PORTLAND, Ore.— Two conservation groups sued the Trump administration today for its failure to finalize Endangered Species Act protection for the Humboldt marten.
Fewer than 400 of these secretive forest dwellers remain in four isolated populations along a narrow strip of coastal habitat in Northern California and southern Oregon.
In October 2018, eight years after the Center for Biological Diversity and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) first petitioned to protect this rare carnivore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing it as a threatened species under the Act. But the wildlife agency has yet to finalize the rule, denying the martens the protection they need to survive.
“It wasn’t long ago that we thought Humboldt martens were extinct, and the Trump administration’s inexcusable delays mean we could lose them for good this time,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The administration has to act now to provide the protection martens desperately need to thrive again in our ancient forests.”
Humboldt martens were once common in the coastal mountains from California’s Sonoma County north to the Columbia River in Oregon. But the population was decimated by unchecked trapping and logging of its forest habitat. Humboldt martens are so rare that they were thought extinct until trail cameras provided evidence of their survival in the redwoods in 1996. “
The Fish and Wildlife Service is failing at its charge to protect America’s native wildlife,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “Delay after delay, the Humboldt marten has been put at peril to placate the timber industry.”
The Center and EPIC petitioned to list the Humboldt marten as a federally protected species in 2010, but the Fish and Wildlife Service caved to timber-industry pressure and issued a negative decision in 2015. The groups successfully challenged that decision, and a federal judge ordered the agency to reevaluate the marten’s status.
The Service subsequently announced its proposal to list the marten as a threatened species in October 2018. That decision triggered a deadline for a final listing by October 2019, but the agency has since failed to act, leading the Center and EPIC to file suit today.
Martens are threatened by the ongoing logging of mature forests, loss of closed-canopy habitat to wildfires, rodent poison used in marijuana cultivation, and vehicle strikes.
California banned trapping of Humboldt martens in the 1940s, but Oregon did not follow suit until 2019 after a petition and lawsuit from conservation groups. The animals have been wiped out of 93% of their historic range.
With triangular ears and a bushy tail, martens are related to minks and otters. They grow up to 2 feet long but weigh under 3 pounds and must eat a quarter of their body weight daily to keep up with their high metabolism, including small mammals, birds, berries, reptiles and insects. In turn, they are eaten by larger mammals and raptors.
Today’s suit was filed in federal court in Oakland, California.