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Comments needed on murrelet protection plan

Mar 01, 2017
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WILD NW Action Alert #271: Rare opportunity to protect and restore marbled murrelet habitat on state lands.

Comments needed on murrelet protection plan

Marbled murrelets depend on old forests for their nests. Protecting murrelets benefits forests, fish and many other species. Photo: USFWS

WILD NW Action Alert #271: Rare opportunity to protect and restore marbled murrelet habitat on state lands. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington Department of Natural Resources have issued a Draft Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet. Unfortunately, the plan falls short and these agencies need to hear from you!

Click here to take action for marbled murrelets by 5:00 p.m. on March 9!

Marbled murrelets, a small, fast flying seabird that nests in old forests along Washington’s coastal areas, are declining rapidly. If their nesting habitat is not protected in our public forests, they may soon disappear from the state. This is an avoidable tragedy.

Murrelets were listed as threatened in Washington in 1993 after significant old forest habitat loss and fragmentation. Although federal habitat was then protected, logging continued unabated on state and private lands, and 30 percent of the bird's remaining habitat has since been cut down. Murrelet populations have dropped 44 percent in the last 15 years and are now considered endangered, perilously close to statewide extinction.

We now have a chance to turn things around. The Draft Conservation Strategy considers six options, all of which involve cutting down more murrelet nesting habitat. To recover murrelets in Washington, please ask the agencies to evaluate and adopt a new Conservation Alternative that protects all remaining nesting habitat and promotes restoration forestry to improve degraded areas and generate revenue. 

Take action using our comment form! Our suggested comments are also copied below.

Subject Line: SEPA File No. 12-042001                                                          

I’m writing to provide comment on the Long-Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SEPA File No. 12-042001) and request that you analyze and adopt a new Conservation Alternative that protects all murrelet nesting habitat, prevents fragmentation, and restores degraded areas to promote murrelet recovery.

Marbled murrelets are plump, vigorous seabirds that nest in old-growth forests along Washington’s coastal areas. Unlike other seabirds, they raise their young on wide mossy branches of older trees, flying daily up to 55 miles to forage in nearshore marine areas. Murrelets were listed as threatened in Washington in 1993 after significant loss of its old forest habitat from logging.

Although federal habitat was then protected, logging continued on state and private lands. About 30% of murrelet nesting habitat on nonfederal lands has been cut down since 1993. Marine prey availability is another concern. Surveys show that the murrelet population declined by 44% between 2001 and 2015. Without immediate action, murrelets will be gone from Washington in the near future.

Washington’s state lands are vital to murrelet recovery. Their proximity to marine areas provides a shorter and less risky commute for murrelets between nesting and foraging areas. State lands are more productive than other higher elevation forests further inland, more rapidly developing into murrelet habitat. Most importantly, scientists emphasize that protecting existing habitat in the near-term is essential to maintain murrelets on the landscape, at least until degraded habitat on federal lands recovers in the years ahead.

I want you to do more to help murrelet populations recover on state lands. Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission recently determined that murrelets are seriously threatened with extinction. Yet, all of the options presented in the Draft Murrelet Strategy involve harvest of some murrelet nesting habitat, when it is well known that will only be harmful.

Marbled murrelets are an essential aspect of our natural heritage and signify the health of our coastal old-growth forests and watersheds, places vital for Washington’s people, communities and a rich diversity of fish and wildlife. I urge you to evaluate and adopt a new Conservation Alternative that fully protects and restores murrelet habitat, and provides the best opportunity for marbled murrelet recovery in Washington.

Thanks for the opportunity to provide comment.

Sincerely,

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