Legislative/Advocacy Action

Help Protect the Marbled Murrelet in Washington State

This endangered seabird feeds in the ocean and flies up to 55 miles inland to nest in old growth forest. The Washington state population of this unique bird has shrunk by 44% over the last 15 years, leaving only about 7,500 birds remaining.  Now your input is needed to protect the Marbled Murrelet.

The Department of the Natural Resources (DNR) and the Long-Term Conservation Strategy

Statewide, the DNR manages approximately two million acres of land and  29-47% of DNR’s forests that are within 55 miles of salt water  are critical to Marbled Murrelets. These state-owned forests are either classified as habitat occupied by nesting Marbled, are buffers around that habitat, or are biologically-important potential recovery habitat.

Unfortunately, most Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat on private lands has been logged.  Though many of our older forests on federal lands are protected as parks (Olympic, North Cascades, and Mount Rainier National Parks, for example ), many of these forests are too far from the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound where the Marbled Murrelets spend most of their lives. The closer proximity of the DNR-managed forests in certain areas of the state, such as Southwest Washington, make these forests particularly important .

Virtually all scientists agree that, based on their location and age, many of DNR’s older forests are biologically significant for the survival and recovery of marbled murrelets in Washington.  For decades, scientists have concurred that the loss of nesting habitat is the primary reason for the decline in Marbled Murrelet populations. Ocean conditions are also a factor, but a significantly less important factor than nesting habitat.

DNR is preparing a Long-term Conservation Strategy (LTCS), as required by DNR’s 1997 federal Habitat Conservation Plan. In 2010, DNR informally rejected the 2008 Science Team Report and developed their own set of alternative conservation strategies. Of the six alternatives, only one (Alternative F) was based on a formal science-based process. The projections for all six alternatives show a continued population decline for the bird. The proposed alternatives simply do not set aside enough contiguous older forest habitat to allow our state’s Marbled Murrelet populations to stabilize and recover.


The Conservation Alternative: Using the Best Available Science

A coalition of environmental groups is proposing a new Conservation Alternative, which will be the only alternative designed to make long-term contributions to Marbled Murrelet conservation and to timber-industry sustainability in our state.

This is where your voice matters! Public comments on the Long-term Conservation Strategy are being accepted until 5:00 pm on Thursday March 9, 2017. NOTE: There is no oral testimony during this public-comment process.

In writing: Mail to SEPA Center, PO Box 47015, Olympia, WA 98504-7015

In e-mail: Send to sepacenter@nulldnr.wa.gov

*Make sure to include ‘SEPA File No. 12-042001’ in the subject line of e-mail and written comments.

Not sure what to say? Here are links to important documents and sample comments.

Note: The Murrelet Survival Project is a coalition of conservation groups, including the Washington Forest Law Center, Seattle Audubon Society, Olympic Forest Coalition, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and Washington Environmental Council.


Sample Comments for the Marbled Murrelet Long-term Conservation Strategy:

(Choose one or more of the sample comments below, personalize them according to your concern for the Marbled Murrelet and the forests where it nests, or write your own comments based on your reading of the proposed alternatives.)

 RE: SEPA File No. 12-04200

Dear Department of Natural Resources,

I am very concerned about the decline in Marbled Murrelet populations in our state. Please consider analyzing the proposed Conservation Alternative.

  • All six of the current strategies being considered by the DNR show a declining population trend for the next 50 years. None of the alternatives contributes to Marbled Murrelet survival and recovery. This is demonstrated by the DNR’s own population modelling.
  • Alternative F, which is based on the 2008 Science Team Report, comes closest to reaching Marbled Murrelet recovery goals, but unfortunately this alternative does not include important, more recent scientific findings. For example, a recent study (Raphael et al, 2015) identified  the regional importance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca as a “hotspot,” not previously recognized, of murrelet at-sea density and habitat . An effective conservation and recovery strategy must be based on best available science.
  • DNR-managed lands contain approximately 15% (213,000 acres)  of all existing Marbled Murrelet habitat in the state. This habitat is needed as a “bridge” to support the bird over the next 30-50 years while it is most vulnerable to extirpation.
  • DNR’s best option for Marbled Murrelets, Alternative F, allows the harvest of 25,000 acres of mature forest habitat that is needed for the population to stabilize and recover. The  DNR and USFWS should consider the new proposed Conservation Alternative with more sustainable harvest volumes to prevent the local extinction of the Marbled Murrelet.


[Your name and best contact information here]



Black Hills Audubon Board Supports the Carbon Tax Initiative I-732

chicadeeAt its meeting in June, the Black Hills Audubon Board voted to support initiative I-732, which would establish a carbon tax in Washington state and will be on the ballot in next November’s general election.  The intention is that the price of fossil fuels should reflect their true cost to the environment so that market decisions by both industry and consumers would lead them to develop and use alternatives.  At the same time the Board recognizes that some in our chapter have reservations that lead them to oppose the initiative and some want more information.

In July Audubon Washington — following polling of its statewide membership and extensive discussions with chapters — also endorsed I-732. Resources and explanation for this decision are at http://wa.audubon.org/frontpage/landing/carbon.

Before making a decision, BHAS conducted a survey of its members and supporters (using Survey Monkey) concerning their views on the best way to address carbon emissions and I-732 in particular.  Of 40 respondents to this survey, 95% favored a carbon tax, or cap and trade, or both.  Concerning Initiative I-732, 77% supported it, 15% opposed, while the others said they needed more information to make a decision.

Half of the respondents submitted written comments.  These included “need major reduction in CO2, the sooner the better. I-732 will help do our part;” “it’s a huge step forward and on the table now;” “732 makes WA state tax system more progressive and is good carbon policy;” “not perfect but need action now;” and “I-732 doesn’t go far enough and could be hard to change.”

