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

Congresswoman Herrera Beutler asks Interior to analyze murrelet strategy


U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler in a letter last week urged U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to make sure the habitat conservation plan (HCP) for marbled murrelets is based on science and not politically motivated.

Under the bird's long term conservation strategy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is requiring rural counties like Pacific and Wahkiakum to set aside state-managed trust timber land from possible harvests to protect the species, thereby jeopardizing the counties’ ability to harvest timber and generate revenue to provide basic services to their residents, the congresswoman said.

In the letter, Herrera Beutler stated the seabird's population is healthy in Alaska, where the majority of the population lives, but troubled in Washington's Puget Sound area.

"Less than 2 percent of the murrelets are found south of Canada, at the extreme edge of its natural range," the letter said. "Of that small number, the vast majority (90 percent) are found in the heavily populated Puget Sound area.

"In spite of 583,000 acres of state trust land that have previously been set aside from any possible timber harvests to protect the species, the USFWS is requiring additional set asides for the habitat conservation clan that is being developed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Prohibiting any potential timber management on an additional 37,000 acres of land that is in trust for our counties and schools will jeopardize their ability to provide even vital services to their residents.

"The decision by the agency to jeopardize the economic foundation of Pacific and Wahkiakum counties while essentially ignoring the Puget Sound – with all of its wealth and influence – and that region’s impact on the species, begs the question: Are the agency’s decisions regarding the Murrelet based on science, or politics?

"Secretary Zinke, I am asking you to step in on behalf of these counties and to work toward a conservation solution for the marbled murrelet that is both just and scientifically sound. The voice of our rural residents has been drowned out by those who attack their way of life, but I’ll continue to speak on their behalf. I hope you will join me."


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