OLYMPIA — Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, and a bipartisan group of 11 lawmakers recently sent a letter to the Department of Natural Resources urging the DNR board to align its approach for the agency’s Marbled Murrelet’s Long-Term Conservation Strategy with the minimum federal standard for protection of the species.
The method implemented to protect the birds’ habitat could have a significant impact on the local economy and communities in Wahkiakum and Pacific counties, Walsh said in a press release.
“The state plan for dealing with the marbled murrelet could be an existential threat to the communities of Wahkiakum and Pacific counties,” Walsh said. “DNR must act in the area’s best interest, and its own best interest, to minimize the damage caused by this bird’s listing as an endangered species.”
The marbled murrelet is a small, robin-sized diving seabird. It spends the majority of its time on the ocean, flying inland to nest in old-growth forests. The Washington, Oregon and California populations of marbled murrelets were federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1992. There have been long delays in Washington state finalizing its long-term habitat conservation plan for the birds.
DNR board members are considering five different methods to protect the species. They will be making their final decision within the next few weeks. A recent draft environmental impact statement contains a detailed description of the five alternatives being considered, including “alternative B.” Walsh said this plan would meet the minimum federal standards for the species preservation, while creating the least amount of negative impact possible on surrounding affected communities.
“Many people in Southwest Washington are calling this the ‘spotted owl two.’ They are right,” Walsh said. “It could have that kind of impact. I’m grateful to my colleagues who’ve signed on to this letter. They understand the urgency of this issue.”
Walsh said stringent protections for the bird would negatively affect timber harvests and revenues from state-owned trust lands.
Murrelet protection was a key issue in the failure of a wind-energy project proposed in the Naselle area by Pacific County Public Utility District No. 2 and its partners.