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 Endangered in 2016. This endangered seabird feeds in the ocean and flies up to 55 miles inland to nest in old growth forest.
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. The Washington state population of this unique bird has shrunk by 44% over the last 15 years, leaving only about 7,500 birds remaining. The plight of the murrelet is so dire that in December 2016 the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission uplisted this species’ status from “threatened” to the more serious “endangered.”
The 2016 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Long-Term Conservation Strategy (LTCS) for the Marbled Murrelet documented the lead agencies’ analysis of the proposal and provided an opportunity for government agencies, affected tribes and other members of the public to review the document and provide suggestions for improving the adequacy of the environmental analysis. The DEIS listed six alternatives. After reviewing the alternatives, the conservation community, including OPAS, found all alternatives lacking a plan that would prevent the Marbled Murrelet from continuing its population decline. OPAS and other Audubon chapters supported a Conservation Alternative that would achieve the following biological goals for the Marbled Murrelet population in Washington State: 1) a stable or increasing population for at least a 10-year period, 2) an increasing geographic distribution, and 3) a population that is resilient to disturbances. Read OPAS’ comments.
The 2018 revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIS) for the LTCS is a joint document produced by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This document is intended to satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for environmental review. DNR and the USFWS did not consider the Conservation Alternative in the eight alternatives listed, none that will likely prevent the Marbled Murrelet from extirpation in Washington State. Read OPAS’ comments.
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.