by Tim Manns
Washington State Legislature. The State Legislature’s 2023 session runs from January 9th to April 23rd. In odd years, our legislators write the two-year state budget. Thus, there will be both policy and funding bills with implications for Audubon’s priorities. At this writing in mid-November, we do not yet know Audubon Washington’s specific legislative priorities, but they should be available soon at Advocacy | Audubon Washington. The state staff is again organizing a virtual Advocacy Day, which will happen via Zoom on December 5th and 6th. Act quickly and you may still be able to get involved in directly urging your state legislators to support conservation priorities. Sign up here, filling in your information! Our elected officials need to hear from us about the importance of protecting and restoring shorelines, taking a well-considered, balanced approach to siting wind and solar farms, and more. Your voice can make a difference.
Grizzly Bear Restoration. The on-again, off-again, multi-decade effort to restore the federal and state-listed grizzly bear to the North Cascades in accordance with the Endangered Species Act is on again after a halt by the previous federal administration. The North Cascades Ecosystem is one of six recovery zones long ago designated for this species. Years have passed since Skagit Audubon joined the Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear coalition. On November 10th the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced a new start to preparing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) needed before restoration can proceed. For current information and background see the Friends website: Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear | Restoring a healthy population of grizzly bears to the North Cascades). Through December 14th you can submit scoping comments; that is, your opinions on what issues should be considered in the EIS. See Parkplanning - 2022 North Cascades Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (nps.gov). Click on “Open for Comment.” When the draft EIS is issued, we can comment on what the agencies propose to do. Why should Audubon care about grizzly bears? Our organization’s mission is to protect and restore wildlife habitat with a particular, but not exclusive, emphasis on birds. Grizzly bears are the single most significant species missing in the North Cascades ecosystem.
DNR’s Carbon Project. Implementing provisions in a bill passed several years ago, Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is preparing to sell carbon credits on 10,000 acres of forest land that otherwise would be logged (Carbon Project | WA - DNR). DNR’s website states, “This initiative (the Carbon Project) represents the first-in-the-nation use of carbon markets by a state agency to protect critical forest areas by immediately removing stands from the planned harvest schedule, many of which were slated for imminent harvest.” DNR manages lands held in trust for beneficiaries that include county governments and junior taxing districts (hospitals, schools, etc.), and thus the agency is obligated to produce revenue. The courts have now established that producing revenue does not have to mean cutting trees. Selling carbon credits protects habitat and produces revenue while also locking up carbon to mitigate climate change, which National Audubon research tags as the number one threat to birds. Consistent with this, the Skagit Audubon board voted unanimously in support of DNR’s Carbon Project. In contrast, Skagit County’s three Commissioners were not pleased when DNR proposed that 1,691 of the 10,000 acres be on state trust lands in Skagit County. On October 25, 2022, the Skagit Valley Herald reported the Commissioners’ reaction (Skagit County sites considered for state Carbon Project | Ecology | goskagit.com) quoting their letter to DNR: “The project would probably have ‘significant adverse impact on Skagit County, its junior taxing districts, the forest industry we have worked to protect, and our Comprehensive Plan.’” Addressing the climate crisis requires fresh thinking and action by all of us, including government at every level. The future will not and cannot be the same as the past. We urge our local elected officials to engage county government in actively addressing climate change. As a start, this includes supporting the Carbon Project and building adaptation to climate change and sea level rise into the Shoreline Master Program, which ignores these realities.
For other issues Skagit Audubon is tracking, see the Conservation Notes on the chapter’s website at https://skagitaudubon.org/conservation/notes.