Walsh calls DNR’s marbled murrelet decision deeply disappointing

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Board recently selected Option D from among several options DNR staff offered for establishing a Habitat Conservation Program (HCP) protecting the marbled murrelet. This selection was one of six alternatives considered for conserving the habitat of the at-risk species.

The marbled murrelet is a robin-sized seabird that spends the majority of its time on the ocean. The seabirds fly inland to nest in old-growth forests along the Pacific Coast. The birds were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1992.

Prior to DNR's announcement of its decision, Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, and a group of 11 bipartisan state lawmakers signed and sent a letter asking DNR to focus its efforts on Option B—which would have saved the murrelet's habitat, while doing minimal economic damage to the remaining logging and milling operations.

Option B would have covered 60,722 acres of sites occupied by the seabirds. In contrast, DNR's selection, Option D, includes the same sites plus 50 to 100-meter buffers called “special habitat areas.” These buffers add more acres to restricted or “locked-up” zones, increasing the edge around areas that could provide nesting for the birds. The approximate conservation area for Option B is 590,000 acres, versus Option D which is approximately 620,000 acres.

Walsh issued the following statement on DNR's selection:

“I'm deeply disappointed in the decision the Washington Natural Resources Board has made, choosing Option D from among the six different options. At a quick glance, the differences between Option D and Option B may seem technical and small. But, they're not. They're significant – and will hurt smaller counties, cities and school districts that are already suffering from the loss of the timber industry.

“The board's explanation for this unfortunate decision is that DNR bureaucrats had stated that Option B would not pass muster with the Feds [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]. But the Feds have not indicated this is so.

“The board's deliberations included a flash of reason when Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal suggested an adjustment for affected riparian zones that would have mitigated some of the damage. Sadly, the Board didn't follow his suggestion. Instead, it offered some words about studying Option D's adverse economic effects on vulnerable counties like Wahkiakum and Pacific. As we've seen time and again, these studies don't really conclude much. They're often just distractions.

“State revenues from timber sales from public and public-trust lands used to be a big part of how Washington state funded its schools, local police, public safety departments and infrastructure projects. Those resources are vanishing. But there's still time to turn this trouble around. One bad decision by the DNR Board isn't the last word on this matter. There's still process and the chance for public comment remaining, before the HCP takes final form.

“The 11 co-signers on my letter urging Option B, legislators from both sides of the aisle and various parts of the state, know how important it is to prevent 'the next spotted owl' from happening. They understand that our working timber lands must stay working. We need our public trust land in production, creating value and family-wage jobs in rural Washington. Things worth fighting for.”


Washington State House Republican Communications