Skagit Audubon Conservation Notes March 6, 2018
- Last Updated: March 9, 2018
100th Anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
For an overview of this issue, please see the Conservation Report on page 6 of the March 2018 Skagit Flyer newsletter (available on the Skagit Audubon website): http://skagitaudubon.org/documents/SASFlyerMar2018Color.pdf
The national administration’s proposed weakening of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is the greatest threat to our most important bird protection measure in its hundred-year history. Please add your voice to keeping this law strong and effective by urging your Member of Congress to uphold both the law and its implementation as is. There’s an easy way to do this via the National Audubon Action Center: go to www.audubon.org/takeaction. Click on “Defend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”
Renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Fund
This is another major priority for National Audubon which affects every part of the U.S. See the Conservation Report on page 6 of the March 2018 Skagit Flyer newsletter for why this is important and what you can do: http://skagitaudubon.org/documents/SASFlyerMar2018Color.pdf
Elk Management in the Skagit Valley
Skagit Audubon submitted a comment letter on this subject to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in September 2017 supporting the department’s management plan for the North Cascades elk herd. Concerted and bitter criticism of the department’s elk management by a small group of valley residents has garnered the support of the 39th District delegation and unrelenting pressure on WDFW to severely reduce the number of elk in the herd and potentially eliminate their presence on the valley floor. The state was endeavoring to meet an elk population goal set in conjunction with the Point Eliot treaty tribes, who are co-managers of this elk herd. This co-management arrangement, however, is not a legal requirement and WDFW’s new “harvest” plan for managing the herd was apparently written without tribal involvement. It is not based on the best available science and risks hunting elk to a degree that could severely reduce the entire North Cascades elk herd. Skagit Audubon stands with other organizations and individuals in recognizing and valuing the presence of elk in the Skagit Valley both for their ecological role and the enjoyment people experience observing them. Some of the most strident opponents have not chosen to utilize the public assistance available to mitigate claimed damage from elk, which suggests that their opposition has other bases. Letters in support of the elk herd are needed to WDFW regional director Amy Windrope and wildlife biologist Fenner Yarborough as well as 39th District legislators.
Extending the Guemes Channel Trail through Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve (Anacortes)
Public records requests by concerned citizens in Anacortes revealed planning being done by the city’s parks department to construct a 12-foot wide, paved continuation of the Guemes Channel Trail entirely through the wetland buffer at Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve. The ad-hoc committee opposing this idea has documented the city’s failure to comply with the Shoreline Management Act and its own promised mitigation in constructing the Guemes Channel Trail along the shore between the preserve and Lervick’s boat yard. Skagit Audubon board member Katherine O’Hara, with board approval made a brief statement of Skagit Audubon’s concerns for the trail proposal at the Anacortes City Council meeting on February 26th. Board member Phil Wright was also present. Board member Tim Manns attended the March 4th meeting at the Anacortes Public Library during which the ad-hoc committee presented its case for opposing the planned trail through the interpretive preserve. The parks department proposal for a 12-foot wide paved path is apparently connected to the hope of being awarded federal funds through WSDOT meant for development of non-motorized transportation routes (i.e. bike paths). The wetland buffer would lose its ecological functionality with such a trail constructed in it. There would likely be considerable impacts to birds and other wildlife which use the preserve. Anacortes residents should consider contacting their member of the city council and Mayor Laurie Gere. When (if) there is an opportunity for comment on the environmental impact analysis of this project, Skagit Audubon should consider weighing in, as well as addressing concerns before that.
Off-shore drilling for oil and gas - - Comment deadline: March 9
Skagit Audubon has joined many other Washington chapters in signing the comment letter by Dr. Trina Bayard, WA Audubon Director of Bird Conservation, opposing the federal administration’s plan to open the outer continental shelf to leasing for oil and gas.
The website for this proposal is https://www.boem.gov/National-OCS-Program/. Near the bottom of the second section look for the link to send comments (deadline March 9). This proposal will have detrimental effects on so many coastal areas important to migratory and resident birds and on the livelihood of millions of people. Please tell Secretary of Interior Zinke what you think of it.
