Conservation Report, December 2017
Last Updated: December 15, 2017
By Tim Manns
Millennium Bulk Terminals – Longview: Last month the Cowlitz County Hearing Examiner denied Shoreline permits which the proposed terminal needs to proceed. This decision could be appealed (as the earlier water quality certification denial by the Department of Ecology), but it’s another blow to this last of 6 coal export terminals proposed for the Northwest.
Washington, DC Lobbyist Robert K. Weidner: By the time you see this report, there may have been news articles about Skagit County’s long-time relationship with Washington, D.C. lobbyist Robert K. Weidner. See my report in the October Flyer. The focus of Mr. Weidner’s advocacy is somewhat mixed, but much of it is on rolling back environmental laws, increasing resource extraction on national public lands, and furthering the cause of “county supremacy.” For more information, contact me (email@example.com). Mr. Weidner’s contract is probably up for renewal at year’s end. Our County Commissioners need to hear from us.
“Clean Products Upgrade Project” at March Point: Fifty-five people spoke at the November 2nd hearing on the Shoreline permit Tesoro needs for at least portions of its “Clean Products Upgrade Project” at March Point. Most speakers expressed concerns: about potential impacts on orcas from increased shipping, effects a xylene spill would have on birds and marine creatures, possible human health and safety problems. The Hearing Examiner’s decision should come in early December.
Long-Term Strategy for Managing Marbled Murrelet Nesting Habitat on State Trust Lands: On November 7th the Washington Board of Natural Resources, which oversees the Department of Natural Resources, chose a preferred alternative for a long-term strategy for managing marbled murrelet nesting habitat on state trust lands. Disappointingly, the board chose the staff-recommended alternative, which, models indicate, does too little to stem the bird’s sharp population decline. Marbled murrelets need large, old-growth trees for nesting, and much of the remaining such habitat close enough to the marine waters where murrelets forage is DNR-managed. Loss of such habitat is the most important reason for this bird’s rapid decline in Washington. It’s listed as “threatened” (with extinction) under the federal Endangered Species Act and “endangered” under the equivalent Washington State law. Next, DNR will write a supplemental environmental impact statement more closely analyzing the preferred alternative, take public comment, and send the final plan to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for approval. You can be sure the timber industry is fighting hard to minimize the acreage set aside for preventing this bird’s extinction in Washington. Skagit County employee Kendra Smith spoke at the November 7th Board of Natural Resources meeting to represent our county as wanting a minimum acreage protected, which shows our County Commissioners’ stance on this issue. A coalition of conservation groups, including Seattle Audubon representing Washington’s 25 Audubon chapters, will continue to push for an alternative that would prevent the murrelet’s demise.
Protecting the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge From Oil Drilling: Last, but very important, let me mention protecting the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling. For years, certain federal legislators have tried to open this vital bird nesting and caribou calving area to drilling for yet more oil (and revenue for Alaska). Next time you see Tundra Swans among the Trumpeters in Skagit fields or a big flock of Northern Pintails, think about their dependence on nesting habitat on that coastal plain. By the time you read this, the U.S. Senate may already have passed a budget bill with a provision tacked on to open the refuge to drilling. What can you do? Read about the issue at the National Audubon website: http://www.audubon.org/conservation/advocacy and take the suggested action. Then please sign up for Audubon action alerts.