The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Commissioners wary of murrelet proposals


November 12, 2015

The next steps in developing a state habitat conservation plan aren't filling Wahkiakum County commissioners with optimism.

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has tied, or encumbered, over 3,000 of the county's 12,000 acres of trust timberland as potential habitat for the marbled murrelet, an endangered sea bird that nests on big limbs of old trees.

The agency, which also manages timber harvests off the trust lands, has had little or no logging on them in recent years, and that has hurt revenue for county government.

At its regular monthly public meeting November 3, the state Board of Natural Resources began the process of comparing five alternative proposals aimed at conserving habitat for the marbled murrelet on state trust lands in western Washington.

“I’m pleased with the robust discussion of the alternatives for conserving marbled murrelet habitat,” Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands, said in a press release. “We have reached a critical milestone in our process.”

Developed by the DNR and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the alternative conservation strategies presented to the board would formally designate for long-term conservation between 594,000 and 734,000 acres of the 1.4 million acres that DNR manages in western Washington for the bird’s long term conservation.

Maps of the lands set aside in the various conservation strategies include much of the Wahkiakum County trust land.

This Tuesday, county Commissioner Dan Cothren, who has represented the county in lobbying on timber issues, said he wouldn't judge the alternatives because they lack information about economic impacts.

"It's not clear cut on what (harvesting) you can do," he commented at the Tuesday board of commissioers meeting. "There are no numbers on volume in the alternatives. Until you find that out, how can you pick something?"

Cothren and officials from Skamania and Pacific counties are putting their energies into trading their counties' encumbered lands for other state land that could be harvested. The encumbered lands would go into conservation status, and the counties would receive revenue from timber harvests.

"We need to make a full circle and get the some unencumbered lands so this county can get back on its feet," he said.


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