Issues without action needed currently
Activity in the Washington State legislative session scheduled to finish March 8th - -
Governor Inslee’s bill to put a price on carbon emissions
Governor Inslee’s carbon pricing bill (Senate Bill 6203) was one or two votes short of being able to pass the Senate March 1. The bill had yet to go through the House. Unlike this time, a similar bill last session did not pass out of the key policy and fiscal committees to make it to the floor for a vote, so this year’s outcome is considered a step towards eventual success of such legislation. On March 2nd, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy filed a proposed initiative with the Secretary of State. For information, go to http://jobscleanenergywa.com/. The initiative calls for a $15/metric ton of carbon content of fossil fuels and electricity sold or used in the state starting in 2020 with increases in succeeding years. The Alliance needs to gather 260,000 voter signatures by early July for the initiative to appear on November’s ballot. Putting a price on carbon emissions was a key issue this legislative session for the Environmental Priorities Coalition, including Audubon Washington. The Audubon Washington board will be discussing carbon legislation proposals, and this will be a topic of the upcoming Audubon Washington regional meetings.
Improving Oil Safety in Puget Sound
This is one of the issues for the Environmental Priorities Coalition, of which Audubon Washington is a member. As of this writing, Senate Bill 6269 Oil Spill Prevention Act (“Strengthening oil transportation safety”) has passed the Senate and is in the House. This act would close the barrel tax loophole for oil arriving by pipelines (nearly 40% of the oil coming to the state) to fund improvements in oil spill preparedness passed in the previous session. 40th District Senator Ranker is a sponsor.
100% Clean Energy Standard
As of this writing, legislation to establish a time-line for phasing out fossil-fuel produced electricity in Washington State is still in play. Audubon is one of the organization’s working hard for its passage. The legislative session is scheduled to finish on March 8th. This is one of Audubon Washington’s legislative priorities.
Phasing out Atlantic salmon net pen aquaculture in Washington
This is one of Audubon Washington legislative priorities and met with success when House Bill 2957 passed the House and the Senate. 40th District Representative Kristine Lytton was prime sponsor. 40th District Senator Kevin Ranker also played a key role. If signed by Governor Inslee (likely), this bill will phase out nonnative finfish aquaculture in Washington's marine waters. The permit for the Cypress Island net pens has already been suspended by DNR due to failure to comply with its terms. Cooke Aquaculture made a concerted effort to block passage of the legislation in Olympia and has threatened action against the state under NAFTA.
Not in the current legislative session - -
Blanchard Mountain Strategy implementation
With the passage of the long-overdue Capital Budget early in the current state legislative session the funds are in place to implement the Blanchard Mountain Strategy to protect the core 1600 acres of this DNR-managed forest. Some of the funds will purchase private lands in Skagit County which will remain in forestry and not be available for development. The larger amount ($10 million) will enable a swap of other DNR lands for those in the Blanchard core that is to be exempt from logging. The core area has been officially renamed the Harriet Spanel State Forest for a well-respected 40th District state senator now passed away. The bad news is that the land deals must be arranged within 18 months of the passage of the Capital Budget. Given the many elected and agency officials and thousands of citizens who pushed for protecting Blanchard, there is high motivation to not let this victory slip away. The Blanchard State Forest is comprised of state trust lands. The Department of Natural Resources continues to interpret its fiduciary responsibility in relation to these lands as maximizing income to the trust beneficiaries over the long term. The beneficiaries include the Burlington-Edison School District, one of the local hospital districts, Skagit County’s general fund, etc.
Coast Guard Plan for Designating Anchorages near Vendovi Island
No new information.
EA-18G “Growler” Increased Airfield Operations and Electronic Warfare Training over the Olympic Peninsula
No new information.
Forest Management Bills in Congress
No new information. See the February Conservation Notes for suggested action to take.
Gravel mine (Concrete Nor’West) along the Samish River
Skagit County Planning and Development Services is reconsidering the permit application for this project after citizens provided additional, in-depth information about potential impacts to safety and the environment.
