Eastern black rail, coastal martens listed as threatened

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added the eastern black rail and the coastal distinct population segment of the Pacific marten to the list of threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The Service concluded that the number of Pacific martens (Martes caurina) has dropped to fewer than 100 individuals each in four small populations along coastal California and Oregon in just 7% of its historical range.

“The coastal marten faces a variety of threats including loss of habitat, threats from wildfire and increased predation risk,” the USFWS concluded.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) sued the USFWS in March for failing “to make a timely final determination on the proposed listing of the he eastern black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis jamaicensis).” The bird, nicknamed “the feathered mouse,” primarily occupies coastal marshes from New Jersey to Florida and has seen its population fall by 75% to an estimated 355 to 815 breeding pairs. “The eastern black rail stands on the brink of extinction due primarily to the loss, degradation and fragmentation of its wetland habitat due to urban and agricultural sprawl, sea level rise along the coast, and ground- and surface-water withdrawals,” the lawsuit stated.

The USFWS ultimately agreed, finding that the habitat fragmentation and sea level rise “will reduce the availability of suitable habitat” and listing the bird as threatened under the ESA.

“After a decade of being ignored, these shy, fascinating birds are finally getting some much-needed protections,” said Stephanie Kurose, senior endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, in response in a press release.

The Service declined to list the wolverine (Gulo gulo) after finding “that the factors affecting wolverine populations are not as significant as believed in 2013,” when it was proposed for listing.

The Center for Biological Diversity, representing a coalition of other environmental groups, immediately announced the launch of a lawsuit contesting the decision not to list wolverines. “It’s outrageous that the Fish and Wildlife Service has again shrugged off the science showing that wolverines are in trouble and desperately need federal protection,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney with the center, in a press release. “It’s sad that after years of inaction, we need to go to court again to ensure wolverines get the protections they need before it’s too late.”

The UFWS also found the U.S. population of the northwestern subspecies of moose is not a distinct population segment and does not warrant listing. The subspecies (Alces alces andersoni) occurs in Minnesota, North Dakota and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. The Center for Biological Diversity and another nonprofit group petitioned the Service to list the population in 2015. But the agency decided the U.S. population wasn’t distinct from Canadian populations to the north.

Header Image: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added the coastal distinction population segment of the Pacific marten to the list of threatened species. Credit: Oregon State University