Conservation Notes, March 2019
- Last Updated: March 9, 2019
Board Meeting Items - -
The 2 numbered items below are on the Skagit Audubon board meeting agenda for the March 5 meeting.
- Audubon Washington priorities for the 2019 WA legislative session
For updates by the Audubon state office staff, go to http://wa.audubon.org/conservation/legislative-session-2019 and click on “Weekly Legislative Updates”. The updates also describe other legislation which Audubon is supporting or opposing.
- 100% clean energy standard
SB 5116 has passed the Senate and is now in House committee (HB 1211).
- Clean fuel standard
HB 1110 (SB 5412) has passed out of committee and needs to come up for a floor vote before next Wednesday’s cutoff or it dies. Call or email your representatives and ask them to support bringing this bill up for a floor vote.
- Enhanced building efficiency standards
SB 5293 has passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee but has not made similar progress yet in the House (HB 1257).
- Protecting sagebrush habitat through innovative fire response programs such as Rangeland Fire Protection Associations
The relevant bill (HB 1188) did not pass out of the House Appropriations Committee and is dead for this session. Audubon will work on it in the next session (2020).
- Fully funding the Department of Fish and Wildlife's budget request
Audubon Washington supports WDFW’s 2019-2021 budget request as essential for supporting recovery of listed species and protecting wildlife diversity. Legislation has been introduced related to license fees (SB 5692/HB 1708) and assessing sales tax on recreational gear and apparel sales over $200 (HB 2122) to supplement WDFW’s budget.
As a member of the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), Audubon Washington also supports the coalition’s priorities. The 100% clean energy standard on the EPC list is the same as the similarly named item on Audubon’s list above. The other items on the EPC list include:
- Orca Protection
Most bills in this package are still moving forward.
- Plastic Bags Ban
HB 1205/SB 5323: both bills have moved to the Rules Committee in the respective chamber; i.e. they are still moving forward.
- Oil Spill Prevention
HB 1578 is still moving forward but SB 5578 is lagging.
On any of these bills still in play it would be helpful to contact your state senator and representatives asking for their support. Use the state legislature’s website (http://leg.wa.gov/. “How to comment on a bill”: https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/) or during working hours call the legislative hotline (1-800-562-6000).
- Audubon Northwest 1 Regional Meeting
The next meeting of the Northwest 1 Region of Audubon will be on April 3rd at Padilla Bay, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Board members from Skagit, North Cascades, Pilchuck, Whidbey, and San Juan Islands Audubon Societies will attend. Non-board members are also welcome. State office staff will present updates and lead discussions on topics of mutual interest among the chapters. This is always an interesting and worthwhile gathering.
Additional Action Items - -
- Strengthening the Protection of Heronries in Skagit County’s
Skagit Land Trust, which owns or has conservation easements on most of the known heronries in Skagit County, has proposed changes to the county’s Critical Areas Ordinance to better protect these communal nest sites. The proposal is based on recommendations of the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife for protecting heronries and basically calls for restricting certain activities (i.e. blasting; heavy construction) during the nesting season. The present ordinance, which is part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, gives little more than a nod to the significance and vulnerability of these sites. In February, Skagit Audubon submitted a letter to the Board of County Commissioners in support of the proposed changes. On March 11th at 11:00 a.m. the County Commissioners will take public testimony on all proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan and later decide which to docket for further consideration (3 minutes/person, which may be reduced to 2 minutes if there are many wishing to speak). Changes to the Comprehensive Plan are considered yearly. Docketed proposals will go before the Planning Commission, which will make a recommendation to the County Commissioners. If you wish to testify, you might find it helpful to look at talking points suggested by the Land Trust: http://www.skagitlandtrust.org/pages/takeaction.aspx .
