Victory for Marbled Murrelets and Ancient Redwoods

A marbled murrlet tends to its treetop nest. Photo by Tom Hamer.
A marbled murrelet rests on its treetop nest. Photo by Tom Hamer.

Legal protection of the threatened marbled murrelet seabird was upheld this week by a federal appeals court. Despite a 15-year legal battle led by the timber industry to end the Endangered Species Act listing, marbled murrelets retain their threatened status and thereby bring continued regulatory protection to old-growth forests throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Marbled murrelets fly up to 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean onto land to nest in ancient forests of California, Oregon, and Washington. Ancient coast redwood forests provide critical nesting habitat for these rare birds at the southern end of their habitat range because old redwood trees have large and broad branches that serve as excellent nesting platforms. Because marbled murrelets are a legally threatened species, logging activities are restricted in areas of redwood forest with known marbled murrelet nesting sites or even potential nest sites. In this way, the Endangered Species Act has helped protect old-growth redwoods since marbled murrelets were listed in 1992.

Learn more about other recent legal victories for marbled murrelets here.

About the author

Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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