'Spotted Owl II:' Marbled Murrelet Concerns Make Rep. Walsh Uneasy

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Ongoing efforts to protect the marbled murrelet and its habitat has state Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, worried that the bird could become the second coming of the spotted owl, which he blames for decimating the local timber industry in the 1990s.

In an effort to prevent the marbled murrelet from costing Washingtonians economic opportunity, Walsh recently joined a group of 11 lawmakers who sent a letter to the Department of Natural Resources urging the department to craft its strategy for the marbled murrelet’s long-term conservation strategy to meet only minimum federal standards for protections. Walsh and other members of the group are concerned that some methods intended to protect the birds could result in a negative impact on the local economies of communities in Wahkiakum and Pacific counties, specifically. In the 19th District, Walsh also represents the western part of Lewis County. 

“The state plan for dealing with the marbled murrelet could be an existential threat to the communities of Wahkiakum and Pacific counties,” said Walsh, in a press release. “DNR must act in the area’s best interest, and its own best interest, to minimize the damage caused by this bird’s listing as an endangered species.”

A robin-sized seabird, the marbled murrelet spends most of its time above the ocean and comes inland to nest in old-growth forests. Populations of marbled murrelets were first designated for federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in 1992. Since then there have been myriad delays in Washington’s effort to finalize its long-term habitat conservation plan.

“Many people in Southwest Washington are calling this the ‘spotted owl two.’ They are right.” added Walsh in the release. “It could have that kind of impact. I’m grateful to my colleagues who’ve signed on to this letter. They understand the urgency of this issue.”

The DNR is currently considering five different proposals to protect the bird species. A final decision is expected within the next few weeks. Walsh has come out in favor of “alternative B” which he says would meet minimum federal standards for species preservation while ensuring the least amount of negative impact on local economies.

A press release noted that Walsh, and his peers who signed off on the letter to the DNR, believe that reduced timber sales in coastal communities would “create significant economic hardship on counties and communities that can least afford it.”

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