By Tim Manns
Early December brought the good news that a long-absent species is returning to the North Cascades. The fisher, a relative of the pine marten and river otter, was long ago trapped out for its fur. Last month several agencies and non-profit partners working to restore this species to the Olympic Peninsula and the Cascades released 6 fishers near Newhalem.
We begin the new year with well-grounded hope for more good news. Governor Inslee’s budget released last month proposes considerable investments that would, in the short and long terms, reverse the decline of the Southern Resident Killer Whales (orcas). Audubon’s mission to protect wildlife habitat includes restoring degraded habitat and the wildlife it supports. Protecting and restoring the habitat chinook salmon need, in and along rivers and streams, tidal wetlands, and the Salish Sea support the orca’s principal food while also helping many other species. Restoring populations of the small forage fish which chinook eat, for example, also benefits many species of fish-eating marine birds – loons, grebes, mergansers, the federally listed marbled murrelet. These birds will benefit from proposed measures to more quickly restore the water quality of Puget Sound which now adversely affects the health of orcas and other animals high on the food chain.
The Governor’s proposals for the legislative session beginning January 14th also include measures to address climate change which are on Audubon Washington’s priority list. One example is committing Washington State to a 100% clean electricity standard; that is, to using only electricity from renewable sources by a specific future date. We all have a role to play in seeing that practical measures pass that protect and restore the environment for the well-being of wildlife and for our own sakes. Here are some things we can all do:
- Register to participate in the January 29th Audubon Lobby Day in Olympia (http://wa.audubon.org/conservation). Chapter members from around the state will visit their legislators and urge support for Audubon’s priorities. For Audubon’s legislative priorities in Washington State: see Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website (https://skagitaudubon.org/conservation/notes) or the Nov. issue of the Skagit Flyer (https://skagitaudubon.org/documents/SASNov18Flyer.pdf) and read this Audubon Washington press release: http://wa.audubon.org/press-release/audubon-washington-leads-advocacy-climate-action-2019-state-legislature.
- During the state legislature’s 105-day session, track the progress of environmental legislation on the websites of Audubon Washington (http://wa.audubon.org/conservation/advocacy) and the Environmental Priorities Coalition (https://wecprotects.org/environmental-priorities-coalition/) of which Audubon is a member. You can then contact your state legislators and also track the progress of legislation directly via this official site: http://leg.wa.gov/. The people we elect want to hear from us. If they don’t our concerns are much less likely to get attention..
- Sign up for Action Alerts from Audubon Washington (http://wa.audubon.org/) and National Audubon (https://www.audubon.org/). On both websites, click the red button labelled “Take Action” at the top of the page and sign up to receive action alerts on issues important at the state and national level. One of the current national issues is preventing removal of protections from Teshekpuk Lake in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The great majority of this publicly-owned reserve is open to fossil fuel extraction, but 5 years ago a management plan was completed that protected Teshekpuk Lake and surrounding wetlands extremely important for hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, nesting loons, and waterfowl. Many species that migrate through Washington State or winter here breed in the Arctic. Teshekpuk Lake, Izembek Lagoon, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, all now under threat from energy development and climate change, are vital to many thousands of birds we think of as “ours”.
This year has real possibilities for being better for Audubon’s goals and the environment generally than the one just past. Be part of the change you want to see. We can make a difference!