Take action for murrelets that rely on state forests

Take action for murrelets that rely on state forests

Conservation Northwest / Nov 02, 2018 / Murrelet, Protecting Wildlands, Restoring Wildlife

WILD NW Action Alert #283: Through Thursday, 12/6, you can help protect endangered marbled murrelets and their habitat.

After more than two decades, state and federal agencies are finally developing a long-term conservation plan that could protect and restore marbled mur­­relets in Washington. Now is a pivotal chance for you to help save this endangered seabird.

Marbled murrelet: Photo Rick Bowers / Audubon

In 2001, there were an estimated 12,400 murrelets in Washington—by 2016, that number had fallen to 7,500 birds, a stunning 44 percent decline. Scientists estimate that their population is dropping by 4.4 percent every year. If that rate continues, marbled murrelets could go locally extinct in our state.

Please use our simple comment form to take action today!

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently released a Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement on eight alternative strategies to conserve murrelets, and a proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) amendment, which are now open for public comment. The plan will be implemented across 1.4 million acres of state-managed forests for the next 50 years.

The main cause of the marbled murrelet’s decline is habitat loss—including a 30-percent loss between 1993 and 2012 on non-federal lands in Washington, on top of old-growth logging from decades past. These birds nest on thick, mossy branches in mature and old-growth forests. While old forests on federal land are largely protected, logging of murrelet habitat has continued on state and private lands. Federal forests are generally sparse in the regions near marine areas where murrelets forage.

That’s why protecting state-managed forests is crucial for their survival.  Additionally, these lower-elevation state forests are more productive than federal forests, meaning they can develop into quality murrelet habitat quicker, creating a temporal bridge between current and future habitat.

But murrelets aren’t the only ones who depend on state-managed forests—local communities do, too. Logging in the area is an important source of revenue for rural counties. We believe protecting murrelets and rural economies is possible and necessary.

Read about our participation in the Solutions Table and other collaboration with these communities.

State forests like this one along the Clearwater River provide habitat for marbled murrelets, fishers, elk, salmon and many other species. Photo: Chase Gunnell

With these birds close to extinction, we need a conservation strategy that provides enough protection and restoration of state-managed forests to fully recover murrelets in Washington. But that support is lacking in most of the alternatives being considered for the Long-term Conservation Strategy. In fact, even under the most optimistic conditions, most alternatives are projected to result in smaller murrelet populations after 50 years.

Use your voice to give marbled murrelets a chance at recovering in our state. There are several key elements that scientists identify as necessary for successful murrelet conservation. Any plan lacking these elements will risk statewide extirpation for marbled murrelets.

Submit your comment before the December 6 deadline and tell DNR and the USFWS you support a conservation strategy that prioritizes what murrelets need for recovery. Our suggested comments are also copied below.


Suggested Comments on the Long-Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet – submit here or on DNR’s form!

Subject: Marbled Murrelet RDEIS Comment – SEPA file number: #12-042001

Washington Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

I’m writing to provide my input on the Revised Draft EIS and Habitat Conservation Plan amendment for the Long-Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet. I support a conservation strategy that will ensure the recovery of marbled murrelets on state lands by protecting and enhancing state-managed forests that provide habitat for murrelets. This can be accomplished while also respecting the values and livelihoods of local, rural communities who rely on these forests for timber revenue. In the current revised environmental impact statement, no alternative sufficiently ensures murrelet recovery.

I do not support alternative H, the Department of Natural Resources’ preferred plan, because it does not leave enough habitat for murrelets to successfully recover. In this alternative, the total projected loss of habitat is 1,000 acres—we need a strategy that results in a net gain of murrelet habitat.

I support a conservation strategy that will not only stabilize, but also substantially increase the murrelet population, expand its geographical range and increase its resilience to both human and natural disturbances. Maximizing and restoring the older forests marbled murrelets nest in is the most effective way to recover this endangered population. Their resilience depends not only on the amount of forest, but also its configuration in large, contiguous blocks.

Protect all nest sites, current quality habitat and forests that will become quality habitat in the near-term for murrelets, as recommended by scientists. In degraded forests, practice restoration forestry to develop future high-quality habitat. Fully consider the potential for habitat damage and loss from climate change, wildfire and tree mortality. This conservation plan must mitigate such future risks to ensure a successful murrelet recovery.

Buffer the forests that murrelets occupy in order to reduce the effects of forest edges, including harmful impacts from nest predators, microclimate changes and damage caused by windthrow. Prevent habitat loss and degradation from road construction and other management activities.

I do not support a strategy that will further fragment the valuable forests marbled murrelets depend on, exacerbating other threats to their population. For the best chance at a successful recovery for this species, protections for contiguous, broadly-distributed, current and future high-quality habitat on state-managed lands must be in place. Alternatives F and G most closely accomplish this, but more is needed.

I request that you incorporate these crucial elements into a Long-Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet. Without them, extirpation in Washington state is quickly becoming a possible fate for this bird. In a region that prides itself on its wilderness and abundance of native species, we can’t risk losing this one.

I recognize that due to past logging, conserving the remaining habitat on DNR lands has impacts on rural communities. I support DNR’s efforts on the Solutions Table to find ways to create more economic opportunities and new ways to fund county services other than logging remaining murrelet habitat.

Thank you.


Want to learn more about marbled murrelets? Check out our webpage on this special species!