Help Protect the Marbled Murrelet in Washington State

Help Protect the Marbled Murrelet in Washington State

This endangered seabird feeds in the ocean and flies up to 55 miles inland to nest in old growth forest. The Washington state population of this unique bird has shrunk by 44% over the last 15 years, leaving only about 7,500 birds remaining.  Now your input is needed to protect the Marbled Murrelet.

The Department of the Natural Resources (DNR) and the Long-Term Conservation Strategy

Statewide, the DNR manages approximately two million acres of land and  29-47% of DNR’s forests that are within 55 miles of salt water  are critical to Marbled Murrelets. These state-owned forests are either classified as habitat occupied by nesting Marbled, are buffers around that habitat, or are biologically-important potential recovery habitat.

Unfortunately, most Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat on private lands has been logged.  Though many of our older forests on federal lands are protected as parks (Olympic, North Cascades, and Mount Rainier National Parks, for example ), many of these forests are too far from the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound where the Marbled Murrelets spend most of their lives. The closer proximity of the DNR-managed forests in certain areas of the state, such as Southwest Washington, make these forests particularly important .

Virtually all scientists agree that, based on their location and age, many of DNR’s older forests are biologically significant for the survival and recovery of marbled murrelets in Washington.  For decades, scientists have concurred that the loss of nesting habitat is the primary reason for the decline in Marbled Murrelet populations. Ocean conditions are also a factor, but a significantly less important factor than nesting habitat.

DNR is preparing a Long-term Conservation Strategy (LTCS), as required by DNR’s 1997 federal Habitat Conservation Plan. In 2010, DNR informally rejected the 2008 Science Team Report and developed their own set of alternative conservation strategies. Of the six alternatives, only one (Alternative F) was based on a formal science-based process. The projections for all six alternatives show a continued population decline for the bird. The proposed alternatives simply do not set aside enough contiguous older forest habitat to allow our state’s Marbled Murrelet populations to stabilize and recover.

 

The Conservation Alternative: Using the Best Available Science

A coalition of environmental groups is proposing a new Conservation Alternative, which will be the only alternative designed to make long-term contributions to Marbled Murrelet conservation and to timber-industry sustainability in our state.

This is where your voice matters! Public comments on the Long-term Conservation Strategy are being accepted until 5:00 pm on Thursday March 9, 2017. NOTE: There is no oral testimony during this public-comment process.

In writing: Mail to SEPA Center, PO Box 47015, Olympia, WA 98504-7015

In e-mail: Send to sepacenter@nulldnr.wa.gov

*Make sure to include ‘SEPA File No. 12-042001’ in the subject line of e-mail and written comments.

Not sure what to say? Here are links to important documents and sample comments.

Note: The Murrelet Survival Project is a coalition of conservation groups, including the Washington Forest Law Center, Seattle Audubon Society, Olympic Forest Coalition, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and Washington Environmental Council.

 

Sample Comments for the Marbled Murrelet Long-term Conservation Strategy:

(Choose one or more of the sample comments below, personalize them according to your concern for the Marbled Murrelet and the forests where it nests, or write your own comments based on your reading of the proposed alternatives.)

 RE: SEPA File No. 12-04200

Dear Department of Natural Resources,

I am very concerned about the decline in Marbled Murrelet populations in our state. Please consider analyzing the proposed Conservation Alternative.

  • All six of the current strategies being considered by the DNR show a declining population trend for the next 50 years. None of the alternatives contributes to Marbled Murrelet survival and recovery. This is demonstrated by the DNR’s own population modelling.
  • Alternative F, which is based on the 2008 Science Team Report, comes closest to reaching Marbled Murrelet recovery goals, but unfortunately this alternative does not include important, more recent scientific findings. For example, a recent study (Raphael et al, 2015) identified  the regional importance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca as a “hotspot,” not previously recognized, of murrelet at-sea density and habitat . An effective conservation and recovery strategy must be based on best available science.
  • DNR-managed lands contain approximately 15% (213,000 acres)  of all existing Marbled Murrelet habitat in the state. This habitat is needed as a “bridge” to support the bird over the next 30-50 years while it is most vulnerable to extirpation.
  • DNR’s best option for Marbled Murrelets, Alternative F, allows the harvest of 25,000 acres of mature forest habitat that is needed for the population to stabilize and recover. The  DNR and USFWS should consider the new proposed Conservation Alternative with more sustainable harvest volumes to prevent the local extinction of the Marbled Murrelet.

Sincerely,

[Your name and best contact information here]