Thanks to everyone who submitted public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) for the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy. As of the March 9 deadline, an estimated 5,000 comments were received. Over the next several months, staff at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) will evaluate and summarize all the e-mails, letters, and postcards. If you provided an e-mail address with your comments, you will receive a copy of the summary.
“Protracted” is probably the best way to describe the process of developing this dEIS; the timeline for adopting a new Long-Term Conservation Strategy is likely to follow suit. First, the final EIS will be published. Then the Board of Natural Resources (BNR) will approve a conservation strategy (either one of the existing alternatives or a new alternative based on a combination of elements from the existing ones) or consider a supplemental dEIS, which would include the “conservation alternative” supported by BHAS and other conservation organizations.
The USFWS will then complete its Biological Opinion as to whether or not issuing an “incidental take” permit to the DNR—based on the preferred Long-Term Conservation Strategy alternative—is likely to jeopardize the species. Following this are the Official Findings: a statement that issuing the take permit will “have no effect,” “may affect, but not adversely affect,” or “may affect and is likely to adversely affect” Marbled Murrelets. These findings are stated in a Record of Decision, the public record published by the USFWS, often in the Federal Register. And finally, the DNR adopts a Long-Term Conservation Strategy, which will remain in effect until 2067.
BHAS has been actively engaged in this important murrelet conservation plan for the past five years—from the first scoping meetings hosted by the DNR in April 2012 to the March 2017 deadline for public comment. Our work will continue to help protect the Marbled Murrelet in Washington’s coastal forests and marine waters graced by these marvelous, imperiled seabirds. (by Maria Ruth)