The Elliott State Forest is approximately 92,000 acres of
public forestland, located in Coos County. It was historically designated a
State forest to generate revenue for the Common School Fund, but due to steep
slopes and the presence of endangered species, about half the forest has never
been logged. This primary or “native” forest is rare in the coast range, and
the old growth stands it contains have become critical for nesting marbled
murrelets. These large stands of contiguous, mature forest are crucial for the
continuation of the marbled murrelet on the Oregon coast.

Ornithological Summary

The marbled murrelet's non-breeding plumage is
counter-shaded with white feathers ventrally and black feathers dorsally, and
its breeding plumage is a cryptic mottled (“marbled”) brown pattern (National
Geographic Society 1987). They fly long distances inland to nest in old-growth
forest (Lank et al. 2003), and have been known to fly up to 91 mph. The nesting
of marbled murrelets (hereafter murrelets) was an ornithological mystery until
1974 when the first nest was found by an arborist in central California.
Murrelets lay a single egg per breeding season (Nelson & Hamer 1995) on a
mossy limb in the forest canopy. Breeding lasts from March until September,
during which murrelets make daily trips from their nests in old-growth trees to
the ocean to forage on small fish and invertebrates (Marshall 1988). Repeated
nest site surveys suggest high site fidelity, similar to other alcids
(Evans/Mack et al. 2003, Nettleship & Birkhead 1985).
[SOURCE: PETITION TO UPLIST THE MARBLED MURRELET FROM THREATENED TO
ENDANGERED UNDER OREGON’S ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT]

Conservation Issues

The greatest current threat
to the marbled murrelet is loss of habitat due to timber production and the
resulting fragmentation of habitat. An increase in predation from corvids along
edges of habitat is exacerbated by continued habitat fragmentation and human
littering. The marine ecosystem supporting murrelets is also at risk
because of over-fishing and shifting ocean conditions due to human
impacts and climate change, including ocean acidification. 
They
are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, but are
only listed as threatened in the state of Oregon. A recent petition to uplist
their status to endangered is pending review by the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife. In addition, t
he
future management of the Elliott State Forest is currently in question, as a
sale of the forest to a private timber company was recently abandoned by the
Oregon State Land Board and discussions on how to maintain public ownership are
underway.

Habitat

The old growth stands in the Elliott represent a significant
portion of the estimated 10% remaining old growth in Oregon’s coast range, and
is crucial habitat for marbled murrelets that primarily nest in
old-growth conifers within 30 miles of the coast. This IBA contains the specific forest
type that murrelets use during their nesting season, characterized by mature
and old-growth forests, large core areas of old growth, low amounts of edge
habitat, reduced habitat fragmentation, proximity to the marine environment,
and forests that are increasing in stand age and height. The presence of large
trees with suitable platforms for nesting is the most important factor in
murrelet nesting habitat choice. 

Land Use

The Elliott State Forest lands are common school trust lands, managed by the State for the purpose of providing revenue to the Common School Fund. However, due to the Elliott's wealth of coastal old-growth wildlife habitat, about half of the Elliott State Forest has never been logged. 

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