests are still producing jobs. Recreation spending is the number one job creator on lands under the Plan.

 

For more information, EPIC has provided a longer analysis of the report below. (Warning: for forest nerds only!)

 

Status and Trends of Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forests

Overall, the amount of older forest on all lands within the NWFP boundary has decreased by 5.9 to 6.2 percent between 1993 and 2012, depending on which definition of older forest was used. Because of new recruitment, these losses are tempered: negative net changes in amount of older forests on federal lands managed under the Plan’s guidance have been small—a 2.8 to 2.9 percent decrease. These numbers are consistent with the expected losses under the NWFP.

Fig1The Northwest Forest Plan makes a big difference in forest management. The amount of decrease on federal lands) was significantly less on federal lands than on nonfederal lands (11.6 to 18.1 percent). As shown in Figure 14, the primary cause of loss of older forests (OGSI-80=structural components akin to 80 year old, OSGI-200=structural components akin to 200 year old) on federal land were natural disturbance, such as fire and insects, but on nonfederal law, timber harvest dominated the removal.

Most of the loss on federal lands coincided with large wildfires, and thus the areas that incurred the largest losses of older forest (OGSI-80 and OGSI-200) on federal lands (based on area) were the Oregon Western Cascades, Oregon Klamath, and California Klamath which have experienced large wildfires since 1993. The largest percentage loss (8.6 percent) was on reserved allocations (Late-Successional, Riparian, Congressional) on USFS lands in northwest California owing to fire. That said, wildfire proportionately occurred in fire-prone areas. Fires have the capability of increasing the speed at which forests develop old-growth characteristics by adding important snags and downed wood.

Over the last 20 years, older forests have become slightly more fragmented from disturbances on federal lands at the scale of the Plan, but again, in some smaller landscapes such as the Siuslaw National Forest, the older forests have not only increased in abundance, but have also become somewhat less fragmented. Overall, federal forests are far more contiguous and less fragmented than nonfederal forests.

Status and Trends of Marbled Murrelet Populations and Habitat

Marbled Population

Fig2

Based on at sea surveys of marbled murrelets across the range of the Northwest Forest Plan, researchers estimate that there are approximately 19,700 murrelets. Since surveys the inception of the Plan, annual population estimates for the entire NWFP area ranged from about 16,600 to 22,800 murrelets. Populations range from a low of 71 in the far end of the study range (San Francisco to Shelter Cove, CA) to a high of 7,880 murrelets in northern Oregon (from Coos Bay north to the Columbia River, Oregon).

At the state scale, local population trends are not always clear. In Washington, there is a clear declining linear trend in Washington of 4.6 percent decline per year. There is no evidence of a trend in Oregon or California, no trend was detected. At the NWFP landscape level, no trend was detected for the overall area, although the trend estimate is negative owing to Washington’s decline.

Marbled Murrelet Habitat

While the murrelet populations appear to be somewhat stable, the status review’s analysis of marbled murrelet habitat is somewhat bleak. As stated in the report:

While there is some uncertainty about gains and net change, we believe that a real loss in habitat has occurred from 1993 to 2012. Based on our bookend data, the rate of loss of higher-suitability habitat on reserved lands has been about 2.5 percent over the 20-year period (due mostly to fire, especially in Oregon; Table 2-12). However, rate of loss of higher-suitability habitat has been about 10 times greater (26.6 percent) on nonfederal lands, due mostly to timber harvest (Table 2-13). Conservation of the threatened murrelet is not possible if such losses continue at this rate into the future.

If the amount of higher-suitability habitat for murrelets is to be maintained at its current level, and given that almost half of the higher-suitability habitat is on nonfederal lands, accomplishing this goal will require significant contributions from nonfederal lands. Over time, as habitat on federal reserved lands increases in quality, less reliance on nonfederal lands may be warranted. Thus, currently, there are limits on the extent to which the NWFP can protect remaining suitable habitat and prevent its ongoing loss.

. . . .

For the many younger stands in the murrelet range that were clear-cut harvested in the past century, the benefits of habitat development are far into the future. However, if management for late-successional and old-growth forests continues, projections show substantial increases of forest exceeding 150 years in age by 2050 on western federal lands (Mills and Zhou 2003). Shorter-term gains in habitat quality may occur as older forest fills in around existing suitable habitat and reduces edge and fragmentation effects in existing habitat, prior to the older forest developing the large limbs, nest platforms, and other characteristics of murrelet nesting habitat.

. . . .

Given declining murrelet population trends as well as habitat losses, in many areas, it is uncertain whether their populations will persist to benefit from potential future increases in habitat suitability. This underscores the need to arrest the loss of suitable habitat on all lands, especially on nonfederal lands and in the relatively near term (3-5 decades). (Emphasis added).

