Marbled Murrelets need you now

This fall, Washington State is seeking public input on important decisions on the fate of this endangered seabird.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) just released its Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIS) for the Long Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet. This strategy will be implemented on 1.4 million acres of state forest for the next 50 years.

This is a critical time for the endangered seabird, whose population in Washington has declined 44 percent since 2001. DNR manages 213,000 acres of land in western Washington, where mature and old-growth coastal forests provide the Murrelet’s preferred nesting trees. These forests are public lands and you have a voice in how they are managed.

Many people submitted comments on the previous draft of the Environmental Impact Statement in early 2017. Now we are close to the end of a 60-day public comment period.

The Marbled Murrelet Coalition’s goal is to guide DNR to select an alternative that makes a significant contribution to the recovery of the endangered Murrelet. (Coalition members are Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Olympic Forest Coalition, Seattle Audubon Society, Washington Environmental Council, and Washington Forest Law Center.)

Below are links to background information and message points for you to consider including in your public comments.

Action you can take

Submit a comment letter urging the DNR and USFWS to do more to protect this endangered seabird and the mature and old-growth forests where it nests. The deadline for comments is Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at 5 p.m. UPDATE: The deadline for comments has been extended to Thursday, Dec. 6, 5 p.m. Your comments will be received by both DNR and USFWS.

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

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

For more information

Washington Environmental Council two-pager: https://wecprotects.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Marbled-Murrelet-One-Pager-V2-2018.pdf

WEC webpage with links: https://wecprotects.org/marbled-murrelet

Message points suggested by the Marbled Murrelet Coalition

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 not conserve enough 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 (LTCS) should include a net loss of habitat. In the North Puget region, Alternative H anticipates a net loss of more than 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 wipe out 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.

 

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