In response to a petition from the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Fish and Game Commission today voted to make coastal martens a “candidate” species under the California Endangered Species Act. As candidates, coastal martens cannot be killed or harmed and will receive a year-long formal “status review” that will most likely lead to them being formally listed under the Act a year from now. Also known as the Humboldt marten, the coastal marten is a cat-sized carnivore found in the old-growth forests of Northern California and southern Oregon. The marten’s forest habitat has been decimated by logging, likely leaving fewer than 100 coastal martens left in California.
“This is great news for coastal martens,” said Justin Augustine, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Candidate species receive some immediate protection under the California Endangered Species Act, and this help could not come too soon, given how few of these martens are left in California.”
The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the state to protect the marten in June 2015, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a report in December 2015 recommending that the martens be named as candidates under the Act. Today’s vote from the Fish and Game Commission formally adopts that recommendation and allows the martens to receive the Act’s protections. Over the next year the Department will conduct an in-depth review of the coastal marten’s status in California and issue a report recommending whether to formally protect the martens.
The coastal marten also lives in southern and central coastal Oregon, where it has also undergone a drastic population decline. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to protect the marten under the federal Endangered Species Act in response to a petition from the two groups, a decision now being challenged in court.
The historic range of the marten extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. Once believed to be extinct, the 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 coastal martens declined substantially between 2001 and 2012 and have not rebounded.
“We once thought the coastal marten was extinct,” said Tom Wheeler, staff attorney for EPIC. “With its rediscovery, we have another chance to save the marten. We must act now to prevent it from drifting back toward extinction.”
Since 1977, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) has defended Northwest California’s forests and wildlife, including the rare and incredibly adorable Humboldt marten.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.