Marbled Murrelets

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. The plight of the murrelet is so dire that in December 2016 the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission uplisted this species’ status from “threatened” to the more serious “endangered.”

UPDATE ON MARBLED MURRELET DRAFT EIS

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)

Status of the Marbled Murrelet conservation strategy

Thanks to everyone who submitted public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) for the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy. As of the March 9 deadline, an estimated 5,000 comments were received. Over the next several months, staff at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) will evaluate and summarize all the e-mails, letters, and postcards. If you provided an e-mail address with your comments, you will receive a copy of the summary.READ MORE

The Marbled Murrelet needs your help now more than ever!

In December 2016, the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the draft of their Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) for six alternative Long-Term Conservation Strategies for Marbled Murrelet on 1.4 million acres of forested state trust lands that provide nesting habitat for this unique seabird. Because these land are public, the we have a voice in how they are managed.

Unfortunately and ironically, none of the six alternatives does enough to help prevent the extirpation of the Marbled Murrelets in Washington, where its population has declined 44% since 2001. The plight of the murrelet is so dire that in December 2016 the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission uplisted this species’ status from “threatened” to the more serious “endangered.”READ MORE

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.READ MORE

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 Murrelet Conservation Issues in Washington

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

Marbled Murrelet’s nesting habitat is present on federal lands (national parks, national forests), tribal lands, private land, and state land. In Washington, 11% of the murrelets nesting habitat occurs on forested lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

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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).

Marbled Murrelet Survival Project For the most up-to-date information on conservation advocacy during the development of the Long-Term Conservation Strategy

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