Conservation Matters – Conservation Matters is the title of of our conservation column in the bi-monthly OPAS Harlequin Happenings newsletter. We will post our column every two months for you to read.
Marbled Murrelet Status Update
Recently, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) sought comments to uplist the Marbled Murrelet from it’s 1993 State Threatened species listing to a recommended State Endangered species listing. OPAS submitted comments October 9, 2016 in support of the urgent need to uplist this emperiled seabird to State Endangered. Further, we requested that WDFW create and adopt a state recovery plan for the Marbled Murrelet with explicit recovery goals that include habitat and population recovery strategies based on the best available science.
In Washington, nesting habitat losses due to timber harvest since 1993 are substantial, with an estimated loss on nonfederal lands of 30%. At-sea population monitoring from 2001 to 2015 indicates a 4.4% decline annually, which represents a 44% reduction of the population since 2001. The 2015 population estimate for Washington is about 7,500 birds.
Other factors that contribute to the population decline include predation, oil spills at sea, net fishing, and depletion of the small fish that it consumes. Without solutions that can effectively address these concerns in the short-term, wildlife biologists believe the Marbled Murrelet could become extirpated in the state within the next several decades.
In October, 2015, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) approved six alternative strategies to manage DNR’s state trust lands for protecting the Marbled Murrelet while timber harvesting will continue to generate revenue for trust beneficiaries (schools, hospitals, libraries, and other state services). The DNR holds monthly board meetings regarding the Sustainable (Forest) Harvest Calculation (SHC) and importantly, holds discussions and presentations related to the Long Term Conservation Strategy (LTCS) of the Marbled Murrelet. OPAS Conservation Committee members received confirmation from DNR staff at the October, 2016 meeting that the draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS) for both the SHC and the LTCS will be released on December 2, 2016 – 19 years after DNR’s “interim” Marbled Murrelet LTCS was approved.
The Conservation Committee will analyze and provide comments on the draft EIS. We will keep you informed of the public comment period process in the next newsletter and on our Conservation News and Conservation Alerts pages of the OPAS website. Background information is available here: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/mmltcs