Additional Actions by Skagit Audubon in the last month - -
- Motorized suction dredge mining reform
Skagit Audubon joined 83 conservation, recreation and wildlife organizations signing on a Washington Wild letter supporting HB 1261 and SB 5322 (Title: Ensuring compliance with the federal clean water act by prohibiting certain discharges into waters of the state.) in the Washington Legislature regarding motorized suction dredge mining reform. Present laws and regulations do not protect waterways from the damage caused by this activity. The bill would protect previous investments in salmon habitat restoration and preserve still intact salmon habitat in Washington’s rivers and streams. The bill passed the Senate on March 4th and is scheduled for a floor vote in the House. For more information go to https://wawild.org/take-action-protect-our-rivers-salmon-and-resident-orcas-from-unregulated-mining/ .
- Funding for Bird-related Programs in the FY2020 Interior Appropriations
Skagit Audubon signed on an American Bird Conservancy letter requesting increased funding in the FY 2020 Interior Appropriations bills including the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (just re-authorized by the U.S. Senate), Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, North American Wetlands Conservation Act (which has helped protect Barney Lake and other areas in Skagit County), Endangered Species Recovery, etc.
- Increased Funding for Endangered Species Conservation and Recovery
Skagit Audubon signed on a letter by the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, endorsed by American Bird Conservancy, urging the House Appropriations Committee to significantly increase funding for endangered species conservation and recovery starting in FY2020. This would facilitate compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
- The Bird-Safe Buildings Act
At this writing, the Skagit Audubon board is considering joining Seattle Audubon in urging our Members of Congress to support the Bird-Safe Buildings Act (HR 919). This act would require new federal buildings to meet certain criteria designed to prevent bird collisions, setting an example. Congressman Rick Larsen sits on the committee which needs to vote on this bill if it is to be considered further.
Additional conservation issues - -
- Natural Resources Management Act (S 47)
This large amalgam of over 100 smaller bills has passed the U.S. Senate and the House and awaits the President’s signature. As noted in the March issue of the Skagit Flyer, permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is a centerpiece of this legislation. We’re also happy to see the withdrawal from potential mining of over 340,00 acres of public land at the headwaters of the Methow River. It isn’t all good; some parts of the bill could have negative consequences, but there is much for conservationists to like. Senator Maria Cantwell played the key role with the Land and Water Conservation Fund portion, a program which has been successful for more than 50 years protecting wild lands and providing opportunities for outdoor recreation.
- Extending the Guemes Channel Trail through Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve (SHIP) in Anacortes
No additional information since last report.
- Updating the Management Plan for the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve
The WA Department of Natural Resources, which manages the state’s 8 aquatic reserves, is preparing a 10-year update of the management plan for Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve. This reserve includes 686 acres of Fidalgo Bay from State Route 20 past the Tommy Thompson Trail trestle to a line between Crandall and Weaverling spits. A group mostly composed of Skagit Audubon members has been working with DNR and ReSources to conduct monthly seabird surveys there during winter months. I’ve been reviewing DNR’s draft revision of the management plan as the sections are released. I also submitted the last ten years of Area 11 Christmas Count data which includes the reserve for use in updating the plan.
- Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion
Canada’s National Energy Board has completed its reconsideration of the proposed expansion of this existing pipeline (now federally owned) from Alberta’s tar sands to Burnaby on the British Columbia coast and is recommending the expansion take place. It is now up to the Cabinet of Canada, overseen by pipeline-supporter Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to decide on the project following further consultation with First Nations. The proposed expansion would triple the pipeline capacity and increase tanker traffic from the Burnaby terminal from 60 ships per year to more than 400. There would be a proportionate increase in the possibility of a spill and a significant increment in noise impacts to orcas as well as other environmental impacts. Completion of this project would likely also lead to an increase in the pipeline capacity from the Trans Mountain Pipeline to the March Point refineries. Washington Governor Jay Inslee has expressed opposition to the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline out of concern for impacts to shared international water and the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels. Read “In the Pipeline: Canada’s Energy Board Approves Trans Mountain Expansion” in Cascadia Weekly, Feb. 27, 2019 (http://www.cascadiaweekly.com/cw/currents/canadas_energy_board_approves_trans_mountain_expansion)
For information on additional conservation issues of concern to Skagit Audubon, scroll down to Conservation Notes from previous months.