By Tim Manns
Washington State’s legislative session is well underway in Olympia and will continue at least through April 23. For an overview of prospects for the session and a summary of the Environmental Priorities Coalition’s focal issues, see the January newsletter’s Conservation Report (http://skagitaudubon.org/newsletter). Audubon participates in this coalition of 20 environmental groups. Sign up for the coalition’s weekly update on proposed state legislation related to the environment at https://wecprotects.org/environmental-priorities-coalition/.
Audubon Washington has other issues on which its staff and many of Washington’s 25
Audubon chapters will also focus this session:
- Continued funding of forage fish spawning surveys (which relates to the importance of forage fish, such as herring, sand lance, and smelt to seabirds and other marine creatures)
- Promoting a sustainable, local renewable energy industry (specifically solar energy)
- Enacting a price on carbon pollution
We were hopeful that Representative Kristine Lytton (D – 40th) would introduce a bill to close a loophole in the Forest Practices Act that brushes aside cities’ required critical areas ordinances to allow logging that degrades and destroys wetlands. The present session is so occupied with meeting education, mental health, and other very compelling needs that legislators lack time for dealing with arguably smaller matters. We’ll pursue the possibility of an administrative solution through the Department of Natural Resources, which administers the Forest Practices Act. Conservationists have high hopes for new Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.
Showing up at your legislators’ offices in Olympia makes an impact. As busy as they are, most legislators will take time to listen to constituents. Audubon Washington is making it easy to show up by planning an Advocacy Day. Besides providing good advice on talking with your elected officials on the issues mentioned above, Audubon will make the meeting appointments for you. Please register now for Audubon Advocacy Day (February 21). (http://wa.audubon.org/events/audubon-advocacy-day-2017). Please sign up too for legislative alerts and updates with Audubon Washington:
http://wa.audubon.org/conservation/legislative-session-2017. Our state government has a good website for tracking bills, commenting on them, and contacting your legislators: http://leg.wa.gov/. National Audubon sends out alerts on national issues: http://www.audubon.org/takeaction .
Right now there are several lengthy Draft Environmental Impact Statements open for comment on matters relevant to the Audubon mission. Through March 9 you can comment on the long-awaited EIS addressing the Department of Natural Resources’ management of state trust lands for the threatened Marbled Murrelet. The draft EIS is at http://www.dnr.wa.gov/marbledmurrelet. Seattle Audubon’s website (http://www.seattleaudubon.org/sas/) explains how to comment and suggests what you might say.
The grizzly bear was federally listed as a threatened species 42 years ago. The Greater North Cascades is one of 6 ecosystems long designated as recovery zones for the bear. The goal, in accord with the Endangered Species Act, is to restore a small but self-sustaining population of grizzlies to the North Cascades to help this once very widespread animal survive. The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have issued a draft EIS for restoring the bear to the North Cascades over a period of many years. The comment period ends March 14, 2017. For information, go to https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=44144.
The comment period for the EIS on adding more Growlers to those based at Whidbey Naval Air Station has been extended to Feb. 24. See http://www.whidbeyeis.com/. The jet noise can be a problem for humans and has potential effects on Marbled Murrelets, Spotted Owls, and other wildlife, particularly on the Olympic Peninsula where the Navy would do electronic warfare training.
These are interesting times with no lack of opportunities to get involved.