Joan Jewett, (503) 231-6211
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will retain existing critical habitat currently designated under the Endangered Species Act for marbled murrelet populations in Washington, Oregon and California. The Service finds it is not appropriate at this time to revise the current critical habitat designation of approximately 3.9 million acres originally identified in 1996.
"Our decision does not impact the protected status of the marbled murrelet and retains the current critical habitat designation," said Ren Lohoefener, director of the Services Pacific Region. "If appropriate, the Service may decide to revisit the current critical habitat designation at a later time."
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently completing its Western Oregon Plan Revision, which will result in changes to Resource Management Plans for the Salem, Eugene, Coos Bay, Roseburg and Medford districts and the Klamath Falls Resource Area of the Lakeview District Office. These revisions may affect any potential change to the critical habitat designation for the marbled murrelet. Due to uncertainties regarding these plan revisions, the Service has determined that it is not appropriate to revise the designation of critical habitat for the marbled murrelet at this time. A revision of the critical habitat designation may be appropriate in the future.
On September 12, 2006, the Service proposed to revise the 1996 critical habitat designation for those populations of the marbled murrelet on the basis of updated information and as part of a court settlement agreement with the American Forest Resource Council. The Service completed a recovery plan for the marbled murrelet in 1997 and a 5-year status review of the species in 2004. The proposed revision, which will not be finalized, would have designated 221,692 acres, after proposed exclusions, in Washington, Oregon and California, as critical habitat for the marbled murrelet. The Service identified 3,590,642 acres as suitable critical habitat for the marbled murrelet but proposed excluding 3, 368,950 acres already protected under other regulations or plans, such as the Northwest Forest Plan, state and tribal management plans and Habitat Conservation Plans. Another 1,574,210 acres were considered but not included in the proposal because they already are managed in ways that meet the needs of the marbled murrelet.
Areas designated as critical habitat contain habitat essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. A designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and has no specific regulatory impact on landowner actions on private land that do not involve federal agency funds, authorization or permits. However, landowners must avoid actions on their property that could harm or kill protected species, or destroy their habitat, unless they first obtain a permit, regardless of whether critical habitat has been designated.
A finding that the revision of critical habitat for the marble murrelet should not be made will be published in the Federal Register on March 6, 2008.
The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that lives primarily in the marine environment and nests in forests along the Pacific Coast. Marbled murrelet populations in Washington, Oregon and California are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.
The species is a member of the Alcidae family. The marbled murrelets breeding range extends from Bristol Bay, Alaska, south to the Aleutian Archipelago, northeast to Cook Inlet, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound, south along the coast through the Alexander Archipelago of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon to northern Monterey Bay in central California. Birds winter throughout the breeding range and also occur in small numbers off the coast of southern California. Marbled murrelets spend most of their lives in the marine environment where they forage in near-shore areas and consume a diversity of prey species, including small fish and invertebrates. In their terrestrial environment, the presence of platforms used for nesting is the most important characteristic of the species nesting habitat. Marbled murrelet habitat use is positively associated with the presence and abundance of mature and old-growth forests, large core areas of old-growth, low amounts of edge and fragmentation, proximity to the marine environment, and increasing forest age and height. The marbled murrelet was first listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act on October 1, 1992.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.