I-732 would begin with a tax of $15 per metric ton of CO2 (approximately equivalent to 15 cents per gallon of gasoline); this tax would increase in subsequent years.  I-732 would also reduce the state sales tax by one percentage point, provide rebates for low-income working households, and reduce the B&O tax for manufacturers.

I-732 would implement a procedure to reduce carbon emissions that has been implemented in British Columbia with considerable success in reducing emissions by 5 to 15%, as citizens reduce their fossil fuel use in the face of higher prices.  I-732 includes provisions that will help low-income families by reducing our regressive sales tax and by providing a rebate to working families.  I-732 may or may not be revenue neutral as intended — projections depend on assumptions.

Other proposals are in progress toward addressing climate change.  Governor Inslee has charged the Department of Ecology with developing Clean Air rules that would address carbon emissions in order to meet the law passed in Washington State in 2008, requiring a reduction in emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2035; and by 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy has made a proposal that is likely to be considered by the state legislature in 2017.  This proposal includes a carbon cap and fee on major emitters ($15 per metric ton and increasing over time) and empowers the Department of Ecology to update Washington’s carbon-reduction goals.  Funds from the fees would be used to catalyze alternative energy and transportation projects, enhance water security, and manage healthy forests, provide a rebate to working families, and channel investments toward disadvantaged communities — all laudable goals.  The fees paid by major emitters would, however, likely be passed on to consumers, but without a large compensatory tax reduction as in the case of I-732.  The likelihood of passage in the state legislature of the Jobs and Clean Energy proposal is anyone’s guess.

Climate change and climate disruption will be expressed in warming climates, extremes of weather events, disrupted ecosystems in which wildlife cannot adjust in time to a rapidly changing climate, and human dislocations as sea levels rise.  The latter may inundate areas that are highly populated, often inhabited by low-income people least able to adapt to the change.  In our effort to address this prospect, we need to reduce substantially our use of carbon-emitting fuels, by both personal decisions and government actions, developing alternatives to our use of non-renewable, carbon-emitting energy.

Although the challenge is global, we face choices for action at the Washington state level.  Insofar as possible we seek to implement action to reduce carbon emissions while taking into account the effects of such changes on humans and the rest of the natural environment, particularly so that any negative consequences are as equitable as possible.  I-732 is an attempt to balance these objectives and is available for decision this year.  Other proposals strive to balance these objectives in different ways and can be supported as they become available.

Climate change is with us; we need action now.  In 2016 we have before us one voter initiative addressing climate change, to be voted on in the November election.  Positive state-level action may lead to eventual national action.  We recommend support for I-732.


Link to Audubon Washington I-732 Support Statement


What is Metropolitan Park District? …and why we support it

Owl_Great Horned copyIn November 2015, City of Olympia voters passed the Metropolitan Park District ballot measure with more than 60% of the vote. The Black Hills Audubon Society supported this measure as it is considered critical to the effort to preserve the LBA Woods. Revenue generated from the Metro Park District property tax will help the City of Olympia acquire the 74-acre “Trillium” property that makes up half the 150-acre LBA Woods parcel.

Thanks to the timing of the passage of the Metro Parks District measure, the draft 2016 Olympia Parks, Arts, and Recreation Plan could include funding for many of the priority parks projects, such as the Capitol Center building site, Percival Landing, Woodland and West Bay trails, the protection of wildlife habitat, and the development of much-needed athletic fields. The District will have a citizen advisory committee that will report yearly to ensure that funds are spent as voters intended. The tax is expected to be around $100 per year for a $200,000 property within Olympia city limits. Without the MPD, Olympia’s parks would not have been able to fund the $4-million maintenance backlog or to acquire future parkland to meet the needs of Olympia’s growing population.

Thanks to all our BHAS members who supported this ballot measure in the general election. The City of Olympia hopes to complete the purchase of the 74-acre future park by June 30, 2016. After that time, the established walking trails through this beautiful upland forest will be accessible to the public. These woods are a refuge for many species of birds. BHAS birder Bob Wadsworth has observed 58 bird species in these woods over the past several years.

The LBA Woods Park Coalition, which has spearheaded the efforts to save all of the LBA Woods, is partnering with the Parks Department to organize an Adopt-A-Park program to organize volunteer work parties to assist with the maintenance and restoration of this park and to plan future educational programs. The Coalition is continuing its efforts to acquire the adjacent “Bentridge” parcel to fully protect this last, largest wooded parcel in the City of Olympia as parkland.

Updating Urban Critical Areas Ordinances

Black Hills Audubon is helping develoheron croppedp or update urban Critical Areas Ordinances that protect critical wildlife habitat.

We support changes in language in the City of Olympia’s Comprehensive Plan regarding species protection to benefit locally important wildlife species and habitats, such as that of the Great Blue Heron.

Updating Non-Urban Critical Areas Ordinances

The Thurston Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved an updated Critical Areas Ordinance on July 24, 2012.  Black Hills Audubon wa

Grebe_Pied-Billed copy

s supportive of updating this ordinance and participated by submitting Best Available Science reports, by submitting comments (including suggested improvements to the CAO drafts), and by encouraging its members to support updating the CAO.  Read more in the Olympian article (in Word) or (in PDF)

In 2010, BHAS had submitted three CAO-related reports to Thurston County on the Best Available Science for:

  • Important Marine Habitats (report prepared by Donna J. Nickerson)
  • Geology (report prepared by QWG Applied Geology)
  • Important Habitats and Species (report prepared by Sustainable Fisheries Foundation)

See Thurston County’s web site about the Critical Areas Ordinance update.