November 2017: The Board of Natural Resources (BNR) plans to select a preferred alternative for the Long Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet at its regular meeting on Tuesday, November 7 at 9 a.m. This decision was expected in September but, thankfully, Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz requested more time for the board to fully consider the alternatives for managing the 1.4 million acres of forested state trust lands where these birds breed. In October 2017, the DNR recommended to the board Alternative D+ (the “plus” indicates” some additional conservation measures to mitigate the take of murrelets).
The Conservation Coalition (Washington Forest Law Center, Washington Environmental Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, Olympic Forest Coalition, Sierra Club, Seattle Audubon) are continuing to advocate for an alternative with strong conservation measures and one that actually make a significant contribution to maintaining and protecting marbled murrelet populations in western Washington.
Once the board selects a preferred alternative, the DNR plans to submit a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement in June 2018. There will be a 60-day public comment period on this SDEIS, followed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s completion of a Biological Opinion, and publication of 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 DRN 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? 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.