Washington State’s Forestry Plan Leaves Murrelets Behind

Washington State’s Forestry Plan Leaves Murrelets Behind

Conservation Northwest / Dec 06, 2016 /

State’s Proposals Fail to Protect Imperiled Seabird

A strategy proposed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to protect marbled murrelets that depend on state forests falls short, according to a coalition of conservation groups.

“We have a responsibility to restore old-growth forests and help marbled murrelet populations recover within Washington,” said Dave Werntz, Science and Conservation Director with Conservation Northwest. “We can ensure jobs and wildlife over the long run if we manage our state forests sustainably,” he added.

Marbled murrelets are small plump seabirds that nest in old-growth forests along Washington’s coastal areas. Unlike other seabirds, they raise their young on wide branches of large old trees, flying daily up to 55 miles to forage in nearshore marine areas. Murrelets were listed as a threatened species in Washington in 1993 due to significant loss of old forest nesting habitat. Since then, their population has declined an additional 44% as logging on state and private lands continued unabated.

Washington DNR is considering a range of options intended to reverse this decline, but independent scientific analysis has shown that none of the current alternatives are sufficient to protect and restore the bird’s population on state forest lands.

“Whether your passion is hiking, wildlife, clean water, or slowing climate change, right now we have our single best chance to put our state forests on a sustainable path for current and future generations,” said Lisa Remlinger, forest campaign director for Washington Environmental Council. “Across our state, people depend on the long-term health of our forests. When we manage them responsibly, everyone can win,” she added.

Coalition members – which include Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Olympic Forest Coalition, Seattle Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council and Washington Forest Law Center – are proposing a new conservation strategy that puts state forests on a sustainable path. The coalition’s proposal promotes sustainable forest restoration and management to improve habitat and provide a long-term supply of logs, revenue and jobs.

Revenue from state forests contributes to school construction and benefit local counties; the coalition’s proposal is consistent with these responsibilities. The coalition also commits to working with the Commissioner of Public Lands, legislators, and county commissioners to develop alternative funding strategies to keep local economies vibrant.

“The science is clear, marbled murrelets nest most successfully in large expanses of older forest habitat, which are also home to a vast diversity of plants and animals, mitigate climate change, and provide numerous other benefits to society, such as clean air and water,” said Kara Whittaker, senior scientist at the Washington Forest Law Center. “These are our forests, our future and our responsibility. We have a chance to show our children how to be responsible stewards, while keeping people working, and funding new school construction,” she added.

Learn more about our work for marbled murrelets at www.conservationnw.org/murrelet