by Chris Clarke
on March 12, 2014 3:10 PM
A diminutive seabird that gained national prominence during the "Timber Wars" of the 1990s will get a bit more stringent protection in Santa Cruz County. It's a result of a settlement between an environmental group and the California State Parks -- and residents will get cleaner state parks in the process.
The southernmost population of the marbled murrelet, a 10-inch auk relative, lays its eggs in the thick moss atop branches of ancient redwood trees and other old growth, just barely hangs on in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Only about five percent of the bird's nesting habitat remains: most of it has been logged, making the Threatened species a bit of a cause célèbre during the controversy over logging of the Pacific Northwest's ancient forests during the 1990s.
In the Santa Cruz Mountains' redwood parks, one of the biggest threats to the murrelet comes from other birds raiding its nests. The chief culprits are ravens and Steller's jays, both avid nest predators. Garbage left by campers in state parks attracts the ravens and jays, which increases pressure on the murrelets. That's why a legal settlement announced Tuesday in which State Parks agrees to keep garbage away from scavengers is being lauded by wildlife defenders.