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Lake Lawrence Cell Tower Hearing (Remand) Set For Sept. 11

Long-billed Dowitchers at Smith Ranch

The remand hearing on the Lake Lawrence cell tower construction will be held Sep. 11, 10 am, at the Thurston County Courthouse.  BHAS opposes locating the proposed tower so close to several water features where waterfowl concentrate.  The water features include a Priority 2 pond, the Deschutes River, the Smith Ranch wetlands, and the nearby Lake Lawrence, all southwest of Yelm.  The presence of BHAS members and other citizens is important to demonstrate opposition to this project.

Public testimony on the land use portion of the application, with a three minute limit for each speaker, will occur at 1 pm.  I believe the importance of bird watching to your life (and others) may be addressed at this time. You can discuss how the cell tower would diminish your experience visually and by reducing (most likely) the population of birds in and around the Smith Ranch Mitigation Area and/or flyway.   Such public testimony with many personal stories would be valuable addition to the hearing.

Background:  In March 2016, BHAS supported an appeal of a cell phone tower construction next to several waterfowl concentration areas.  The high potential for bird collisions with the tower was/is the concern.  The Thurston County Hearings Examiner remanded the proposal back to county staff for further review. The proponent, Verizon Wireless, then hired a contractor to study and report on bird movements near the tower site.   The Deschutes Neighborhood Group (DNG), the appellant, conducted their own bird survey.   BHAS helped DNG with survey work and volunteer training.  With guidance from a local research ecologist, DNG produced its own citizen science study of birds and their flight patterns around the Smith Ranch Mitigation pasture/wetland and proposed cell tower location.

WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife reviewed both studies and concluded in January 2018:

“Although the Smith Ranch Mitigation Area is not a formal wildlife refuge, it is a publically owned site purchased for the sole purpose of wildlife and habitat mitigation for the Deschutes River Basin whose restoration is required to allow for joint acquisition of water rights and land by the cities of Olympia, Lacey and Yelm.  As such, Thurston County should view this mitigation site in the same vein as a wildlife and habitat refuge.  The Deschutes/Black Hills study found that almost 3 times the amount of waterfowl was observed flying to and from the direction of the Smith Ranch Mitigation Area than elsewhere in the study area.  The Trileaf study also found that waterfowl/wading species flight paths were almost exclusively concentrated through the open pasture area of the Smith Ranch wetland area.  As such, the proposed cell tower would be within 1,000 ft. of two waterfowl concentration areas (163rd wetlands, Smith Ranch Mitigation Area), one of which serves as a publically owned refuge.”

 Dr. Albert Manville, a former and now retired USFWS national expert on bird cell tower collisions, will be testifying via computer for the DNG.

Smith Ranch restoration

And, it is thrilling to report that this summer (2018), as part of already ongoing mitigation measures, the Smith Ranch pasture dikes were razed to return the area to its original wetlands.  Waterfowl appeared immediately in the newly flooded fields, even with bulldozers operating nearby!  At this writing, mitigation efforts continue.

*By Thurston County regulation, a cell tower may not be within a 1,000’ of a wildlife refuge.

Call for comments on the Thurston County Shoreline Master Program (SMP)

Dear Auduboners willing to help protect our shorelines,

Can you comment on the proposed revisions in the Thurston County Shoreline Master Program (SMP)?  We want to strengthen, not loosen, protections for our shorelines.

Here are examples of a short template letter and a long template letter to the Thurston County Board of County Commissioners that you can modify, especially if you can add personal information. Use any part of these templates to form your own short letter(s) (officials read short letters more often than long).

Send to: smp@nullco.thurston.wa.us:

Audubon Conservation member Anne Van Sweringen, representing Black Hills Audubon and four other local environmental organizations, has submitted extensive comments to the BoCC on this proposal revision.  We need supporting letters from our members and others.

