Thursday, January 26, 2006

New Lawsuit Demands the Delisting of Marbled Murrelets

A group called Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Coos County, Oregon in order to force U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to to delist the Marbled Murrelet. Last year the director of the FWS Pacific Region, said there would be a range wide status review before a delisting proposal. They said the proposal would be out by the end of last year but that didn't happen. PLF says they are taking too long. Inside sources say that the delay is due to a disagreement within FWS about whether or not to conduct the range wide review before issuing the proposal. A 2004 status report focusing on the California, Oregon and Washington populations found that the birds are still declining primarily due to the loss of their oldgrowth forest habitat. A range wide status review would have to look at the entire Marbled Murrelet population. The affects of delisting the murrelets would be felt across the Pacific Northwest. Nesting habitat of the declining birds could be logged, both on public and private lands.
Those who wish to remove the bird from the endangered species list contend that there is no significant genetic difference between the murrelets in the lower forty eight states and those in Canada and Alaska. This claim is contradicted by a scientific paper published in late 2005 detailing a study on murrelet genetics.
Canadian scientists Vicki Friesen compared the genetics of 194 murrelets throughout their range exept in Washington and Oregon. This included 36 birds from Humboldt County. She and her colleagues found that "Given the available samples, murrelets appear to comprise five genetic management units: (1) western Aleutian Islands, (2) central Aleutian Islands, (3) mainland Alaska and British Columbia, (4) northern California, and (5) central California".* Friesen is currently studying the Oregon and Washington populations.

*Population genetic structure and conservation of marbled murrelets
(Brachyramphus marmoratus)
V.L. Friesen, T.P. Birt, J.F. Piatt, R.T. Golightly, S.H. Newman, P.N. Hebert, B.C. Congdon & G. Gissing


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