Marbled Murrelets

Deadline for public comment extended to December 6th

Help Protect the Marbled Murrelet in Washington State.

The DNR and USFWS extended the deadline for public comment on the Long-Term Conservation strategy to December 6th.

In 2013, the Washington State Audubon Conservation Committee (WSACC) adopted a resolution to support science-based murrelet conservation strategies, planning, and policies to protect Marbled Murrelets in our state forests. Since then, individual Audubon chapters and Audubon Washington have been constant and strong advocates for our resolution. We have made a difference.

Now, DNR is asking for your input in the development of a revised set of conservation alternatives for their Long-Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet. There are currently eight alternatives being considered and, unfortunately, most do not support murrelet recovery on state-managed lands and result in smaller populations after 50 years, even under the most optimistic conditions. Under these weaker strategies the murrelet will continue on its trajectory toward extinction in Washington within the next few decades and hinder chances of recovery across its range.

This is where your voice matters –The deadline for comments is Tuesday, December 6, 2018, at 5 p.m. Your comments will be received by both the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Submit your comments via the official comment portal: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MMLTCSRDEIS

Or mail your written comments to: SEPA Center, PO Box 47015, Olympia, WA 98504-7015

The Murrelet Conservation Coalition has developed a set of talking points for you to consider in your comment letters. Please choose one or more of the talking points below, personalize them, and/or write your own letter. For more information on the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy information: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/mmltcs

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To: Washington Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,

I’m writing to comment on the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan Amendment for the Marbled Murrelet Long Term Conservation Strategy because I support recovery efforts for the endangered marbled murrelets in the state of Washington.

As a Washington resident, I believe we can provide sufficient conservation for murrelets that will actually result in larger, viable populations of murrelets in the state over the next 50 years while also developing solutions that reduce financial impacts on timber-dependent communities.

A meaningful conservation plan and HCP amendment should and must help meet the long-stated biological goals for this species: to stabilize and increase its population, to expand its geographic range, and to increase resilience of the marbled murrelet to natural and human-caused disturbance.

  • DNR’s preferred alternative (Alternative H) doesn’t do enough to support murrelet recovery primarily because it permits the harvest of too much of our mature and old forests over the next 50 years and does notconserveenough habitat as mitigation.
  • Applying the most recent data available, DNR must protect all occupied sites, increase existing interior forest habitat, and establish buffers that will protect vulnerable murrelet chicks from predators.
  • No Long-Term Conservation Strategy should include a net loss of habitat. In the North Puget region, Alternative H anticipates a net loss of over 1,000 acres after 50 years. The LTCS should include a net increase in habitat for murrelets across our landscape
  • The LTCS should include more and larger murrelet-specific conservation areas to broaden the geographic distribution of murrelets in western Washington. Isolated conservation areas create and exacerbate murrelet population gaps that hinder the species’ survival and recovery.
  • The LTCS should lead to more murrelets across more of our landscape, not fewer murrelets in smaller forest patches. Broader geographic distribution helps reduce the risk that major human or natural disturbances (logging, roadbuilding, wildfire, increased nest predation) will wipeout significant portions of the murrelet population.

The plan must look to the future and protect murrelets from natural disturbances. DNR should more thoroughly evaluate the potential impacts of tree mortality, wildfire, windthrow, and our warming climate. Habitat loss and degradation from such disturbances should be accurately calculated and properly mitigated.

The LTCS should also better protect murrelets from the impacts of human-caused disturbance, especially in areas where murrelets are known to nest (occupied sites), the forest buffers around those sites, and the “special habitat areas.” Disturbance such as road construction and the use of heavy equipment may result in “take” of murrelets that is not properly mitigated.

A meaningful Long-Term Conservation Strategy must set aside enough current and future old forest to not only offset the habitat the DNR plans to log but also to improve forest habitat conditions for the murrelet, without putting the existing population at further risk. The Long-Term Conservation Strategy must truly support real conservation for the murrelets for the long-term.

