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Conservation News

Conservation News – The conservation committee is committed to providing up-to-date conservation news for our members and visitors to our website.


OPAS thank you letter to Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands

The Conservation Committee wrote to Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, to express our thanks and appreciation for two of her recent decisions regarding the Port Angeles Atlantic salmon net pen aquatic lease and the letter she wrote to the Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in opposition to the national parks entrance fee increase proposal.

In addition, OPAS supports her concept for convening a Solutions Table to find alternative streams of revenue to support Department of Natural Resources trust beneficiaries while protecting the state endangered Marbled Murrelet.

Click here to read our letter.


Report Western Bluebird sightings west of Joyce, WA

OPAS asks for your reports of any Western Bluebird sightings from west of Joyce to the Pacific Ocean. Please report your sightings to Joyce Volmut at cell phone number 785-554-6379 or email joyce.volmut@gmail.com.

Please contact Joyce if you have more questions or refer to the poster below. Click here to read details of the program.


Updated information on the 2017 Dungeness Recreation Area Master Plan can now be viewed on this page: http://www.clallam.net/Parks/DRAMP/

Dungeness Recreation Area Photo, Dungness bluff looking north














The Swans have returned to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley!

On November 8, one swan study volunteer team counted 103 Trumpeter Swans (93 adults, 10 juveniles) on the corn stubble field east and north of the airport! That is a record count of swans for so early in the season. We have recently trained many more volunteers to count swans this winter thanks to a few experienced volunteers that have generously shared their knowledge and time. Enjoy the swans while they are here, but please remember to respect private property and find a safe place to view them.

Trumpeter Swans
Photo by Robert Hutchison


Update! Marbled Murrelet Long Term Conservation Strategy

Marbled Murrelet

Nesting Marbled Murrelet Photo by Tom Hamer

During the November 7 Board of Natural Resources (BNR) meeting (presentation), the BNR chose their preferred alternative for the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy.

Unfortunately, the board voted 5-1 to approve the staff proposed alternative from the DNR, which is a modified version of Alternative D. This alternative plan does not preserve enough older forest habitat to stabilize the declining Marbled Murrelet population.

The Marbled Murrelet Coalition had put forward a Conservation Alternative that used the best available science to create a plan that would allow the Marbled Murrelet populations in WA State to stabilize. There was additional support by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Environmental Protection Agency to analyze the Conservation Alternative after the comment period in July. Although this plan was not chosen, the coalition will continue to push back on DNR and BNR as the process continues. 

The Marbled Murrelet Coalition members are hopeful that they can encourage Hilary Franz and the board to move toward a science-based conservation strategy, one that preserves more habitat for the murrelet.

Read the Marbled Murrelet Coalition’s press release.


OPAS Atlantic Salmon Net Pen Resolution

Great Blue Heron trapped in Atlantic salmon net pen

On October 13 at the Washington State Audubon Conservation Committee (WSACC) meeting, OPAS presented a “Resolution to Cease Permitting Atlantic Salmon Aquaculture in Washington’s Marine Waters“.

Birds and native fish rely on a healthy marine food web that now suffers from the antibiotic drugs, inadequately maintained net pens, lack of comprehensive regulations, and harvesting methods used in industrial Atlantic salmon production. We ask that Washington State Chapters urge their elected officials to introduce and pass legislation to cease issuing permits for Atlantic salmon marine net pen aquaculture in Washington State; and that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cease to renew or extend existing aquatic leases for Atlantic salmon net pen aquaculture.  All chapters in attendance agreed to pass the resolution. Read the entire resolution here.


Mountain Goat Draft Management Plan

Read OPAS Comments on the Plan (September 21, 2017)

      Heart Lake – Google free image

The National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife invited the public to review and provide input about proposed alternatives for managing non-native mountain goats in the Olympic Mountains.

The alternatives are described and analyzed in the DEIS, which can be reviewed here. The plan’s purpose is to allow the Park to reduce or eliminate environmental impacts from the goats, and to reduce potential public safety issues associated with the goats’ presence in the park.