The proposed revisions will be presented at a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners (Sept. 12, 3:30 – 4:00 p.m., Thurston Ct. Courthouse, Bldg. 1, Rm 28.)  See further details.

Can you attend?  We want a show of support for strengthening, not loosening, protections of our shorelines.

Thank you!
Black Hills Audubon Conservation Committee

 

Sample of short letter:

 The Honorable John Hutchings, Gary Edwards, Bud Blake

Commissioner Districts 1, 2, 3 respectively

Thurston County Board of County Commissioners

Dear Commissioner Hutchings, Edwards, and Blake:

My name is [first, last], and I am a Thurston County citizen and member of Black Hills Audubon Society. I am writing to urge you to consider these comments for the Thurston County Draft Shoreline Master Program 7.2018 Update (SMP).

I am concerned about the county’s trend of converting shoreline to other uses.

The SMP guidelines (WAC 173-26-186(8)) provide for development standards and use regulations designed to achieve no net loss of shoreline ecological functions, which is necessary to sustain a shoreline’s environment; management of shoreline aquatic systems is critical for the health and safety of the public. Shoreline buffers provide many benefits for water bodies, including protecting habitat and water quality.

I specifically request you consider and support the following:

  • Buffers – Do not allow standard SMP buffer widths or setbacks to be modified or reduced; not for Shoreline Environmental Designations, vegetation conservation, or other areas.
  • Mitigation – Encourage long-term net gains in both programmatic (planning-level decisions) and project (site-specific design detail) bases, particularly when conducting mitigation sequencing (avoiding, then minimizing, finally compensating for impacts). Require compensatory mitigation to occur in the same, or a related, habitat area for gain in the same ecological functions and ecosystem-wide processes.
  • Aquaculture – Aquaculture’s use of shorelines must be consistent with the regulations of the Shoreline Management Act, the shoreline master program, and Best Available Science. A water-dependent use, aquaculture is polluting western coastlines, sounds, and estuaries with plasThe use of plastic by the aquaculture industry is pervasive, and will increase with industry expansion. Geoduck aquaculture mitigation practices, when based on Best Available Science, are known to reduce risks to birds and other wildlife. Use mitigation practices to reduce these and other risks.

I urge you to take the necessary steps to protect the county’s natural resources and habitats, so the marine and freshwater shorelines and shorelands of our county will flourish into the future.

 

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Sample of long letter:

The Honorable John Hutchings, Gary Edwards, Bud Blake

Commissioner Districts 1, 2, 3 respectively

Thurston County Board of County Commissioners

Dear Commissioner Hutchings, Edwards, and Blake:

My name is [first, last], and I am a Thurston County citizen and member of Black Hills Audubon Society. I am writing to urge you to consider these comments for the Thurston County Draft Shoreline Master Program 7.2018 Update (SMP).

Thurston County’s shoreline master program is conducting an update process pursuant to the requirements of Washington’s Shoreline Management Act of 1971 (SMA). The main tenet of the SMA includes “protecting against adverse effects to the public health, the land and its vegetation and wildlife, and the waters of the state and their aquatic life.” I am concerned about the county’s trend of converting shoreline, including marine, estuarine, freshwater and shoreland ecosystems and functions, to other uses.

As the SMA states, the SMP must not allow expansion, redevelopment, or replacement of existing structures, or development or new land alterations, that result in a net loss of shoreline ecological functions. Both protection and restoration are needed to achieve no net loss. Mitigation is critical to offset ecological impacts from development.

The SMP guidelines (WAC 173-26-186(8)) provide for development standards and use regulations designed to achieve no net loss of shoreline ecological functions. No net loss is necessary to sustain a shoreline’s overall marine, estuarine, and freshwater aquatic environments. Environmental management of shoreline aquatic systems is critical for the health and safety of the public. The intention of the SMP is to protect the functions shoreline vegetation provides. Shoreline buffers provide many benefits for water bodies, including protecting habitat and water quality.

