Last week the Center for Biological Diversity reached a settlement agreement with the California Department of Parks and Recreation that will substantially increase protections in the Santa Cruz Mountains for the Marbled Murrelet, an endangered seabird that nests in old-growth forests. Much of the strength of the settlement can be attributed to advocacy on the part of Audubon California and over 1,200 Audubon activists who weighed in on the issue last year.
The settlement requires California State Parks to reduce dangers posed by visitor trash in parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains on the Central Coast, where the small and highly imperiled population of marbled murrelets nest. Visitors’ trash harms murrelets by unnaturally increasing the abundance of predators such as jays and ravens that eat eggs and chicks. The lawsuit followed considerable collaborative effort on the part of the Audubon network, the Center, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013 to secure these protections through the General Plan process for Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Santa Clara Valley and Sequoia Audubon weighed in, as did over 1200 Audubon activists in California.
Unfortunately, The State Parks and Recreation Commission voted down the opportunity to make needed changes, and the Center was left with little choice but to sue. Last week’s settlement will go far to stabilize and increase the genetically distinct population of murrelets in the Santa Cruz mountains. Specifically, the settlement requires the following protections in Big Basin Redwoods, Portola and Butano state parks:
- Comprehensive trash management requiring animal-proof food-storage lockers at all campsites, installation of indoor dishwashing stations, and increased trash pickup to prevent dumpster overflow.
- Extensive public outreach that makes the murrelet a focal point of the parks, including signs, displays and videos in English and Spanish in all visitor areas to inform the public about how to avoid harming murrelets.
- Annual monitoring of marbled murrelet status and predator numbers and a comprehensive assessment every three years requiring further action if murrelet status does not improve.
Thank you for your activism which supported this conservation victory for this amazing, secretive tree-nesting seabird!