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.
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)