The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the public comment period on its October 2021 proposal to designate critical habitat in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon for the coastal distinct population segment of the Pacific marten, also known as the coastal marten.
In the 2021 proposed rule, the Service identified 1,413,305 acres of land as critical habitat for the coastal marten and considered excluding 102,670 of those acres from final designation. Based on comments and information from the Yurok Tribe and Green Diamond Resource Company, the Service is now considering excluding an additional 40,208 acres, bringing the total exclusions under consideration to 142,878 acres. This change reflects new information about land transfers, the Yurok’s request to exclude certain ancestral lands, as well as existing conservation and management actions for coastal marten being carried out by both the tribe and Green Diamond.
The Service is reopening the comment period for 15 days to solicit public comment on the proposed critical habitat with additional exclusions. Comments will be accepted through October 17, 2022.
The Service is considering the exclusions of additional critical habitat for coastal marten under Section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act. Under the ESA, the Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if it is determined that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying an area as part of critical habitat, unless the failure to designate an area will result in the extinction of the species.
The coastal marten is a cat-sized mammal in the weasel family. The species has lost over 90 percent of its historical range and currently exists in four small, isolated populations in northern coastal California and coastal Oregon. In November 2020, the Service listed the marten as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Loss of habitat, catastrophic wildfire, exposure to toxins from unlawful marijuana grow sites and impacts from vegetation management were determined to be key factors in the marten’s decline.
Critical habitat designation requires federal agencies to ensure that actions they plan to undertake, fund or authorize do not destroy or adversely modify that habitat. It does not establish a wildlife refuge, allow the government or public to access private lands or require non-federal landowners to restore habitat or recover species.
The Service is committed to using the public comment process to solicit sound science, new data and general perspectives on proposed actions. The public can submit comments on the proposed designation of critical habitat and read supporting information at www.regulations.gov by searching Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2020-0151. Comments previously submitted do not need to be resubmitted and will be fully considered in the final rule.
The ESA is extraordinarily effective at preventing species from going extinct and has inspired action to conserve at-risk species and their habitat before they need to be listed as threatened or endangered. Since it was signed into law in 1973, more than 99 percent of all species listed under the law are still with us today.