Pacific Northwest Treasures: Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl

The Pacific Northwest’s old-growth forests provide habitat for endangered birds, as well as clean drinking water and a vast carbon store. Unfortunately, conserving these special forests continues to be a great challenge.

Take Action Today to Conserve the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) and conservation of public lands are critical to the conservation of the old-growth forests these birds inhabit.  Here some key documents from our campaign to protect the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet:

Northwest Conservation Groups Oppose Expedited Logging Bills

ABC Comments on the Crystal Clear Project Threatening Northern Spotted Owl Habitat

Marbled Murrelet 2017 ESA Status Review ABC Comment Letter

Marbled Murrelet Oregon Endangered Species Status Review ABC Comment Letter

Marbled Murrelet Washington State Habitat Conservation Plan ABC Comment Letter

Comment Letter for Endangered Listing for the Marbled Murrelet in Washington State

Spotted Owl Recommendations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – July 7, 2016

Letter Requesting Withdrawal of the Western Oregon Plan Revisions

Comment Letter on Western Oregon Plan Revisions

Comment Letter in support of Uplisting the Northern Spotted Owl

Comment Letter in Support of Listing the California Spotted Owl

Comment Letter on Marbled Murrelet Critical Habitat

Letter to President Obama in Support of Marbled Murrelet Conservation

20-Year Monitoring Reports of the Northwest Forest Plan

Marbled Murrelet, Thomas Hamer

Marbled Murrelet: An Elusive Seabird

This small bird nests in tall, old-growth trees in coastal forests from the Aleutians and the southern coast of Alaska south to northern California, and from eastern Siberia south to Japan. Because of its solitary habits, the first nest of this sea-going species in North America was not found until 1974.

The Marbled Murrelet population in California, Oregon, and Washington is distinct and is listed as a threatened species because its distribution in the Pacific Northwest has declined, perhaps by as much as 40 percent, due to logging and coastal development that have destroyed much of its nesting territory.

As the murrelet forages for fish at sea, gillnet fishing and pollution from oil spills also pose threats.

Populations have also declined severely in the northern Gulf of Alaska, though Alaska remains the stronghold of the species, with up to 90 percent of the total North American numbers found there.

Conservation of the coastal forests where it breeds is the most essential step to protect the species and in 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be updating its critical habitat designation to address existing and new threats.

Northern Spotted Owl, Chris Warren

Northern Spotted Owl: Indicator of Old-Growth Forests

The Northern Spotted Owl has received much study in recent years because of its favored habitat and the controversies that surround it: old-growth conifer forests in the Pacific Northwest from British Columbia to northern California. These forests have high commercial value, and most tracts have been logged, bringing about the decline of the owl.

Data indicate that populations continue to decline at about three percent a year rangewide. It is currently listed as Threatened under the ESA, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering uplisting the subspecies to endangered status due to the ongoing decline.

Competition with the Barred Owl, which has arrived in the Northern Spotted Owl’s range in recent years, is also a threat to the species. Barred Owls displace Spotted Owls, and the numbers of the former have increased considerably within the range of the Spotted Owl in the past 25 years.

Northern Spotted Owl, Chris Warren

Protecting the Trees to Reverse Declines

We are working to reverse the rapid decline in both Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl populations by permanently protecting large blocks of mature and old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest.

We encourage incentives for private landowners to protect old-growth forests and advocate for progressive forest management reforms to restore additional owl and murrelet habitat.


Old-growth forest in Oregon, Kan Khampanya/Shutterstock

Support These Northwest Treasures

In 2015, the Obama administration planned to update President Clinton’s landmark Northwest Forest Plan, which protects much of the remaining old growth habitat in the Northwest but that effort which sought to weaken protections was put on hold due to strong public opposition. We are leading advocacy efforts to ensure the threatened Marbled Murrelet and Spotted Owls are protected as the Northwest Forest Plan is updated.

Support this effort by contacting the administration through our easy-to-use action alert system.