A big thanks to all of you who submitted comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Long-Term Conservation Strategy alternatives for the Marbled Murrelet. A total of 5,226 comments were submitted during the 90-day public comment period. Everyone who submitted comments will receive an official response from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, we’d like to share the DNR’s summary of public comments and also some encouraging news on support for stronger conservation measures.
Of the 5,226 comments, over 5,000 came from individuals; 30 were from environmental and recreation groups; 20 from trust-land beneficiaries (counties, school districts, ports, PUDs, etc); and 15 from the timber industry and industry organizations; and 2 from state and federal agencies.
Of the major themes that emerged from the comment letters, support for a new Conservation Alternative to be analyzed in a revised or supplemental dEIS was at the top of the list. So significant was the support for this new alternative that the DNR presentation devoted an entire slide to a summary of its key elements.
The PowerPoint presentation can be accessed here: http://file.dnr.wa.gov/publications/em_bc_bnr_deiscommentsummary_presentation.pdf
During the presentation, DNR staff noted the high quality of the public comments submitted—an indication of a public well engaged and well informed on the conservation issues at hand. While DNR held four public meetings and two webinars, the outreach and education efforts by the conservation community were outstanding and included many public presentations, newsletter articles, comment-card signing events, and savvy use of social media.
Comment letters submitted independently by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to DNR strongly recommend modified or enhanced versions of Alternative E or F (the latter being the only one based on the 2008 Science Team Report as well as the most beneficial to murrelets). The modifications and enhancements suggested by these agencies would create an alternative remarkably similar to the Murrelet Coalition’s Conservation Alternative, the one strongly supported by members of the conservation community.
This spring, the Murrelet Coalition has been working with staff of the DNR, EPA, WDFW, USFWS, Board of Natural Resources (BNR), and other stakeholders to ensure the Conservation Alternative is given due consideration as a viable alternative. Certainly it has the greatest potential to be a win-win for the marbled murrelet and all the stakeholders.
In the coming months, DNR will respond to all public comments and select a preferred alternative—one that is likely to be combination of components of various alternatives. A final EIS will be prepared, after which point DNR will submit an application to the USFWS. After USFWS completes a biological opinion, findings, and record of decision, the BNR will decide whether or not to adopt the Long-Term Conservation Strategy.
Information and updates on this ongoing process will be distributed through the conservation network and members of the Murrelet Coalition, which includes the Washington Forest Law Center, Washington Environmental Council, Olympic Forest Coalition, Conservation Northwest, Seattle Audubon, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife. (by Maria Ruth, illustration courtesy Paul Harris Jones)