Further, in studying the various factors which might influence murrelet population dynamics, such as climate and ocean conditions, the status review concluded that “amount and distribution of higher-suitability nesting habitat are the primary factors influencing abundance and trend of murrelet populations.”

Northern Spotted Owl Habitat:

Fig3

The good news is that the Northwest Forest Plan is working and has slowed the destruction of northern spotted owl habitat. Within federal lands, approximately 7.2 percent of nesting and roosting habitat was lost; however, much of this was offset by new habitat recruitment—i.e., forests growing large and old enough to function as suitable habitat. Together, on all federal lands, there was an estimated rangewide net decrease of 1.5 percent of nesting/roosting due to the recruitment of new habitat offsetting losses. In the reserve network (Riparian, Late-Successional), the net decline was greater at 4 percent, which is less than the anticipated loss of 5 percent over two decades in the NWFP’s design. It is expected that by mid-century, new recruitment will overtake habitat loss.

Fragmentation of NWFP forests has likewise slowed. Rangewide, nesting/roosting habitats have become slightly more fragmented on federal lands (both reserved and nonreserved) with about a 1.1 percent conversion of core habitat to edge habitat. In California, reserved habitat has become slightly more contiguous in the wet and quick growing Coast Range and Cascades (0.8 to 1.2 percent respectively) and more fragmented in the drier Klamath province (3.8 percent).

The bad news is that private lands are still being hammered and that losses from private lands are placing greater strain on federal lands for conservation. Dispersal habitat, which is more open than nesting/roosting or foraging habitat, is important as it allows gene flow between high-quality northern spotted owl habitat. On federal lands, dispersal habitat has increased by 2.2 percent. However, at the landscape level, there has been a 10 percent gross loss of dispersal habitat around the periphery of federal forests, likely due to private timber harvesting near federal lands. This heavy loss means that there has been a net loss of 2.3 on all lands, federal and private. This has caused a loss of connection between some areas, including between the Oregon Coast Range and the Western Cascades and an increasing isolation of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

There are other unknown or unquantifiable threats. Climate change may increase the frequency and intensity of large wildfires. Further, changing climates may cause species composition changes, particularly a move to less hospitable pine forest types. Lastly, barred owls are displacing northern spotted owls and may be forcing northern spotted owls to utilized less suitable and marginal habitat.

Socioeconomic Report

Recently, logging on federal land has increased while logging on non-federal land has slowed. Between 2001 to 2009, timber offered for sale on federal lands more than doubled, and timber actually harvested in 2009 was 60 percent greater than that of 2001—volumes not seen since immediately after the adoption of the Plan. In contrast, private timber harvests have dropped. As a result, in 2012, the percentage of timber harvested on federal lands compared to total harvest on all ownerships increased from 3.2 to 9.6 percent.

While timber production is undoubtedly important to rural communities, recreation visitor spending is the single largest job-creator associated with lands under the NWFP. In 2012, NWFP recreation visitors supported approximately 6,900 direct jobs and 2,900 indirect and induced jobs in the NWFP area.


Last Chance Grade: Looking at Alternatives

Monday, June 8th, 2015
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Last Chance GradeThe Redwood Highway, also known as Highway 101, is the main north-south arterial connection for north coast residents and visitors alike. “Last Chance Grade” is a stretch of Highway 101 about ten miles south of Crescent City, which sits precariously high above the Pacific Ocean and experiences frequent landslides due to the geological instability of the area. Within this corridor, landslides have been an ongoing problem for decades, resulting in regular road closures. Currently, Caltrans is in the beginning stages of planning for the Last Chance Grade Project. The agency is considering possible alternatives and reroutes that would take the road along an inland path to the east through coastal scrub, riparian and young, mature and old-growth forests within the Del Norte Coast State and National Park boundaries.

lcg_cultural-and-environmental-resourcesThe project bypass proposals are big and expensive and one could result in the removal of up to three acres of old-growth redwoods (30-50 trees); all would result in significant cuts to the hillside with nearly a million cubic yards of fill that would need to be disposed of (and not in the nearby creeks). All bypass alternatives would directly impact the natural resources in and visitor access to Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. If Caltrans were to follow its traditional methods of operation, the project would result in major conflict and controversy.

Perhaps sensing that Last Chance Grade could be yet another disastrous Caltrans project, Congressman Jared Huffman stepped in and commissioned the creation of the Last Chance Grade Stakeholder Working Group. Elected officials from Humboldt and Del Norte County, three tribes, members of the public, business interests and environmental organizations, including EPIC, have a seat at the table. Over the next ten meetings, the group is tasked with reaching consensus to recommend one or two alternatives to Caltrans that would be the “preferred” alternative(s) to address the geological instability and potential for roadway failure at Last Chance Grade.