 

Sincerely,

<<Your Name>>

Update on Marbled Murrelet Conservation Strategy

September 2018: The 60-day public comment period on the revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) for the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy is open September 7 to November 6th.

Back in March 2017, Black Hills Audubon and many Audubon chapters submitted comments on the original DEIS. Thanks to the quantity and quality of comments from Audubon and other organizations, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service went back to the drawing board. Now we are being asked to comment on the revised document. When approved, this document will outline the policy that will impact the Marbled Murrelet for the next 50 years.

The state forest lands under consideration are public lands—your lands—and you have a voice in how they are managed to protect habitat for the endangered Marbled Murrelet. In 2013, the Washington State Audubon Conservation Committee (WASACC) passed a resolution supporting murrelet conservation and science-based conservation policies. Black Hills Audubon and many other chapters have been engaged in this important issue since then.

Don’t know much about murrelets, old-growth forest, or how Washington’s forested trust lands are managed? You can ask all your questions at these four public-information meetings being hosted in October by the DNR and USFWS.

Public Meetings

October 9, 2018 (6-8 pm), Rainforest Arts Center, 35 North Forks Avenue, Forks, WA 98331
October 11, 2018 (6-8 pm), River Street Meeting Room, 25 River Street, Cathlamet, WA 98612
October 15, 2018 (5-7 pm), Ballard Library Meeting Room, 5614 22nd Avenue NW, Seattle, WA 98107
October 17, 2018 (6:30-8:30 pm), Burlington Public Library Rotary Community Meeting Room, 820 East Washington Avenue, Burlington WA 98233

Public Comments: No oral testimony or comments will be taken at these meetings. This is an opportunity to talk with and ask questions of DNR and USFWS staff about the eight conservation alternatives under consideration. Comment cards will be available but the DNR is encouraging us to use their new  public commenting portal. You can also send written/printed comments to SEPA Center, P.O. Box 47015, Olympia, Washington 98504-7015. Please include the file number  File No. 12-042001 on all comments.

Need more help? The Marbled Murrelet Coalition (Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, Olympic Forest Coalition, Seattle Audubon, Washington Environmental Center, and the Washington Forest Law Center) is analyzing this 400-page rDEIS. We will have talking points to distribute by October 5 (in advance of the public meetings) and will also be hosting a webinar on October 25 (time and call in info will be posted here).

News and updates: The Marbled Murrelet coalition posts information regularly on the  Murrelet Survival Project Facebook page. Please follow us!
(Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons, Martin Raphael, U.S. Forest Service)

Update on Marbled Murrelet Conservation Strategy

Photo: courtesy Dan Cushing and S. Kim Nelson

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.

Summary of the Board’s current Preferred Alternative

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)

 

Update on Marbled Murrelet Conservation Strategy

December 2017: Washington’s Board of Natural Resources (BNR) selected “Alternative D,” one of the seven conservation strategies under consideration for guiding the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in protecting the murrelet on the 1.3 million acres of state lands within this species’ breeding range. DNR staff is currently analyzing Alternative D and plans to issue a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in summer 2018.

The selection of Alternative D is a disappointment to the conservation community. In a press release issued on November 8, the Marbled Murrelet Coalition (a group of local and regional conservation organizations) stated that, “In the selection of their preferred alternative, the BNR has ignored scientific recommendations to protect all remaining murrelet habitat on public forests, as well as the [DNR’s] obligations to promote murrelet recovery. The BNR’s selected strategy is expected to reduce murrelet populations on state lands, which will further imperil its survival in Washington. The BNR’s approach does not comply with Endangered Species Act requirements and it erroneously assumes that the State does not have the authority or obligation to help recover wildlife that depends on coastal state forests for survival.”

Once the DNR releases its draft Supplemental EIS, there will be a 60-day public comment period. Audubon chapters will be actively engaged in this process. 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.

Click here for more information on the proposed Alternative D from the DNR website. NOTE: The details of this alternative will likely undergo modifications before its environmental impacts are analyzed by the DNR.

Paul Harris Jones

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.

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 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).

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