The alternatives include actions proposed to occur within the Olympic National Park and National Forest, and associated actions proposed by the WDFW to translocate mountain goats to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.


Read OPAS Comments about Atlantic Salmon Net Pen Permit

OPAS sent comments on July 24, 2017 to the Clallam County Director of Community Development regarding the permit to allow Cooke Aquaculture (formerly American Gold Seafoods) to move its existing Atlantic salmon net pens from within Port Angeles Harbor (Ediz Hook) to an open water area in the Strait of Juan de Fuca that is located over 1.5 miles offshore and 3.8 miles east of the terminus of Ediz Hook and NE into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We opposed the permit and requested that the salmon net pens be redesigned as a closed aquaculture system located over land and that the existing net pens should be removed from Port Angeles Harbor. Please read about our concerns in this comment letter.  


June 2017 Western Bluebird Climate Watch Survey Results

Western Bluebird checking out nestbox.

The Climate Watch Survey is especially important because it tests the model developed by National Audubon to study the effects of Climate Change on North American Birds. In our area the Western Bluebird is the focus. 

Survey results for the Climate Watch Survey (June 1- 15 2017) 

18 volunteers helped collect data with a total of 59 checklists provided.

The total number of species reported was 78 and the total number of individual birds counted was 1,170.  

Violet Green Swallows (84) and American Goldfinches (80) were the most frequently reported, with White Crowned Sparrows, American Robins, and Barn Swallows following.

There were 17 Western Bluebirds in the report with 5 nest sites. Though the majority of nesting sites had not fledged at the time of the survey, one site reported 6 fledglings (all doing well) from the first brood and a second brood started with 6 eggs.  All of the nesting sites but two were feeding on mealworms.

We were also happy to report that a Western Bluebird family chose one of the nestboxes OPAS volunteers placed on DNR property last February.  On our last visit they were still actively carrying food to the developing nestlings.

Thanks to everyone who volunteered. For those interested, Joyce Volmut will be setting up a Climate Watch training session, hopefully at the River Center in late October or early November. She will send out the date when when she has that scheduled.

The next climate watch survey will take place in January 2018.  I’ll send a notice before that date. To sign up contact Joyce Volmut joyce.volmut@gmail.com or call 785-554-6379


2017 Conservation Award

Jim Karr, Ken Wiersema, Mary Porter-Solberg, Bob Phreaner

Each year the Conservation Committee considers nominations of both members and others in our community who have made invaluable contributions to conserve and protect our natural environment. This year, the award was presented at our June meeting to Jim Karr by Bob Phreaner and Mary Porter-Solberg, OPAS Conservation Co-Chairs. Click on the certificate below to read about Jim’s conservation stewardship.

Click on certificate to read the award.















Drawing Meaning from Death, One Seabird at a Time

Article taken from Hakai Magazine (Coastal Science and Societies)

COASST volunteers Bob Phreaner, Sue Nattinger, and Coleman Byrnes patrol Shi Shi Beach in Washington State for dead seabirds, including this Laysan albatross. In the background is Point of Arches, a National Natural Landmark. Photo by Larry Pynn

Three dedicated OPAS members, Bob Phreaner, Coleman Byrnes, and Sue Nattinger walk the beaches in search of beached birds as volunteers of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) citizen science program. The volunteers help researchers track long-term trends influenced by human or natural causes, and the results are critical for comparison against the number of birds by species associated with, say, a natural die-off, an El Niño climate event, or an oil spill. Click on the article to see photos of the volunteers and read more about this valuable program. OPAS extends a big thank you for their dedication to science and seabirds on our North Olympic coasts. Read more.


OPAS Comments on the Marbled Murrelet LTCS, March 9, 2017

Read our comments that we submitted to the Washington Department of Natural Resources on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Marbled Murrelet  Long Term Conservation Strategy (LTCS).

Read more information about the Marbled Murrelet LTCS here.


OPAS Comments on the Sustainable Harvest Calculation, March 9, 2017

Read our comments that we submitted to the Washington Depatrment of Natural Resources on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Sustainable Harvest Calculation.

