Marbled murrelets observed in 788-acre East Hakki Ridge tract in Elliott State Forest, Oregon, claims environmental group; Dept. of State Lands agreed to sell parcel to Seneca Jones in April
May 19, 2014
– Last week surveyors with Coast Range Forest Watch (CRFW) observed marbled murrelets, endangered seabirds that nest in coastal old growth, within the 788-acre East Hakki Ridge Parcel in the Elliott State Forest. East Hakki is a tract of forest recently auctioned by Oregon’s Department of State Lands for privatization.
The highest bid was submitted by Seneca Jones Timber Company of Eugene, Oregon. Seneca Jones has publicly stated that they intend to clear cut East Hakki. Marbled murrelets are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, and any logging operations in occupied habitat would be illegal.
East Hakki Ridge is one of five parcels in the Elliott State Forest authorized for privatization by the Department of State Lands this past April. Several conservation groups are challenging the State’s sale of East Hakki in a lawsuit.
CRFW Marbled Murrelet Observer Kelsey Reavis: “As a citizen scientist and someone who spends time living near the Elliott State Forest, I understand the importance of these old growth forests that provide unique habitat for endangered species like the marbled murrelet. Privatization in this rare coastal ecosystem not only threatens these declining populations by removing critical environmental protections but it also denies the community access to recreation and education. It is in the state’s best interest to keep these lands public so they can be researched, enjoyed, and maintained for the good of all current and future Oregonians, both people and wildlife alike.”
Based on the protocol written by Pacific Seabird Group, marbled murrelets live in a stand if they exhibit “occupied behavior,” such as flying at or below the canopy height of the forest being surveyed. This is exactly what members of Coast Range Forest Watch witnessed in East Hakki last week.
CRFW Marbled Murrelet Observer Amanda St.Martin: “Multiple surveyors observed occupied behavior on consecutive days. This is a sure sign marbled murrelets are using the area for breeding and nesting. It’s very rare and exciting to survey in an area that has never been logged or surveyed before. There are trees in East Hakki that are over 300 years old, which makes for ideal murrelet habitat.”
Coast Range Forest Watch is a Coos County group of volunteers concerned about the health of forests and watersheds in the coast range of the Pacific Northwest. Surveyors with Coast Range Forest Watch are professionally trained under the Pacific Seabird Group Protocol and have undergone the same certification process that land agency surveyors complete.