Great Blue Herons: better protecting their nest areas (heronries) in Skagit County’s Critical Areas Ordinance
Skagit Land Trust volunteers and staff have drafted suggested revision to the Anacortes Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) to strengthen the protection of heronies as well as areas where great blue herons forage and roost. The city’s CAO is currently being revised. Skagit Audubon should participate in public comment opportunities to support the changes that would benefit herons as well as those pertinent to other wildlife. Skagit Audubon should also support efforts by the Trust to make similar improvements to Skagit County’s CAO in its recognition of the importance of protecting heron habitat. The county CAO revision will take place later this year.
Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion to Vancouver, B.C.
No new information.
Lobbyist Robert Weidner and the Skagit County Commissioners on Public Land Management & the Endangered Species Act
At their meeting on Monday, February 12, 2018, the Skagit County Commissioners voted 2 – 1 to renew the county’s contract with Washington, D.C. lobbyist Robert Weidner despite concerted public opposition over the last half year. Without discussion during the meeting, Commissioners Wesen and Dahlstedt voted for, and Commissioner Janicki against, paying Weidner $12,000 for four months of lobbying work on the Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools programs and on issues related to public lands. Concerns relevant to Audubon’s mission relate to the latter given Weidner’s clear record of pushing for weakening the Endangered Species Act, drastically reducing environmental regulations related to logging on national public lands, reducing or delisting national monuments, etc. The commissioners have committed themselves to terminating the county’s long-time relationship with Mr. Weidner at the end of this 4-month contract. At this writing, the commissioners are in Washington, D.C. attending the annual legislative conference of the National Association of Counties, presumably availing themselves of Mr. Weidner’s services for introductions to agency and elected officials. We are eager to learn from them when they return about who they met with and what topics were discussed. See the February 2018 Conservation Notes for background on Skagit County’s relationship to Mr. Weidner.
Marbled Murrelet: WA Department of Natural Resource’s Long-term Management Strategy for this federally-listed species
As of this writing the Washington State House and Senate have passed House Bill 2285 calling for an annual study of the various economic impacts of whatever alternative is chosen by the state’s Board of Natural Resources and approved by the US Fish & Wildlife Service for managing marbled murrelet habitat on state trust lands (i.e. effects on the revenues generated for the public institutions that are the trust land beneficiaries, effects on timber jobs, etc.). The bill also establishes an advisory committee made up of stakeholders, including timber industry, local government, environmental groups.
Tesoro Clean Products Upgrade Project (CPUP)
An overflow crowd attended the February 27, 2018, appeal hearing before the Skagit County Commissioners’ of the County Hearing Examiner’s decision approving Tesoro’s application for a Shoreline Substantial Development permit for this project. This particular permit pertains only to those portions of the project taking place on the water or within 200 feet of the Mean High Water mark. A coalition of environmental groups opposing the project (including Stand.earth, Evergreen Islands, and others) maintain that the environmental impact statement for the project is inadequate and that a Shoreline Special Conditions Permit should be required. This was a quasi-judicial hearing before the commissioners. Defending the Hearing Examiner’s finding were the county’s Department of Planning and Development Services and Tesoro (a.k.a. Andeavor). Having participated in the scoping phase of the EIS and commented on the draft EIS, Skagit Audubon has standing but did not participate in the public comment opportunity at the appeal hearing for want of preparation time. The County Commissioners are to announce their decision on March 9. As a side note, this matter illustrates a peculiarity of the structure of Skagit County government. The 3-commissioner system (versus the county council system in adjacent counties) is the default form of Washington county government dating back to statehood. The commissioners are both the legislative and executive branches of the county government (i.e. they promulgate ordinances and direct their implementation) and at times are also the judiciary, as in hearing appeals to Hearing Examiner decisions and others. There is a growing movement to update our county government’s structure as has been done in Whatcom, Snohomish, King, and other Washington counties to create a more efficient, workable, and transparent system.
Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Terminal Project, Vancouver, WA
This proposed facility would have brought five unit-trains (100+ tank cars each) from mid-continent oil fields, along the Columbia River, to a terminal at Vancouver where the crude oil would have been transferred to barges and tankers. On January 29, 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee decided against permitting the proposed terminal. The project proponents have 30 days from that date to appeal. The Port of Vancouver has now cancelled the lease for the project location, effectively killing the terminal. This would have been the largest facility of its kind in the U.S.