Arboreal residents of Oregon's drippy coastal forests, North Coast red tree voles have grown dependent on intact communities of thousand-year-old trees. Building nests on tree branches and rarely leaving the canopy, these voles rely on the complexities of ancient forest ecosystems. Yet this tree vole's habitat is being logged and developed; unfortunately, there is little federal land on Oregon's North Coast. Without protections, most of the private and state lands in this area are being heavily managed to maximize timber production, causing significant declines in the North Coast red tree vole.
In June 2007, the Center and allies filed a citizen petition to protect this tree vole under the Endangered Species Act, which if successful will lead to the designation of critical habitat, development of a recovery plan and restoration of native old-growth ecosystems. Since the administration failed to respond to our petition after more than a year, we filed a notice of intent to sue Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in September 2008, and that October the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that both the North Coast red tree vole population and the red tree vole as a species may warrant federal protection. In 2011, though the agency still hadn't finalized this tree vole's protection, the Center reached a landmark agreement compelling the Service to issue a listing proposal that same year — while also moving forward on protection decisions for 756 other species. Just a few months later, the Service announced the North Coast red tree vole deserves Endangered Species Act protection. But in September 2012 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management went against the Service's opinion by proposing the controversial Rickard Creek timber sale in tree vole habitat — so the Center and allies filed a legal challenge.
We'd ultimately like to see in place a comprehensive plan similar to the Northwest Forest Plan to protect the region's rich biological diversity. The tree vole, an important indicator of forest health because of its vulnerability to ecological disturbances, is just one of dozens of species that depend on the Northwest's forests, rivers and coastlines to survive.
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Contact: Noah Greenwald