Conservation Groups Aim to Protect Oregon Red Tree Voles

On Tuesday, a team of conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump Administration for its failure to protect the vulnerable North Oregon Coast population of red tree voles under the Endangered Species Act.  

The lawsuit will challenge a 2019 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny protections to the red tree vole — a decision which backtracked on the Service’s 2011 determination that the population of tree dwelling mammals did indeed warrant legal protection.   

The notice of intent was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, in conjunction with Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild. In a press release, the team notes that this distinct population of red tree vole is found only along Oregon’s northern coast and is uniquely adapted to the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest. They live nearly their entire lives in trees and are closely associated with old-growth forests. As a result, the species has been decimated throughout much of its range by habitat loss from logging and historic fires. And the small remaining population is at immediate risk of extinction without Endangered Species Act safeguards.  

Concerned because this fragile population could be lost forever due to unchecked logging or wiped out in a single fire event, Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity, claims “The Trump administration’s about-face on protecting our voles rejects science and ignores the bleak outlook for these rare tree dwelling mammals.” 

Noting that the red tree vole and the diverse, older forests it inhabits are vital to the survival of northern spotted owls, wild salmon, and countless other species, Danielle Moser, wildlife program coordinator for Oregon Wild, adds that “These forests and wildlife are a critical part of Oregon’s natural heritage, and they should be protected as a legacy for future generations, not destroyed for short-term profit.” 

By JD Brookbank