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Endangered Species Defense
In our current era of the Anthropocene, human activities have triggered what has become known as the "sixth mass extinction." As far back as the 1970s, citizens and lawmakers alike saw this massive crisis unfolding and began to take steps towards reversing the downward spiral of species in California and across the United States, and providing a framework to conserve and protect imperiled species and their habitats.
In 1970 the California legislature enacted the original California Endangered Species Act (CESA), which was repealed and replaced by an updated version in 1984 and then amended in 1997. In 1973 Congress enacted the U.S. federal Endangered Species Act (ESA):
The ESA makes it unlawful to import or export; deliver, receive, carry, transport, or ship in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a commercial activity; sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce; take (includes harm, harass, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect any wildlife within the United States); take on the high seas; possess, ship, deliver, carry, transport, sell, or receive unlawfully taken wildlife; remove and reduce to possession any plant from areas under federal jurisdiction; maliciously damage or destroy an endangered plant on areas under federal jurisdiction; and remove, cut, dig up, or damage or destroy any endangered plant in knowing violation of any state law or regulation or in the course of a violation of a state criminal trespass law.* These prohibitions apply to live or dead animals or plants, their progeny (seeds in the case of plants), and parts or products derived from them. (USFWS)
Today, EPIC continues to utilize both pieces of legislation as tools to protect and conserve species and their habitats. EPIC employs these methods not only to prevent species’ extinctions, but also in order to achieve long-lasting landscape-level changes to land management practices. Such changes will help provide climate refugia and resilience, carbon sequestration, essential wildlife habitat and habitat connectivity, as well as improving the overall health of our forests and other wild landscapes.
The southern Sierra Nevada population of Pacific fishers (Pekania pennanti) is listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Read more on our blog:
Read about some threatened & endangered species on the North Coast:
Pacific Fisher (Pekania pennanti)
Pacific fishers inhabit old-growth forests and once ranged from British Columbia to Northern California. This elusive member of the weasel family was decimated by logging and early fur trapping, and only two native populations remain today—one near the western California/Oregon border, and one in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. They face threats including climate change, logging, rodenticides, vehicle collisions, wildfire, and habitat loss and fragmentation. The Sierra Nevada population of Pacific fishers was federally listed as endangered in 2020. In September 2022, EPIC and allies sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for denying endangered species protection to West Coast fishers – the latest in more than 20 years of advocacy. In a legal victory, the Service agreed in June 2023 to reconsider whether West Coast fishers warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. The agency has until August 21, 2025 to decide whether to protect them.
Humboldt Marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis)
The Humboldt marten is a stealthy, cat-sized forest carnivore in the weasel family with minks and otters. Due to extensive clear-cut logging and short rotation forestry, the marten has been eliminated from 95 percent of its historic range in coastal old-growth forests from Sonoma County, California north to the border of Curry County, Oregon. The Humboldt marten is so rare that it was thought extinct until rediscovered in 1996. After considerable effort from EPIC and allies, the Humboldt marten was federally listed as threatened in 2020. EPIC is still striving to reform the damaging forestry and fire suppression practices that are driving the Humboldt marten to the brink of extinction.
Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
Gray wolves are native to California, significant to many Tribes, and historically were widespread throughout the state. Beginning in the mid-19th century, however, European colonizers began systematically eradicating wolves to protect livestock, and wolves were entirely absent from California’s landscape by the 1920s. On December 29, 2011, OR-7 (aka Journey) became the first known gray wolf in California in 87 years. In 2014, gray wolves were listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. As of 2021, three established wolf packs called California home: the Lassen Pack (confirmed in 2017), the Whaleback Pack (confirmed in 2021), and the Beckwourth Pack (confirmed in 2021). In February 2022, gray wolves in the contiguous United States were federally listed as endangered, with the exceptions of a threatened listing in Minnesota and exclusion of the Northern Rocky Mountain population. So far in 2023, three new wolf packs have been respectively identified in California’s Tehama, Lassen, and Tulare Counties – bringing the state total to at least six packs. At EPIC, we advocate for gray wolves by defending forests and wild areas from exploitation and destruction, promoting habitat connectivity, helping to reduce potential conflicts, and educating the public.
Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
Chinook salmon are an anadromous species of fish native to the west coast of North America with a historic range from the Monterey Bay area of California to the Chukchi Sea area of Alaska and immense spiritual and cultural significance to indigenous peoples. As of 2022, two species of Chinook salmon are federally listed as endangered, and seven species are federally listed as threatened. EPIC strives to protect Chinook salmon and their aquatic habitat from overfishing, dams, excessive water diversion, loss of streamside vegetation, filling of wetlands, declines in water quality, adverse competition from hatchery-grown salmon, inadequate regulatory mechanisms, and more.
Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
The Central California Coast population of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) is federally listed as endangered, and, after considerable effort and litigation by EPIC and dozens of other conservation groups, the three populations in northern California and southern Oregon are federally listed as threatened. Coho salmon are an anadromous species of fish native to California with a historic range from the Smith River near the Oregon border to the San Lorenzo River, Santa Cruz County, on the central California coast, and immense spiritual and cultural significance to indigenous peoples. EPIC is currently working to set minimum flows on North Coast rivers and tributaries to protect salmon from excessive agricultural water diversions in the midst of climate change and chronic drought.
Green Sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris)
Since the age of the dinosaurs, green sturgeons have roamed the Pacific Ocean and select rivers on the West Coast, remaining almost entirely unchanged in their appearance for more than 200 million years. This ancient fish can reach over 7 feet in length and migrates in huge numbers, until very recently. The species has declined by 88 percent throughout most of its native range and is in danger of becoming extinct. In 2006, EPIC successfully petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to federally list the green sturgeon as threatened.
Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)
Despite the northern spotted owl’s threatened listing under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1990, their nest occupancy, reproduction, and survival have continued to decline. EPIC continues to advocate for the protection of spotted owls and their habitat across the species’ range in California both on private and public lands. Conserving older forests, protecting core habitat from logging, and controlling invasive barred owl populations are essential for the survival and recovery of the spotted owl.
Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)
The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that flies inland to nest on the mossy limbs of old-growth trees. Over the past century, California’s murrelet population dropped from 60,000 to about 4,000 due to logging, development, water pollution and entanglement, and the species was federally listed as threatened in 1992. The Humboldt Redwood Company (formerly Pacific Lumber)’s ancient redwood groves in Humboldt County are one of three remaining nesting areas in California. The precedent-setting Marbled Murrelet and EPIC v. Pacific Lumber (1993) was EPIC’s first federal endangered species lawsuit, and the first time the Endangered Species Act was applied to stop logging on private forest land to protect the habitat of an endangered species.
Siskiyou Mountains Salamander (Plethodon stormi)
Siskiyou Mountains salamanders are terrestrial amphibians that live in damp, rocky areas in older forests and are imperiled by logging, road building, quarry development, and dams, as well as climate change and intense wildfires. The Siskiyou Mountains salamander was listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act in 1971. In March 2018, EPIC and allies filed a petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Siskiyou Mountains salamander under the federal Endangered Species Act. In July 2019, EPIC and allies sued the Service for failing to respond, but the Siskiyou Mountains salamander is still not federally listed.
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