Testimony to Board of Natural Resources regarding marbled murrelet Solutions Table

Testimony to Board of Natural Resources regarding marbled murrelet Solutions Table

Conservation Northwest / Oct 06, 2020 / Work Updates

We submitted the following testimony to the Board of Natural Resources, which voted on a final conservation plan that ignores the collaborative efforts of the Marbled Murrelet Solutions Table.

In 2019, the Board of Natural Resources (BNR) voted to adopt a Long-Term Strategy for the marbled murrelet that amended the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Habitat Conservation Plan and obtained a multi-decadal Endangered Species Act “incidental take” permit to harvest timber on state-managed forests despite impacts to marbled murrelets. According to DNR’s analyses, the adopted plan will result in fewer marbled murrelets, a state endangered seabird, on DNR-managed lands at the end of 50 years than are present today, even under the most optimistic set of assumptions. 

Our Policy Director Paula Swedeen participated in DNR’s Solutions Table on Marbled Murrelets convened by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to find creative ways to meet the habitat needs of the murrelet, the income needs of rural counties and the employment needs of timber mills and other economic sectors in these communities. We believe wildlife protections and healthy rural communities can coexist, and are disappointed by the BNR’s chosen marbled murrelet conservation strategy. Read more in our December 2019 statement with the Marbled Murrelet Coalition here.

By Paula Swedeen, Policy Director
A male marbled murrelet, a unique seabird that needs healthy old forests for nesting.

I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in Commissioner Franz’s Solutions Table, which met from May 2018 through January of 2020.

I am testifying today, along with my conservation colleagues to make sure you are aware of our work and to let you know that starting next month, you will be approving timber sales that begin degrading the conservation value of lands we hoped to voluntarily protect to reverse the decline of the murrelet population that your Habitat Conservation Plan amendment is projected to cause.

We enthusiastically embraced the goals which Commissioner Franz set out, which were best embodied in her invitation letter:

“In order to move forward, we have to reject the notion that we are stuck in a zero sum game, one which forces us to chose between a species and ensuring critical services and opportunities for our communities. Instead, we must open up to the idea that shared success is attainable and develop strategies for mutual benefit.”

Marbled murrelets depend on old forests for their nests. Protecting murrelets benefits forests, fish and many other species. Photo: USFWS

We devoted significant time and resources to doing just that. We listened carefully to representatives of the other interests and crafted ideas with the intent to solve beneficiary revenue issues and contribute to local economies. An example is creating a new “rural resilience trust” in which new income producing assets could be pooled and revenue distributed to timber counties impacted by the multiple challenges they have faced over the past 30 years. Complementary to this would be using the historically low cost of debt to finance the acquisition of these new assets and creating a portfolio that includes sustainable forest management for wood products and carbon sequestration and lease properties for renewable energy development.

While we made progress in building relationships, increasing mutual understanding, and developing joint proposals, we hit a wall this past January with trust among some parties breaking down. This is unfortunate but not a reason to give up.

I understand that the world has thrown us all significant challenges since the early part of the year. Yet those challenges make it even more imperative for all of us to work towards those mutually beneficially solutions which prevent the unraveling of our ecosystems and strengthen the economic and social resilience of our state.

We ask that you not lose the threads of the positive outcomes of the Solutions Table effort. It would be a shame to waste the time and good will of those who came to the table genuinely wanting to solve everyone’s issues, not just our own.

Read our STATEMENT on the BNR’s marbled murrelet recovery plan, or learn more about this species on our WEBPAGE.
Murrelets depend on large old trees for nesting like these in Olympic National Park, laying their eggs on wide, moss-covered branches. Photo: Chase Gunnell