Marbled Murrelets

Update on Marbled Murrelet Conservation Strategy

August 2017: The Board of Natural Resources has made a decision not to analyze the Conservation Alternative in a supplemental EIS as we had hoped, but will consider it along with other public comments and those of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In their comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement, these agencies criticized the existing alternatives (labeled A-F) as inadequate for protecting marbled murrelets on 1.4 million acres of forested state trust lands where these birds breed.

Thanks to your support and advocacy during the development of the Long Term Conservation Strategy. And thanks to the excellent and ongoing work of the Washington Environmental Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, Olympic Forest Coalition, Sierra Club, Seattle Audubon, Washington Forest Law Center, and individual experts who created the Conservation Alternative. Many components of this alternative are being given serious consideration by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). As a whole, the Conservation Alternative has been responsible for helping strengthen the murrelet protections of the existing alternatives proposed by the DNR.

BNR plans to select a preferred alternative at its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 5th. This alternative will likely be a modified version of one of the existing alternatives. Once the board selects a preferred alternative, the DNR will submit a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement. There will be a public comment period on this (details will be posted here when available). After the public comment period, the USFWS will complete a Biological Opinion, then 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 survival). These findings are stated in a Record of Decision, the public record published by the USFWS, often in the Federal Register. The DRN will then submit its final EIS and then the BNR will decide whether or not to adopt the Long-Term Conservation Strategy, a required component of its Habitat Conservation Plan, which will remain in effect until 2067.

Paul Harris Jones

Why is the Long Term Conservation Strategy so important? Based on the age and location of the DNR’s state forest lands (in closer proximity than federal lands to marine waters, especially in murrelet “hot spots” in Southwest Washington and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca) the DNR forests are biologically significant for the survival and recovery of Marbled Murrelets in Washington.

BHAS has been actively engaged in this important murrelet conservation plan for several years and will likely continue for many more to help protect the Marbled Murrelet in Washington’s coastal forests and marine waters graced by these marvelous, imperiled seabirds. (by Maria Ruth, illustration courtesy Paul Harris Jones)

If you are new to conservation advocacy and unfamiliar with the many acronyms, please take a moment to read 11 Acronyms to Save the Murrelet.

About Marbled Murrelets

Marbled Murrelets are shy, robin-sized seabirds that live along the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to California. They are members of the alcid, or auk, family of surface-diving seabirds, which includes Pigeon Guillemots, Tufted Puffins, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, and several other species.

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Life Cycle of Marbled Murrelets

Marbled-Murrelet-single-egg-Nick_Hatch_US_ForestServiceMarbled Murrelets spend the winter off shore and, in Washington, begin moving inland in March to nest. For a month, the parents take turns incubating their egg, changing places every 24 hours at dawn. While one parent sits on the egg (the size of a chicken’s egg), the other forages at sea.

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Marbled Murrelets: Resources

Periodic Status Review of the Marbled Murrelet in Washington (2016).  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Background on 44% decline of the species in Washington State between 2001-2015.

Recommendations and Supporting Analysis for Conservation Opportunities for the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy (aka The 2008 Science Team Report published by the DNR).

Audubon Washington Offers updates and excellent resources for chapters state-wide under “Chapter Conservation Projects and Programs.”

Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet, Non-fiction book, available in paperback from Mountaineers Books (2013). Part naturalist detective story and part environmental inquiry, by Maria Ruth (BHAS) Member