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Proposed rule would protect 1.4 million acres of habitat for Humboldt martens

Oregon State University

The Humboldt marten, a cat-sized animal in the weasel family, stands to gain over a million acres in protected habitat along the coast of Oregon and California. That’s according to a new proposal by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Humboldt marten is a threatened species that lives in the coastal forests of Northern California and Oregon. Because of trapping and widespread logging of its habitat, fewer than 400 of the animals remain in the wild. Currently, threats to Martens include logging, wildfires and rat poison from marijuana farms.

Last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designate about 1.4 million acres of land as a protected critical habitat for the marten. Quinn Read is from the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group. She says that protecting this coastal land is beneficial to more species than just the marten.

“There’s a lot of downstream effects,” says Read. “You know, we know that intact habitat improves water quality. It improves water quality for fish, some of which are threatened and endangered themselves. It improves water quality for people. There are all kinds of benefits to protecting this habitat.:

The 1.4 million acres is divided into 5 separate sections spread across Oregon and California. Read says that dividing the land means that martens won’t be able to travel freely along the coast and will limit their genetic diversity.

“For a species that is already suffering and struggling from the effects of having small, isolated populations, having critical habitat that sort of boxes them into those isolated populations is not going to be what helps them long term,” says Read.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comment on the proposal until December 27th.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.