Read more information about the Sustainable Harvest Calculation here.


Swan Study Preliminary Data Results – November, 2016

OPAS swan study volunteers have participated in a citizen science project to count swans each winter for the last 6 years.

Bob Boekelheide, OPAS Bird Sightings Chair, has compiled the preliminary data from these swan surveys, showing how numbers of swans change through each season and the areas they occupy when they are here.

OPAS extends its appreciation to its volunteers for making the swan project a success.

Click here to view Bob’s November, 2016 presentation of our SwanStudy Data Results.

Trumpeter Swans in Sequim Field Photo by Dow Lambert

Trumpeter Swans in Sequim Field
Photo by Dow Lambert


Providing a Safer Yard for Birds

Hanging birdfeeders, providing birdbaths, and growing native plants are among the best ways to provide food, water, and shelter to birds as they migrate across an increasingly developed continent. If homeowners want to attract and provide refuge for birds, they must also safeguard their yards against threats such as windows, toxins, and cats.

Let’s talk primarily about window collisions and ways to prevent them. Window strikes at people’s homes kill at least 150 million birds each year in the U.S. Reflections of vegetation or landscape attract birds to collide with glass. Birds tend to collide with windows in rural yards with trees and birdfeeders—the very picture of bird-friendly habitat. Many people hang birdfeeders in a tree close to their house so they can easily watch the birds from a window. This is the worst place to put them. It draws birds close to windows while also giving them space to gain the necessary flying speed to hurt themselves. Place feeders and birdbaths within three feet of the nearest window so that birds don’t hurt themselves upon liftoff; or place them more than 30 feet away so that feeding birds …..Read more


OPAS Commented on USFWS draft Eagle Take Rule

OPAS recently commented on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service draft of an eagle-management plan that could weaken protections for eagles, including the issuing of 30-year permits to wind energy and other companies that could allow the “take” (or harm) of eagles. Read our comments.


Changes in Sequim-Dungeness Bird Populations and Behavior

Bob Boekelheide, OPAS Co-Vice President, and Ken Wiersema, OPAS President, were recently interviewed by the Sequim Gazette about observed changes in bird populations and behavior as a result of over 40 years of recorded Christmas Bird Count data in the Sequim-Dungeness area.

Some noticeable trends have emerged, including a general decline in the number of seabirds, such as Western Grebes, White-winged Scoters and Common Loons.

You can read about these changes and what may be causing them by clicking on the following links:

Sequim Gazette link

PDF link, then scroll down the page to the “Birders” article.


Notice: Partners of Planning for Climate Change on the North Olympic Peninsula Project

We are pleased to share with you the final “Climate Change Preparedness Plan for the North Olympic Peninsula” report! This report and its many appendices and supplementary information are the culmination of all the input from participants throughout the project, as well as the expert research, writing, and process flow from consultants of Adaptation International and Washington Sea Grant.


Important Notice! What to do if you encounter aircraft disturbance at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.

By FAA regulation, aircraft, including fixed wing, helicopter, drone, powered or unpowered are required to maintain a safe non-disturbance distance from wildlife. Should our members note what they believe is an aircraft disturbing wildlife they should contact:

FAA’s Flight Standards District Office (FDSO Seattle)
1601 Lind Avenue SW
Renton, Wa 98057

Phone: (425) 227-2813 or (800) 354-1940 Fax: (425) 227-1810


Wildlife disturbance on or near the DNWR should also be reported to Refuge Law Enforcement, David Falzetti (David_Falzetti@fws.gov or 360-457-8451). However, without detailed information including a tail number, date, time, and detailed wildlife disturbance behavior information he can do little. It is highly recommended that reports include photos of the tail number and type of wildlife disturbance. Understandably, these details can be very difficult to get, but the effort is important for follow-up.


Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report – 314 Species on the Brink

Shrinking and shifting ranges could imperil nearly half of U.S. birds within this century. Read the Audubon Climate Report.