It’s like the Spotted Owl Wars all over again: Environmental groups are suing the state of Oregon over poor forestry practices that allegedly imperil a bird, though this time it’s the marbled murrelet. A somewhat mysterious species that spends most of its time at sea, the robin-sized murrelet ventures inland to nest in moss and lichen growing on the big branches of old trees. “It’s a good indicator species of the health of our forests,” says Bob Sallinger, director of conservation for Audubon of Portland. Designated in 1992 as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in Washington, Oregon, and California, murrelets are declining at a rate of about four percent a year, due largely to unsustainable logging in the forests where they nest. The suit, filed by Audubon of Portland, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Cascadia Wildlands, claims that the state is violating the ESA by allowing logging that, among other things, fragments murrelet habitat. The forest mismanagement has been happening for decades, according to Sallinger, and “our state still hasn’t gotten the message.” Maybe now it will.
This story originally ran in the July-August 2012 issue of Audubon as "Hatchet Job."