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Humboldt Marten Granted Long-Awaited Threatened Species Status

The Humboldt Marten has been granted federal threatened-species protections under the Endangered Species Act.
The Humboldt Marten has been granted federal threatened-species protections under the Endangered Species Act.

After a 10-year battle, threatened-species protections have finally been granted to the Humboldt marten, a cat-sized member of the weasel family.

The fight to earn threatened-species protections for the Humboldt marten has finally paid off. After a classic struggle between environmentalists and the federal government which took 10 years and two lawsuits, the Humboldt marten has been added to the list of threatened species.

The only known population of Humboldt martens lives in forested regions of coastal Northern California and Southern Oregon. Their numbers have dwindled to fewer than 400 from logging, fires, and other habitat destruction. Environmentalists first applied for endangered-species status in 2010, but the petition was rejected.

Kimberly Baker is with the Environmental Protection Information Center in Arcata, California. She says the marten population is at a critical level.

"There are only four small isolated populations," she says, "So there are estimated to be only be about 400 of the species left."

Baker added that federal agencies are responding to the new status.

"What they are currently doing is working to implement conservation actions," she says. "That includes protecting the habitat that already exists, designating other high-value habitat areas, and also conducting more research and monitoring of the species."

Conservationists remain concerned about the long-term viability of the marten. They consider the newly-acquired protections vague and they contain exemptions for logging and other activities which are likely continue to put pressure on the species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also stopped short of designating critical habitat for the species despite the animals having disappeared from 93 percent of their historic range.

(Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of remaining martens at 100. )

Dave has worked in broadcasting for over 30 years as an on-air host, producer, writer, and recording engineer. He now oversees news hosts at JPR and also manages radio operations.