Never heard of the marbled murrelet? Perhaps that's because the species has been in decline for the past two decades.
In fact, the seabirds are so imperiled that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission just voted to up-list the species from threatened to endangered.
A petition from local conservation groups—which requested a status review of the bird's condition—prompted ODFW's Friday vote.
"It is remarkable that this species has been listed as threatened for more than 20 years but the state of Oregon has never developed a plan to actually protect murrelets," said Quinn Read, Northwest director of Defenders of Wildlife.
In the status review ODFW conducted in response, the agency found that ongoing clear-cut logging has destroyed much of the marbled murrelet's nesting habitat. And existing regulation and protections, the review says, have "failed to prevent continued high rates of habitat loss on nonfederal lands in Oregon."
Even with the protections granted under the Oregon Endangered Species Act, the possibility of the bird's extinction looms.
"The life history exhibited by this species provides little opportunity for the population to rapidly increase even under the most optimal circumstances," the ODFW review reads.
The agency is now required to draft and adopt measurable survival guidelines for preserving the marbled murrelet—which will likely include protecting some of the Oregon coast range's old-growth forests from continued logging.
The conservation groups behind the petition for the bird's re-listing laud ODFW's decision.
"This is an important step for ODFW," said Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild. "The agency has struggled to faithfully act on its core mission of protecting all native fish and wildlife in our state, but with this action to protect the marbled murrelet we hope they have turned the page."