On September 14, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to deny state Endangered Species Act protection to the fewer than 200 Humboldt martens estimated to remain in the state. Once again, Oregon proves that it is a few steps behind California when it comes to conservation policy.
The Commission rejected a June petition from six conservation groups to protect the rare carnivore that would have required a review of its current status in Oregon.
The Commission’s decision runs starkly against the best available science. Only two isolated populations of Humboldt martens survive in Oregon — one in the Siskiyou National Forest and another in the Siuslaw National Forest. The lack of mature forest habitat on state and private forests stretching between the two populations has isolated them and put them at high risk.
Though martens were once common in the coastal mountains from the Columbia River south to Sonoma, California, logging of old-growth forests and fur trapping decimated and separated their populations. Southern coastal populations are now threatened by severe wildfires and rodent poisons used in marijuana cultivation. Populations on the central coast are threatened by vehicle mortalities on Highway 101 and lack of suitable mature forest habitat for dispersal.
A 2018 study concluded that Humboldt martens on Oregon’s central coast could be wiped out within three decades with trapping or road kill of just two or three individuals annually.
Earlier this year conservation groups petitioned the state to ban marten trapping west of Interstate 5. The state has agreed to implement future trapping restrictions for Humboldt martens, but the extent of the new guidelines is currently unknown.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under court order to publish a decision on federal protection for the Humboldt marten by September 30th.
Oregon, like always, is behind us enlightened Californians. In August the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to protect the marten as endangered in the state. Martens in California face a similar level of imperilment as those in Oregon, with fewer than 200 surviving in two populations.