Marbled Murrelet Long Term Conservation Strategy – The Marbled Murrelet was listed by the Federal Government as a Threatened species in 1992 and listed by Washington State as Threatened in 1993. In 1997, Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) made commitments to protect Marbled Murrelet habitat in the Trust Lands Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), and since then have operated under an interim conservation strategy. Murrelet populations in Washington are declining by 7% a year for the last 10 years.
Today, the DNR is working jointly with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to develop a long-term Marbled Murrelet Conservation Strategy for the six WesternWashington HCP Planning Units: Straits, Olympic Experimental State Forest, South Coast, Columbia, South Puget, and North Puget.
The first phase of the Marbled Murrelet Conservation Strategy development process is complete. The second phase of the process is underway (June, 2013) and the Washington Department of Natural Resources asked the public to help them develop a set of conceptual alternatives describing how they will pursue Marbled Murrelet conservation.
Factors that threaten Marbled Murrelets in Washington include widespread habitat loss, fragmentation of nesting areas, nest predation, reduced prey fish abundance, and climate change. Protecting and restoring mature or old growth forest habitat will play a major role in murrelet survival
In order to help fight murrelet extirpation, preserve clean water, grow old and mature forests, and sustain our state’s natural heritage, DNR and FWS must:
- Adopt scientifically sound conservation strategies that are consistent with the recommendations of the 2008 Marbled Murrelet Scientific Team report.
- Protect sites occupied by Marbled Murrelets with significant buffers to ensure long-term persistence and to prevent wind-throw, predation, changes to microclimate and other disturbances.
- Establish and manage Conservation Areas in all Landscape Planning Units to protect and restore large contiguous blocks of mature and old-growth forest habitat sufficient to recover and maintain healthy murrelet populations on State lands. None of the conceptual alternatives presented by DNR meets these needs.
- Develop outreach and education at campgrounds for trash control to reduce the risk of predation by ravens, crows and jays.
- Delay forest management activities to minimize disturbance to murrelets.
- Recognize the importance of exchanging State owned lands to compensate trust beneficiaries for endangered species protection. Funding for Encumbered Lands is critical for protecting Marbled Murrelets.
- Coordinate with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to establish Marine Protected Areas to protect forage fish for murrelets.
- Focus marine mitigation efforts on derelict fishing gear removal or other measures in the aquatic environment and coordinate with appropriate agencies.
- The “no action” alternative must continue implementation of the “interim strategy” to avoid breaching the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).
DNR has a responsibility to steward the resources that are at stake. Old-growth trees help clean our air and water, sustain a healthy climate, and support wildlife. The need to develop a strong long term conservation strategy is crucial to Marbled Murrelet survival.
For more information, please refer to DNR’s website about the Long Term Conservation Strategy.
Read more about Marbled Murrelets and the lawsuit against DNR by Seattle Audubon and Olympic Forest Coalition on the Seattle Audubon web site.