Thus far, the stakeholders have meet twice, toured the slide area and spoken with Caltrans’ geotechnical engineer about the slide and learned about existing construction fixes to the roadbed. According to Caltrans, the slide is nearly one mile long, about 2,500 feet wide and at a minimum 250 feet deep. The sheer size of the slide, the steepness of the cliff and the composition of the geology make the project area difficult to design around. Caltrans repaves the roadway monthly to combat sinking. The stakeholders are exploring all viable options including using the existing right of way, by way of a viaduct, and a tunnel.

This multi-stakeholder process is the first for Caltrans District 1. Perhaps the agency is learning that the community deserves an honest and open discussion about the social and environmental impacts of highway development? This process is a far cry from the way in which Caltrans District 1 first attempted to fast-track approval of the STAA highway-widening project at Richardson Grove State Park back in 2007. For the past seven years, EPIC has been calling on the agency to explain its decisions, take into account community concerns and operate in accordance with the law. “These should not be ridiculous expectations for a public agency,” said Natalynne DeLapp, Executive Director of EPIC. “However, three contentious lawsuits: Richardson Grove, Willits Bypass and the Smith River’s 199/197 projects have shown that Caltrans was not forthcoming with the public or respecting our laws.”

Caltrans has an opportunity to get it right with Last Chance Grade. There is little question among EPIC staff that the project has a legitimate need: to maintain motorist safety and connectivity of the major highway between Oregon and California. “We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the process and will work cooperatively with the stakeholders to find solutions that will adequately address the needs of the community, while protecting the rare and sensitive environments,” said Natalynne. “As this project unfolds, EPIC will continue to advocate for full public transparency and protection of old-growth redwood forest and salmon habitat values.”

Click here to listen to KHSU’s May 28 Thursday Night Talk as Eric Kirk interviews Natalynne DeLapp about Last Chance Grade and other transportation projects on the North Coast.

Click here to listen to KMUD’s May 25 Environment Show host Natalynne DeLapp discusses transportation, the environment and quality of life on the North Coast with Dave Spreen. 


Defending the Pacific Northwest Protects the Planet

Friday, June 5th, 2015
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USFWS FLICKROver the next few weeks and months, EPIC is going to focus in depth on the Northwest Forest Plan revisions for the U.S. Forest Service. Each week we will bring you a new topic. To catch up on what EPIC has previously written, click here.

Big, old trees are our local solution to global climate change. The Northwest Forest Plan, the landscape-level plan for our federal forests in the Pacific Northwest, not only protects local wildlife, water quality, and recreation, but also helps our forests act as a climate buffer, slowing the impact of global climate change.

Let me explain: as trees grow, they suck up carbon dioxide from the air and trap it in their trunk, limbs, roots, and leaves—or to use the fancy science term, this carbon is “sequestered.” As a tree grows, it becomes a carbon “sink,” storing more carbon than it emits. And the bigger the tree, the more carbon can be stored away. When trees are cut, however, they become a carbon “source.” Deforestation creates carbon emissions, from the heavy equipment, to disrupted soils, to burning unmerchantable piles of limbs and branches (called “slash” piles). After accounting for carbon stored in wood products, logging releases approximately half the carbon that was sequestered. This is especially important in regards to old-growth forests. If a tree had been pulling from the atmosphere for 700 years, as many old-growth redwoods on the north coast have, then if that tree is cut down, it will emit significant amounts of carbon that had been stored for hundreds of years. Just like fossil fuels, this carbon had long ago been removed from the carbon cycle; like stepping on the gas pedal in your car, logging these high-carbon forests will only speed up global climate change by releasing a sudden influx of long-stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Recruiting and preserving big, old trees is like hitting the brakes, slowing our rate of carbon emissions by keeping carbon in the trees.

Before the Northwest Forest Plan was implemented, our federal forests in the Pacific Northwest were on the whole, carbon sources. The Northwest Forest Plan was designed to protect old-growth dependent species like the northern spotted owl. Since its implementation, logging on federal forests in the Pacific Northwest has dropped by 82%. Incidentally, by protecting forests, the Northwest Forest Plan has turned our federal forests from carbon sources to carbon sinks. By some estimates, Pacific Northwest forests have a greater economic value being left alone, to continue to absorb and hold carbon, than they do as lumber!

The federal government is contemplating revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. Big timber interests have their eye on these revisions as a way to get their hands on our public forests. EPIC and our allies are ready to stop them. In forest plan revisions, EPIC will champion the important role our forests play in carbon sequestration and climate change.

