Protections for Humboldt Marten Proving as Elusive as the Animal Itself

By
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

EPIC and our allies have been working for over seven years now to secure legal protections and forward long-term recovery of the Humboldt marten. Astoundingly, securing protection and conservation of this cat-sized mesocarnivore is proving as elusive as the marten itself. Once long-thought to be extinct, the improbable return of the Humboldt marten to our forests may be short-lived unless State and Federal wildlife authorities take action.

EPIC and allies filed a petition to list the Humboldt marten under the Federal Endangered Species Act with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010. In April 2016, the Service issued an updated Species Assessment Report clearly indicating that the listing of the marten was warranted, while at the same time issuing a 12-Month Finding on our petition determining that the listing was not warranted. EPIC and our allies filed suit in Federal Court challenging the Service’s “Not Warranted” finding, and in April 2017 a Federal Judge granted our Motion for Summary Judgement, finding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had indeed erred in determining that small, isolated populations of the marten were not a threat to the survival and recovery of the species.

EPIC and allies also filed a petition to list the Humboldt marten under the California Endangered Species Act with the State of California Fish and Game Commission in May 2015. In February 2016, the Fish and Game Commission determined that listing the marten, “may be warranted,” and directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a Status Review and prepare a Status Report for the marten in California to inform the final decision to be made by the Commission. State law affords the Department of Fish and Wildlife one year to conduct and complete investigation of the status of a species and prepare a report with recommendations. By March 2017, however the Department of Fish and Wildlife had not completed its review and report within the one-year statutory timeline and sought and was granted a six-month extension by the Fish and Game Commission, with a new target date of September 2017.

Meanwhile, forestry in the known extant range and dispersal area range of the Humboldt marten in California on private industrial lands continues, and is largely unchanged, even in the wake of the Fish and Game Commission affording “candidacy,” and interim legal protection to the marten. In fact, the primary private industrial timberland owner, Green Diamond Resource Company, has accelerated its submission of THPs in and around the Klamath River and north and east, the virtual ground-zero for protection, conservation and recovery of extant but isolated marten populations in California.

Recent and more up-to-date information on the status of the marten is also currently largely inaccessible to EPIC and the public. The inter-agency and landowner “Humboldt Marten Conservation Group,” has completed its own report on the marten with management recommendations, but this report has not been published or otherwise made available to EPIC and the public. EPIC was not allowed to participate in the conservation group by the participants despite our clear interest in the protection and conservation of the marten.

And so, while we sit and wait for the wheels of the individual listing agencies and the conservation group to finish grinding, marten populations in California and Southern Oregon continue to be imperiled by logging, habitat fragmentation, small isolated populations, and the ever-increasing threats posed by a changing climate in favor of allowing “business as usual,” to go on largely unaltered.

EPIC is dedicated to ensuring the survival, protection, and recovery of the Humboldt marten and the forests on which it depends. But, as always, we cannot do it alone; we need your help! By donating to EPIC, and taking actions when necessary, everyone can help us make a difference for the forest and for the Humboldt marten and help us to hold the agencies accountable to ensure that the marten survives and thrives into the future.

Photos courtesy of the Bluff Creek Project, which has captured better images of the Humboldt Marten than the USFWS has over 20 years. The extremely rare Humboldt marten photos were captured from camera traps on Bluff Creek in Humboldt County.