By Tim Manns
Washington State Legislature’s 60 day session ends March 12th, barring an extension. At this writing in mid-February one of Audubon’s top goals as a member of the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC) has failed to pass a cut-off date in the legislative calendar and will receive no further consideration. The “Healthy Habitat Healthy Orcas” bill (HB 2550) would have upgraded the standard for mitigating impacts of certain development projects from “no net loss” of ecological function to “net ecological gain.” The existing standard has failed to reverse the habitat loss contributing to the decline of salmon and the plight of the Southern Resident Orcas, which feed on them almost exclusively. The other 3 EPC priorities are still in play as of mid-February. In the Conservation Notes posted on Skagit Audubon’s website at the Conservation tab (https://www.skagitaudubon.org/conservation/notes), you can find the bill numbers and links for commenting to your elected officials about these important priorities. Scan down the Notes for other legislation of particular importance to Audubon. Your call or email can make a difference.
The daily sight of wintering Trumpeter and Tundra Swans in Skagit County is a reminder of the importance agriculture holds for certain birds in our area. Over 8,000 Trumpeter Swans (more than in any other county in the lower 48 states) and close to 2,000 Tundra Swans find the habitat they need right here: safe places like Barney Lake and Johnson-DeBay Slough to spend the night and wetlands and harvested corn and potato fields to feed. Corn is grown here for dairy cows. Dairies are struggling financially. Supporting dairies helps swans. The farm fields are also habitat for thousands of wintering raptors and provide for huge flocks of dunlin when high tide covers the shore. Climate change is a major threat to birds, and agriculture can help with that too by locking up carbon. Audubon Washington has launched a “Natural Climate Solutions” project to promote managing forests, wetlands, and farm fields in ways that sequester carbon. That’s what State Senate Bill 5947 is about: a grant program to encourage farmers to follow carbon sequestration practices. As of today (mid-February), this bill has passed the Senate and is now in the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources. Check on its progress and comment to your State Representatives at https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5947&Year=2019&Initiative=false .
For information on more conservation issues of concern to Skagit Audubon: https://skagitaudubon.org/conservation/notes. Sign up to receive these notes directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.