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OFCO Submits Comment on Navy’s NWTT SEIS Expanding Militarization of the Olympic Peninsula

The Department of the Navy announced that it will undertake a supplemental (SEIS) to the 2015 Northwest Training and Testing Final EIS/OEIS. The Navy is seeking comments on the scope of the SEIS:

“to assess the potential environmental effects associated with military readiness activities, including training and research, development, testing, and evaluation (hereafter referred to as “training and testing”) activities conducted within the EIS/OEIS Study Area (hereafter referred to as the “Study Area”). As part of this process, the Navy will seek the issuance of federal regulatory permits and authorizations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act to support future military readiness activities within the Study Area beyond 2020.”

OFCO submitted this comment, renewing concerns of earlier comments about segmenting the NEPA process associated with the more than 30 EAs/EISs/SIESs associated with the increased militarization of the Olympic Peninsula, scheduled over the next three years. The impacts on threatened and endangered species on the OP and in associated marine waters, human health and local economies have not been addressed properly in the Navy’s analyses. The Navy extended the comment deadline to Oct. 6, and provided a web portal for comments, a much-needed change in its procedure to inform and include affected communities.

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Olympic National Park Needs Your Help to Remove Non-native Mountain Goats

Dear OFCO Members and Supporters –

Please consider attending a meeting below and also commenting to support Olympic Park Associates (OPA) in their efforts to protect the Olympic National Park. They have worked on this issue for many years and have worked to achieve a compromise solution. Thank you for your help!

Support is needed for the draft plan to remove goats from Olympic National Park and Forest. Public meetings are scheduled for mid-August and comments accepted through September 26.

After decades of study and experiment, Olympic National Park has decided to take action to remove non-native mountain goats and restore degraded alpine habitats in the Olympics.

The Park’s preferred alternative (Alternative D) in its draft Mountain Goat Management Plan proposes to live-capture and relocate goats to native habitats in Washington’s North Cascades where goat populations are in steep decline. Following that, remaining non-native goats will be removed by aerial and ground-based shooting by park staff and trained volunteers.

OPA supports this sound and far-reaching approach to resolve this long-standing threat to the Park’s ecological integrity and public safety. We recommend the goal of the final plan be to eliminate all non-native goats from the Olympics.

The plan, developed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife with significant public participation, is a thoughtful and sensitive compromise approach. It will eliminate exotic goats from the Olympics, protect irreplaceable alpine plant and animal communities, and help restore struggling native mountain goat populations in the North Cascades.

We urge you to contact park planners and express your support for Alternative D: live capture and relocation followed by lethal removal.

If you can, please plan to attend one of these public informational meetings scheduled for mid-August:

Olympia: Mon. 8/14, 5–7 PM
Olympic National Forest Supervisor’s Office
1835 Black Lake Blvd. SW
Everett: Wed. 8/16, 5–7 PM
Everett Public Library Auditorium
2702 Hoyt Avenue
Port Angeles: Tues. 8/15, 6–8 PM
Olympic National Park Visitor Center
3002 Mount Angeles Road
Seattle: Thurs. 8/17, 5–7 PM
Seattle Public Library (Douglass-Truth Branch)
2300 Yesler Way

It is essential that this problematic threat to irreplaceable park resources, as well as visitor safety, finally be resolved.

To comment on the plan:

Go here and click on “Comment Now.” Support the park’s preferred alternative (Alternative D) and urge park planners to aim for complete removal of non-native goats from the Olympics, not merely a reduction in number.

For more information on the long-standing problem of non-native mountain goats in the Olympics, go to this Olympic Park Associates web page and follow the links for background.

To review the Park’s Goat Management Plan DEIS, click here.

Thank you for defending Olympic National Park’s wilderness and ecological integrity.

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Tell Governor Inslee to Protect Our Salmon and Our Sound from Atlantic Salmon Net Pens

OFCO, along with many other environmental organizations, has signed the petition urging Governor Inslee to stop the expansion of Atlantic salmon net pens. Oregon, California and Alaska have already banned Atlantic salmon net pens in order to protect the native fish and health of the waters. Cooke Aquaculture, an Atlantic salmon net pen conglomerate, is currently seeking a permit to install an extensive salmon net pen in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, east of Ediz Hook.

Wild Fish Conservancy, the author of the letter to Governor Inslee, is asking for individuals to sign onto the letter also. You can add your name by visiting this link.

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The Marbled Murrelet Bureaucratic Dance

by Marcy Golde

What’s been happening in the nearly endless story of the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) trying to, or not trying to, protect the Marbled Murrelet while harvesting timber to support its various beneficiaries? Since the DNR’s overall management plan was adopted in 1997, the murrelet has declined 44 percent. That plan required the development of a strategy to protect the murrelet. The first scoping draft was issued in 2006, but nothing happened. Planning for the murrelet started up again in 2011; it continues today and will for at least two more years.

If you have been tuned into OFCO’s communications lately, you know that there have been two big draft plans from DNR, which called us to hearings and to writing comments, both over the December holiday season. One plan was on the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy, and the other on the amount and type of timber harvest to be done over the next decade, called the Sustainable Harvest Calculation.

OFCO joined a group of seven environmental organizations to submit more than 276 pages of technical and legal comments. DNR received more than 5,200 comments on the murrelet; the Harvest Calculation drew more than 1,300. The magnitude of the response shows that management of the State’s forests is of real public interest.

Apart from the impressive number of responses, what did OFCO and the other environmental groups request? We found the alternatives presented in the two documents to be totally inadequate, so we created our own Conservation Alternative for the murrelet and made it part of our harvest comments too. We insisted that our Conservation Alternative be fully analyzed and considered along with the other alternatives, probably as a supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

Our alternative called for larger buffers, more habitat, additional conservation areas, and better protection of mature and old-growth forest. It objected to the other alternatives requiring too much harvest of murrelet habitat and not providing enough conservation to stabilize the population. It included a request to analyze the impacts on the murrelet of Navy training flights over the Olympic Peninsula. It also requested a full analysis of the Conservation Alternative, and no new Harvest Calculation without an adopted murrelet policy.

In comments on the Sustainable Harvest Calculation DEIS, we addressed a variety of ways to increase the revenue to the beneficiaries from each timber sale and requested establishing a broad-based high-level planning group to address the revenue needs of the county and school beneficiaries affected by murrelet protection.

What’s Next?

The Board of Natural Resources (BNR), and Commissioner Franz, seem to have decided to select the Preferred Alternative at the July meeting. This action would be a rejection of the Conservation Alternative—and disregard for the testimony of the EPA and the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Those agencies affirmed the need for significant habitat additions to all the alternatives considered in the DEIS, in agreement with details of the Conservation Alternative.

The Conservation Caucus has written to the Commissioner and the BNR opposing the selection of a Preferred Alternative without a full analysis and consideration of the EPA and WDFW requests and the Conservation Alternative.

Whether the BNR will adopt a new Sustainable Harvest Calculation without a finalized murrelet plan is unclear. In all cases timber cutting continues—as does the decline of the Marbled Murrelet, at the current rate of 4 percent per year!

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OFCO Welcomes New Board Director

The Olympic Forest Coalition welcomes Dr. Catharine Copass to the Board of Directors.

Dr. Copass is a Port Angeles-based ecologist. She has been working for the National Park Service on projects monitoring landscape changes and mapping plant communities in and around national parks in Washington state. She brings a wide range of technical and field skills and is excited to have this opportunity to help OFCO develop an independent assessment of the status of the state forests. (Please read about our new Wildlife Protection Project in our most recent newsletter.)