managed for the benefit of Pacific and Wahkiakum counties, into conservation status. The parcels were selected because each has timber harvest restrictions related to the endangered marbled murrelet, announced via press release dated September 11.
Marbled murrelets are a small, shy seabird that nest in old-growth forests and feed in the Pacific Ocean. Murrelets prefer large areas of coastal and near coastal old-growth forest. They avoid fragmented and partially developed forest landscapes, according to Conservation Northwest. They also report that the Murrelets have declined by almost 30% since 1992. Despite federal public land protections, in Washington State murrelets' old-growth habitat has declined by 10%.
Critical habitat is defined as areas within the geographical area occupied by a species...on which are found those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species and that may require special management considerations or protection essential for the conservation of the species.
In 1992, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed marbled murreletas a threatened species in Washington, Oregon, and California in response to steep declines in the abundance and distribution of their old-growth habitat. Murrelets face other threats: nest predation by crows and ravens, and reduced quantity and quality of the fish they prey on from changing ocean conditions.
Conserving old growth protects murrelets and hundreds of other species of wildlife. The Pacific Northwest's old-growth forests help mitigate climate change by storing more carbon than most other forests in the world.
Murrelets eat sand eels, herring, shiner perch, and more. Unlike most other seabirds, marbled murrelets are solitary; they do not form dense colonies. Murrelets are known to travel up to 50 miles inland to a nest tree, selecting old, craggy-topped conifers. Murrelets lay a single egg on natural, moss-covered platforms where large branches join the tree trunks of old growth Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and redwood trees.
In 1996 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates critical habitat for murrelets on 3,590,642 acres in Washington, Oregon, and California, required by the ESA in recovery plans for endangered species.
The Service's regional office is required to submit a status review finding, which was sent to the Washington D.C. office in April 2004. It stated that murrelets in Washington, Oregon, and California formed a distinct population from populations in Canada and Alaska and needed protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service headquarters contradicted the regional office's finding by rewriting the status review to indicate that the tri-state marbled murrelet populations do not qualify as a distinct population.
In 2009 US Fish and Wildlife Service determines that marbled murrelets must be protected.
By June 2013, Washington's DNR develops a marbeled murrelet conservation strategy for old-growth habitat in western Washington. By April federal protections upheld for murrelets when a federal court rejects timber industry's third attempt to eliminate critical habitat protections.
Pacific County will receive $356,000, based on the timber value of about 17 acres of State Forest Trust land, when the parcel is transferred into the Naselle Highlands Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA). The legislatively funded replacement program for state trust lands also will provide about $25,000 for DNR to purchase replacement working forestland better suited for producing revenue that supports county services.
Wahkiakum County will receive $320,000, based on the timber value of 49 acres of State Forest Trust land, when it is transferred into the Skamokawa Creek NRCA. DNR will use the parcel's land value of $73,000 to buy replacement working forestland for the county.
Julie Armbruster of the DNR's Asset Planning and Transactions Section said Tuesday that the total value of the property is $500,000; of that, $73,000 is the land value; the remainder is timber, which is split between DNR's management account, 25 percent of the value, and the county, 75 percent. The $320,000 is Wahkiakum's share and is what would be distributed if the trees were actually harvested.