Marbled Murrelets

Update on Marbled Murrelet Conservation Strategy

Photo: courtesy Dan Cushing and S. Kim Nelson

August 2018: On September 4, 2018, Washington’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is expected to release a Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIS) on eight alternatives for the Long-Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet.

As you may recall, the DNR released a draft EIS in December 2016 on six alternatives. Many conservation groups submitted comments during the public-comment period supporting a seventh option known as the “Conservation Alternative.” The Board of Natural Resources (BNR) selected Alternative D as their preferred alternative–D as in Disappointing to the conservation community, which believes this alternative did not comply with Endangered Species Act requirements.

Since 2016, the DNR has gone back to the drawing board to crunch more numbers, refine population modeling, run more analyses, reconsider public comment and the economic impact of each alternative on the counties and trust beneficiaries whose budgets rely on timber-revenue tax. The Board has revised Alternative D, which is now known as Alternative H or the Preferred Alternative.

The release of the Revised DEIS will trigger a 60-day public comment period. The Conservation Coalition will be actively engaged in sharing their analyses and recommendations of the eight conservation strategy alternatives with Audubon chapters and other conservation groups.

Following the public-comment period, the US Fish & Wildlife Service will complete a Biological Opinion, and will publish 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). The DNR hopes to submit its final EIS in May 2019 at which point 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.

Summary of the Board’s current Preferred Alternative

Why is the Long Term Conservation Strategy so important? Our state forests lands in western Washington are biologically significant for the survival and recovery of Marbled Murrelet. These state forest lands are in closer proximity to marine waters than federal lands, especially in murrelet “hot spots” in Southwest Washington and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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.

If you are new to conservation advocacy and unfamiliar with the many acronyms, please take a moment to read “12 Acronyms to Save the Murrelet”  (Photo: courtesy Dan Cushing and S. Kim Nelson)

 

Update on Marbled Murrelet Conservation Strategy

December 2017: Washington’s Board of Natural Resources (BNR) selected “Alternative D,” one of the seven conservation strategies under consideration for guiding the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in protecting the murrelet on the 1.3 million acres of state lands within this species’ breeding range. DNR staff is currently analyzing Alternative D and plans to issue a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in summer 2018.

The selection of Alternative D is a disappointment to the conservation community. In a press release issued on November 8, the Marbled Murrelet Coalition (a group of local and regional conservation organizations) stated that, “In the selection of their preferred alternative, the BNR has ignored scientific recommendations to protect all remaining murrelet habitat on public forests, as well as the [DNR’s] obligations to promote murrelet recovery. The BNR’s selected strategy is expected to reduce murrelet populations on state lands, which will further imperil its survival in Washington. The BNR’s approach does not comply with Endangered Species Act requirements and it erroneously assumes that the State does not have the authority or obligation to help recover wildlife that depends on coastal state forests for survival.”

Once the DNR releases its draft Supplemental EIS, there will be a 60-day public comment period. Audubon chapters will be actively engaged in this process. Following the public-comment period, the US Fish & Wildlife Service will complete a Biological Opinion, and will publish 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). The DNR hopes to submit its final EIS in May 2019 at which point 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.

Click here for more information on the proposed Alternative D from the DNR website. NOTE: The details of this alternative will likely undergo modifications before its environmental impacts are analyzed by the DNR.

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