Murrelets Are Just Sounding the Alarm Bells

Murrelets Are Just Sounding the Alarm Bells

I was disappointed in the front-page article ''The Northwest's Showdown: Murrelets vs. Millworkers,'' June 12. The ''endangered species'' list has long included the human occupations that were listed (loggers, millworkers, farmers, and fishermen) for the simple reason that the rate of resource extraction will eliminate both the wildlife habitat and human jobs in a few years. The need to find new ways of economic livelihood for workers should be seen as giving a wakeup call to unsustainable practices.

People in this country love to point to Brazil and shout, ''Save the rain forest!'' But in our own backyard the tragic loss of the great Pacific forest is obscured by arguments that sound like an angry child demanding to stay up past bedtime to watch more TV.

John Fago Bethel, Vt.

''Murrelets'' are mentioned twice in the headlines, but the article does not discuss the marbled murrelet or its disappearing habitat.

The marbled murrelet is a robin-sized bird that feeds in shallow coastal waters and nests on large horizontal mossy conifer branches, usually within 15 miles of its coastal feeding area. Its range is from Alaska to Big Sur in central California, though nesting is difficult south of the ancient redwood habitat of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The article refers to the opposing sides who gathered at the Congressional field hearing on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in Roseburg, Ore. About 1 percent of the original ancient forest remains in Oregon's Coast Range, almost entirely on federal land. Since murrelets usually nest within 15 miles of the ocean and have rarely been spotted even 30 miles inland, the old-growth nesting habitat with towering canopy to guard against predation is certainly ''threatened.'' The marbled murrelet is federally listed as ''threatened'' in Washington, Oregon, and California.

Not only does President Clinton's Option #9 relating to the northern spotted owl range inadequately protect the little remaining murrelet habitat, but the emergency salvage logging rider backed by Republicans and Northwest timer interests in Congress would specifically allow logging that was held up due to marbled murrelet habitat concerns. This would finish off murrelet habitat before the US Fish and Wildlife Service's ''recovery'' process can kick in.

The marbled murrelet is an indicator species that determines whether there is an ecological collapse in the functioning of the coastal forest ecosystem. Allowing clear-cutting of the remnants of ancient forests in the Coast Range for a few years would assure ecological collapse.

Bruce Campbell Los Angeles

Member of the Ancient Forest Task Force of the Sierra Club's Angeles Chapter

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