Threatened & Endangered Species Conservation
Threatened & Endangered Species Conservation
The Yurok Tribe Wildlife Department (YTWD) monitors threatened and endangered species for the Yurok Tribe as part of a Constitutionally mandated effort to conserve and protect natural resources in Yurok Ancestral Territory, and for Endangered Species Act compliance. Species surveys and monitoring, and the production of biological assessments, are key components of the Environmental Assessments required on Yurok lands in accordance with the Yurok Tribe Forest Management Plan.
YTWD collaborates with other departments within the Yurok Tribe to monitor wildlife in areas that have the potential to be impacted by current or future human activities, such as forest management, landscape restoration, or infrastructure development. Through monitoring and sound science, promotion of environmental stewardship, inventory and protection of ecological resources, and participation in efforts to improve habitat quality and ecosystem function, YTWD is committed to conserving and protecting wildlife on Yurok lands, including threatened and endangered species, such as the Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis), northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), and marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus).
Wildlife Program Staff
Pacific martens (Martes caurina) that occupy coastal regions of Oregon and northern California, often referred to as coastal marten, are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Genetic analysis of individuals within these coastal populations has revealed them to be a distinct subspecies — the Humboldt marten (M. c. humboldtensis) — which has been extirpated from more than 95% of its historical range in California. The Humboldt marten is a small, secretive, and rare carnivore in the weasel family (Mustelidae), with an omnivorous diet that includes small mammals, birds, and fruit. Humboldt martens select habitats that contain late-successional and structurally complex conifer forests, and are known to avoid younger forests and areas without closed canopy or large diameter trees, snags, or downed logs.
Pacific marten. Photo: Oregon State University/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Humboldt marten has experienced dramatic population declines and extirpation from most of its historical range, due primarily to habitat loss from extensive timber harvest and trapping.
The Yurok Tribe considers the marten a culturally significant species; as such, the Tribe is a member of the Humboldt Marten Conservation Group and co-author on a conservation assessment and strategy for the species. Through collaboration with its Natural Resource Division partners to integrate uneven-aged forest management on Yurok lands, YTWD seeks to enhance wildlife habitat and conserve priority species, including Humboldt marten. In 2020, YTWD launched a project to monitor marten on Tribal lands, particularly in in areas where forest fuel reduction and habitat enhancement are planned. The monitoring program is expected to expand to other Tribal lands and will facilitate Endangered Species Act compliance and further conservation and management of this species.
Hunters as Stewards
Northern Spotted Owl
Northern spotted owls occupy late-successional forests of the Pacific Northwest and thrive in healthy, intact ecosystems. Habitat loss, most notably from commercial timber harvest, and increased competition from invasive barred owls are the two main factors which have led to dramatic population declines throughout much of the species’ historical range. Northern spotted owls have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1990, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that their habitat has been reduced by up to 88 percent since the 1880s. To reverse this dire trend, contemporary conservation efforts often include the adoption of land management practices that focus on the preservation and promotion of older forested habitats, which contain structures and characteristics required for spotted owl nesting, roosting, and foraging, and the establishment
and maintenance of connectivity between these habitat reserves.
Northern spotted owl. Photo: Frank D. Lospalluto/Flickr
(CC BY-NC ND 2.0)
YTWD conducts northern spotted owl surveys on Yurok lands to inform conservation of the species, protect them from potential disturbance, and for Endangered Species Act compliance related to timber harvest and other land management activity. Survey efforts are primarily focused on remnant late seral forest stands, where owls are most likely to occur. Although no baseline population estimates have been conducted on Yurok lands, survey results suggest major declines.
The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that spends most of its life at sea, foraging in coastal waters for small schooling fishes and invertebrates. Marbled murrelets nest primarily in mature coniferous forests along the west coast of North America, flying between the sea and their inland nesting habitat at dawn or dusk. Eggs are laid on mossy limbs and other horizontal platforms of large trees near the coast or up to 50 miles inland. Population declines have been attributed mainly to fragmentation and loss of nesting habitat from the commercial harvest of coastal coniferous forests.
Marbled murrelets of California, Oregon, and Washington were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1992. Surveys for marbled murrelets are conducted by YTWD on Yurok lands for Endangered Species Act compliance related to timber harvests and other land
Marbled murrelet in breeding plumage. Photo: Aaron Barna/Flickr (CC BY-NC ND 2.0)
These surveys are conducted to protect murrelets from disturbance and to inform potential restoration activities. Forest management activities currently being conducted on Yurok lands will improve habitat conditions for species such as marbled murrelets, which need mature and thoughtfully managed forests.
Visit the Yurok Condor Restoration Program webpage to learn about California condor conservation in the Pacific Northwest