Marbled Murrelet Coalition Statement on Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy
Conservation Northwest / Dec 03, 2018 / Murrelet, State Trust Lands
In September, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and US Fish and Wildlife Service issued their revised draft environmental impact statement (RDEIS) of alternatives for marbled murrelet conservation on state-managed forestlands in western Washington. The marbled murrelet, a small, fast-flying seabird that nests in mossy mature and old-growth forest, is facing extinction in the state. The Long-Term Conservation Strategy, once adopted, will guide murrelet habitat management on 1.4 million acres of public forests for the next 50 years.
Marbled murrelets were classified as threatened with extinction in Washington in 1993 due to loss and fragmentation of old-growth forest habitat from logging. Although habitat on federal lands was then protected, logging continues on state and private lands where 30 percent of the remaining murrelet habitat has since been cut down. Murrelet populations have dropped 44 percent in the last 15 years and murrelets are now listed as endangered, perilously close to statewide extinction.
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 have better growing conditions than other higher elevation forests further inland, providing the best option for rapid growth of much needed murrelet habitat. State lands also contain some of the last remaining old forest near marine areas, and scientists emphasize that protecting all existing habitat in the near term is essential for murrelets, at least until degraded forests recover.
The public comment period for the Long-Term Conservation Strategy for murrelets in Washington ends on Thursday, December 6th, 2018. With the comment deadline approaching, the Marbled Murrelet Coalition, a group of conservation organizations that work to protect and restore murrelets and their habitat in Washington, issued the following statement:
The time for action is now. Murrelet recovery requires a coordinated effort that restores murrelets and their habitat, and addresses the needs of coastal communities and counties. To recover these unique seabirds, scientists recommend a conservation strategy that stabilizes and increases murrelet populations, increases their geographic distribution, and improves resilience to impacts from climate change and other natural and human-caused disturbances.
Alternatives F and G most closely accomplish this, but more is needed. The approach preferred by the state, known as Alternative H, falls far short and does not provide for murrelet recovery. In fact, it is projected to result in fewer marbled murrelets in fifty years than we have today, as do most other options. This is unacceptable. To recover these special birds, the conservation strategy must protect all murrelet nesting sites and quality habitat, prevent habitat fragmentation, broaden habitat conservation areas, and conduct restoration forestry to improve degraded areas and generate revenue.
Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz has convened a Solutions Table on Marbled Murrelets to find creative ways to recover murrelets and meet the needs of rural counties, timber mills and other economic sectors in these communities. Even though this table is separate from the Long-Term Conservation Strategy, its additional solutions are needed to help murrelets succeed.
The forests that murrelets need for survival are also important to rural counties and coastal communities as logs for mills, jobs in the woods and income. We believe that a scientifically sound and truly effective conservation strategy can coexist with solutions that support healthy rural economies and provide income to trust beneficiaries. We look forward to continuing to work on creating better outcomes for both marbled murrelets and the communities that are directly affected by state forestland management.
The Marbled Murrelet Coalition includes Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Olympic Forest Coalition, Seattle Audubon Society, Washington Environmental Council, and Washington Forest Law Center.