By Tim Manns
I’m writing this report February 17th, Day 40 of the Washington State Legislative Session, which will extend to April 23rd and likely beyond. Today is significant as the cut-off for many bills to be either voted out of committee or die. Several especially troublesome ones are meeting the latter fate. One would have required state land managing agencies to sell an acre for every new acre purchased. This would have ended all hope for buying replacement timber lands to save the Blanchard State Forest core. Another introduced bill would have, contrary to the state’s constitution, required ceding all our nationally owned lands in Washington to the state, potentially for ultimate sale. Even Mount Rainier National Park? Yes, that too. Such crazy (to me and maybe you too) bills have little chance of passing, but even in Washington State, which we like to think of as a bulwark of truth, justice, and common sense, the legislature is delicately balanced. Legislators who fail to put the public good first sometimes back down when enough citizens speak out early and often against such radical raids on the public good.
On the national scene every day brings new, dramatic, and often alarming events. Attempts to gut the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are perennial but truly alarming under the new conditions in Washington, D.C. It’s essential to preserve this 44-year old act at the heart of accomplishing Audubon’s mission. Please add your name via National Audubon’s website in opposition to destroying the ESA (http://www.audubon.org/takeaction
). Better yet, contact your legislators directly.
The Endangered Species Act has everything to do with why we readily spot Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles in Skagit County. And it’s the reason the Marbled Murrelet cannot simply be ignored by the Washington Department of Natural Resources in managing forested state trust lands. The murrelet is listed as threatened under the federal ESA. Under Washington’s own equivalent law the Fish & Wildlife Commission changed the bird’s listing to “endangered” just last December. Yet, without the federal listing, there would be far less pressure on DNR to not simply ignore the demise of this forest-nesting seabird and just maximize revenue from timber cutting. Through March 9, you can submit comments on DNR’s draft Environmental Impact Statement for how it manages Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat (i.e. old forest), much of it on state trust lands (http://www.dnr.wa.gov/mmltcs
). Modeling shows that none of the EIS’s 6 alternatives will reverse the bird’s decline. Let me know if you would like to learn about the “Conservation Alternative” prepared by organizations, including Audubon, working for a positive outcome from DNR’s planning.
Without the federal ESA, the grizzly bear would almost certainly be at or near extinction in the lower 48 states and possibly the gray wolf, orca, and many salmon runs too. The long-delayed draft EIS for restoring grizzlies to the North Cascades Ecosystem, where a mere 5 may still exist in 6 million acres of U.S. and Canadian wilderness, closes for public comment on March 14 (https://www.nps.gov/noca/grizzly.htm
). The most likely alternative’s 60 to 100-year time line for bringing the bear population to 200 reflects the species’ low reproductive rate and the care agency scientists and resource managers are taking. The grizzly is an umbrella species: by providing for its habitat needs, we accommodate many other species. Audubon members have the broad ethical perspective of people who recognize the rights of other species to exist and possess the willingness to accommodate them. Let’s speak out for the country and the world we want.