I advocate for sustainable densities and methods in shoreline uses that ensure no net loss of marine or freshwater ecological functions. I specifically request you consider and support the following:

  • Buffers – Do not allow standard SMP buffer widths or setbacks to be modified or reduced; not for Shoreline Environmental Designations, vegetation conservation, or other areas. Adequate buffer widths are the most straight-forward protection method available; buffer widths should be maximized to account for unforeseen effects.
  • Mitigation – Encourage long-term net gains in both programmatic (planning-level decisions) and project (site-specific design detail) bases, particularly when conducting mitigation sequencing (avoiding, then minimizing, finally compensating for impacts).

Mitigation conducted when buffer widths are reduced in size must result in a no net loss of environmental functions. Mitigation for development projects alone will not minimize adverse cumulative impacts to the shoreline environment, so restoration with a net gain in environmental functions is also required. Require compensatory mitigation to occur in the same, or a related, habitat area for gain in the same ecological functions and ecosystem-wide processes.

  • Aquaculture – Aquaculture’s use of shorelines must be consistent with the regulations of the Shoreline Management Act, the shoreline master program, and Best Available Science. A water-dependent use, aquaculture is polluting western coastlines, sounds, and estuaries with plasThe use of plastic by the aquaculture industry is pervasive, and will increase with industry expansion. Geoduck aquaculture mitigation practices, when based on Best Available Science, are known to reduce risks to birds and other wildlife. Use mitigation practices to reduce these and other risks:
  1. Change methods geoduck aquaculture uses during site preparation and harvesting that eliminate, or at least reduce, damage to benthic communities;
  2. Avoid plastics; encourage the use of non-toxic plastics;
  3. Limit changes (little or no scraping, dredging) in the benthic (ocean floor) community during geoduck site preparation and planting;
  4. Limit the use of predator control area netting to reduce the risk of birds being trapped;
  5. Prohibit the use of plastics in aquaculture. At a minimum, Non-toxic plastics; keep birds, fish, and wildlife from ingesting micro-plastics which, when ingested, cause starvation;
  6. Monitoring that includes a habitat assessment or biological baseline surveys to learn about potential and cumulative impacts of seed planting, bed maintenance and tube removal, harvesting and processing;
  7. Encourage the development of upland facilities for all types of aquaculture.
  • Mining – Thurston County should provide adequate access to mineral resources while limiting land use conflicts where mining could lead to environmental degradation, including diminished water quality and quantity.

The county should pass stringent mine reclamation and other rules that lower mining impacts. Protecting our aquifers should be the highest priority.

The county must provide adequate protection to ecological functions, processes, and shorelines against sediment and silt production when mining operations remove rock, sand, gravel, or minerals from shoreline and shoreland areas. Mining must not preclude public recreation of the public shoreline.

You are empowered with the authority and capacity to make a difference. I urge you to take the necessary steps to protect the county’s natural resources and habitats, so the marine and freshwater shorelines and shorelands of our county will flourish into the future.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Black Hills Audubon Supports I-1631

Black Hills Audubon Supports I-1631

Reduce Burning of Fossil Fuels and Increase Renewable Energy in Washington State

The frequent wildfires throughout Washington State have become impossible to overlook, while we breathe and smell the pervasive smoke, and view our iconic mountains if at all through dense haze.  Climate change is rapidly occurring — too rapid for birds and other wildlife to adapt, not to mention, us.

Black Hills Audubon, as well as Audubon Washington, have endorsed Initiative I-1631.  This measure would place an ever-increasing fee on greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels by the largest emitters in the state.  These funds would be used to develop renewable energy, like wind and solar; protect forests, clean water, and clean air; while protecting communities at risk.  Our air would become cleaner both as emissions into the atmosphere decrease and as clean energy helps address the effects of global warming, eventually reversing the trend toward wildfires, droughts, severe storms, and a disruptive climate where we are now headed.  Development of renewable energy would provide many new jobs in Washington state, while establishing our state as a leader for the nation in addressing global warming.