EPIC is part of the Federal Forest Carbon Coalition, a broad-based national coalition that encourages federal forest management agencies to manage forests in ways that protect the Earth’s climate. Find out more here. Critical National Forest Carbon Sinks   Carbon Management Choices


Fish Kill Likely on the Klamath: A Guide to Reporting Fish Health

Friday, June 5th, 2015
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Fish Health Readiness Levels for Klamath

Source: Klamath Basin Monitoring Program

Data released by the California/Nevada Fish Health Center showed that as of April 30th of this year, 100% of out-migrating juvenile salmon trapped in the main stem of the Klamath River were infected with Ceratomyxa shasta, a lethal parasite that infects salmon intestinal tracts. Based on this data, the Klamath Fish Health Assessment Team has raised current fish health readiness levels to Orange for the mainstem of the Klamath River from Iron Gate Dam to Weitchpec, which means that a kill is likely to occur and management levels in agencies need to be alerted.

Fish kills often occur rapidly over a short period of time, limiting the ability to provide a timely response to prevent large scale fish die-offs. For this reason, it is incredibly important that residents within the Klamath Basin immediately report any signs of fish mortality. If dead fish are spotted and reported, the Bureau of Reclamation would likely release water flows from the upriver dam to flush the parasite out of the area, possibly preventing a kill.

Sick fish usually congregate at creek mouths during periods of heightened stress, and dead fish generally accumulate in eddy areas. If you encounter high numbers of sick or dead fish, please alert the Office of Emergency Services Warning Center at 1-800-852-7550. Click here to download the Klamath notification poster, which you can display in your community.

 


2014 Annual Report

Thursday, June 4th, 2015
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AR 2014Cover

The Environmental Protection Information Center is proud to present to you our 2014 Annual Report. The report includes an overview of some of our major accomplishments from last year, and a vision for what we plan to do in the coming years. In 2014 we had many victories: we protected ancient redwoods in Richardson Grove, saved northern spotted owl habitat, successfully listed the gray wolf under the California Endangered Species Act, launched a successful campaign that banned super toxic rat poison, settled lawsuits to protect endangered wild coho salmon from interbreeding with and being preyed upon from hatchery fish, and secured an injunction against Caltrans to protect the Wild and Scenic Smith River.

As you will see, our renewed focus on forest protection advocacy work dominates our efforts, as we revitalize our organization’s role as the watchdog and defender of Northwest California’s forestlands. Our newest campaign “Connecting Wild Places” sets our biggest goal yet, to permanently protect and connect wild places, with a focus on high quality habitat areas that serve as wildlife corridors between existing protected islands of wilderness.

EPIC’s approach to forest advocacy is to seek out and champion the best available science to shape policy through education, outreach and strategic litigation. We focus on reducing environmental stressors within identified habitat linkages and roadless areas by monitoring for projects that would harm key places. We monitor Timber Harvest Plans on private lands, Timber Sales on public lands, and further protection of species that rely on intact wild places. This work would not be possible without people like you; more than half of our funding comes from individual donations. And as a membership organization we represent your values as we advocate for the science-based protection and restoration of northwest California’s forests.

 


California Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Nearly Extinct Humboldt Marten

Monday, June 1st, 2015
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Marten Flickr CCThe Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to protect the Humboldt marten under the California Endangered Species Act today. The Humboldt marten is a cat-sized carnivore related to minks and otters that lives in old-growth forests in Northern California and southern Oregon. Most of the marten’s forest habitat has been destroyed by logging, and the remaining martens in California likely number fewer than 100 individuals. Consequently, California’s Humboldt martens are at grave risk of being lost entirely from the state.

“California’s Humboldt martens have been eliminated from 95 percent of their historic range,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s California Forest and Wildlife Advocate. “Survival and recovery of the marten demands immediate action.

The historic range of the marten extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. Once thought extinct, the Humboldt marten was rediscovered on the Six Rivers National Forest in 1996. Since that time, researchers have continued to detect martens in California, but also determined that Humboldt martens declined substantially between 2001 and 2008 and have not rebounded from that decline.

“The population size of the Humboldt marten is disturbingly low,” said Justin Augustine, with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope the commission works quickly to protect this species and help rebuild a viable marten population in California.”

The Fish and Game Commission has 10 days to refer the petition to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The department in turn has 90 days to make its recommendation as to whether the petition presents substantial information indicating that protecting the marten under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted. After the department’s recommendation is received, the commission must make its own determination as to whether listing of the marten may be warranted. If so, the department will then have one year to conduct a more thorough status review of the marten.

Though fewer than 100 martens remain in California, last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to protect them under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Center, which petitioned for federal protection for the marten in 2010, plans to challenge the decision.

“The denial of protection is simply not a scientifically defensible decision,” said Augustine.

Humboldt Marten Petition to the California State Fish and Game Commission