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Environmental Group Fights Delay In Marbled Murrelet Habitat Protections

An environmental group has stopped an agreement between the timber industry and federal wildlife officials that would have delayed  new protections for a threatened seabird.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service settled with the timber industry group, the American Forest Resource Council, last summer, to avoid a legal battle over for the marbled murrelet.

The industry group argued that maps of protected areas called “critical habitat” had been done improperly.

Fish and Wildlife agreed to suspend the current maps ­ but draft new ones. But, that agreement, and the protracted timeline ­ that it would take five years ­ drew a legal challenge from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Noah Greenwald is the group’s endangered species director.

“We had to convince the court that losing habitat protection for so long mattered.”

Federal scientists argued since other protections are in place, removing critical habitat wouldn’t harm the murrelet.

The judge disagreed and blocked the deal.

A timber industry spokeswoman intends to reach a new agreement, noting that the judge appeared open to a settlement if it comes with “some modification.”