Climate change is with us; we need action now. We have before us an opportunity to do our part in addressing a clear and present danger.  Washington state can be a bellwether for the nation.  We recommend support for I-1631.

BHAS Endorses Tumwater’s Ballot Measure on Parks and Recreation

Black Hills Audubon has endorsed Tumwater’s proposed MPD (Metropolitan Parks District), which would provide funds for parks and recreation facilities by levying a higher property tax.  The principle of this tax is similar to that of the recent Olympia Parks measure that was instrumental in the preservation of LBA Woods and which was also endorsed by BHAS.  The Tumwater proposal will be on the ballot this November in that city.

In addition to developing neighborhood parks and general park maintenance, these funds would be used to complete part of the Deschutes Valley Trail, connecting Tumwater Historical Park with Pioneer Park, and to help purchase additional park land and environmentally sensitive areas, as opportunities arise.  Having such funds available as properties become available is essential as housing and commercial development  proceed in Tumwater and our area in general.

Black Hills Audubon Surveys Birds on Wildlife-Rich Tract Acquired by Capitol Land Trust with Help from BHAS

Black Hills Audubon is now a partner in the acquisition of Blooms Preserve in the Black River watershed, north of Littlerock.  Formerly part of the Holm ranch, this 60-acre conservation land is now owned by Capitol Land Trust (CLT), with help from the Maytown Conservation Fund, managed by BHAS.  This tract of prairie and woodland includes Blooms Ditch — a salmon-bearing channelized stream — and can be managed for conservation of Oregon spotted frogs, a species of concern of the Maytown Conservation Fund, and will provide opportunities for bird surveys and field trips for BHAS.

In fact seven of us from BHAS met with Thom Woodruff, Interim Executive Director of CLT, on a warm and sunny July 12th for our first avian survey of Blooms Preserve, observing an amazing 57 species of birds, including Green Heron, Hutton’s, Cassin’s, and Warbling Vireos, and Western Tanager.  Thanks to all who participated from BHAS, including Whittier Johnson, Bob Wadsworth, Gary Wiles, Paul Hicks, Joe Zabransky, Anne Van Sweringen, and Sam Merrill.  We look forward to observing and enjoying the diversity of this land at other times of year, including during the Christmas bird count and spring migration.

Puget Sound Seabird Survey

Are seabirds in the southern Salish Sea increasing or decreasing in numbers? Which species are changing their range? Help us find out. The Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS) is a community and citizen science project managed by Seattle Audubon that empowers volunteer birdwatchers to gather valuable data on wintering seabird populations across the southern Salish Sea. There are about 7 survey sites within the BHAS chapter territory and PSSS is always looking for new volunteers to conduct surveys.

This season we will be expanding the project, yet again, this time north to the Canadian border and the San Juan Islands. We received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program through the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife to add 15-30 new survey sites, develop an oil spill plan and train volunteers on how to react to a spill.

You can contribute to this vital seabird science by joining the twelfth season of this exciting project. We are now recruiting enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers to help us monitor the status of our local wintering seabirds. Training on survey methodology will be provided at a location near you in September and early October. Volunteers should ideally be able to identify Puget Sound’s seabird species and be available on the first Saturday of each month, October through April, to conduct a 30-minute survey. But, if determining between Lesser and Greater Scaup is a challenge, we’ll team you up with more knowledgeable surveyors. To help us determine each volunteer’s seabird identification skills, visit www.seabirdsurvey.com to take our quick, fun Seabird ID quiz.

Learn more, including training dates, at www.seabirdsurvey.org and email Toby Ross, Senior Science Manager tobyr@nullseattleaudubon.org if you would like more information or to take part.

Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project Update

The Proposal: 38 wind turbines and associated infrastructure are planned by RES-Americas for a site on both sides of the border between Thurston and Lewis counties (the turbines themselves would be within Lewis County).  The turbines would be on a prominent ridge in the vicinity of the Skookumchuck Reservoir and in immediate proximity to occupied marbled murrelet sites, expected to result in the loss of at least 2-3 Marbled Murrelets per year.  The turbines will have high-tech sensors capable of detecting Bald and Golden Eagles and stopping blade rotating when these very large birds are near; during the first two years, however, cesation of blade rotation would be activated only if the take limit (set by USFWS) is approached.  Smaller birds, in any event, would not be detected and risk suffering mortality from blade strikes.

Comments Submitted:  Scoping comments for draft Environmental Impact Statements (dEIS’s) have been submitted by BHAS to Lewis County in May, 2018, and to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in early June, 2018.  Thanks to all who also submitted Comments to Lewis County or USFWS or both!

Anticipated Dates for USFWS EIS:

Draft EIS available 9/17/2018
Public Comments on draft EIS due: 11/1/2018
Final EIS available 3/4/2019
Release of Record of Decision: 5/2/2019

BHAS Position: Because wind energy contributes to reducing fossil-fuel carbon emissions—thus reducing the threat of global warming to wildlife, including birds—BHAS is willing to support wind energy projects as long as sufficient mitigation is provided for the protection of birds and other wildlife.  BHAS is advocating for protection of Marbled Murrelets, which are known to fly through this area in route to nesting sites.

Get ready for spring birds

According to surveys by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, bird watching is second only to gardening as our favorite outdoor pastime.  It even outranks hunting and fishing. These surveys reveal that 47 million of us over the age of 16 are bird watchers.  We buy a hundred million tons of bird seed every year. And bird watching as a business generates $107 billion in annual revenues for the U.S. In Washington State alone, wildlife viewing and related photography add nearly $7.5 billion to state and local economies.

As one of America’s fastest growing hobbies, bird watching can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities, from shut-ins to families with small children to those who travel the globe to add new birds to their life lists.

March may seem early for migrating birds, but resourceful males know that the early bird gets not only the worm but also the best nest sites. A prime location, plus gorgeous plumage and a seductive song, can make them irresistible to arriving females. But the siren song of spring is also a signal that it’s time to get those bird houses and feeders ready for the coming waves of northbound birds.        With bird houses, it’s important to make sure dimensions such as hole size are suitable for the species you hope to attract.  Chickadees don’t want to trust the safety of their families to nest cavities easily invaded by bigger birds, such as European Starlings. The Internet offers many good web sites with tips and detailed plans for selecting, building and placing bird houses. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website allaboutbirds.org is an excellent place to start. It also has a wealth of other information about birds, including recordings of their songs.

Of course bird feeders need to be kept clean and safe in every season of the year.  Well maintained bird feeders that are kept stocked with fresh, uncontaminated sunflower seed, niger seed or suet can attract a colorful parade of backyard birds, both year-round residents and those that make seasonal appearances along our Pacific flyway. Spring migration can be a visual feast. You never know what you’re going to see next.

Perches and feeding surfaces should be scrubbed and sanitized regularly. You can use a 10% bleach solution and follow it with a clean-water flush. Feeders should be placed close enough to shrubs, trees or other protective cover that birds can quickly dash to safety when they are targeted by predatory hawks.  But feeders should not be so close that cats can use the cover to ambush unwary birds. Outdoor cats kill billions of birds every year.

As our most visible and accessible wildlife neighbors, birds can be a source of endless fascination and enjoyment as we watch, feed and listen to their delightful spring chorus.

Article courtesy Gene Bullock. Gene has been writing a monthly column for the past five years that appears in six Kitsap weekly newspapers as a promotion for Kitsap Audubon.  He is the Newsletter Editor and Education Chair for the Kitsap Audubon Society. Photos courtesy Carrie Griffis. Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches are among the diverse variety of birds attracted to backyard see and suet feeders. Black-headed Grosbeaks are easily attracted with sunflower seeds.