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OFCO Joins 122 Conservation Groups to Oppose Forest Provisions in Farm Bill – Bill Fails

The Wilderness Society (TWS) led the effort to oppose the forest provisions in the Forestry Title of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), known as “the House Farm Bill that aimed at deconstructing decades of conservation work for our federal forests.” See some of the attempted rollback of environmental protections here.

The bill failed passage in the House (yeas 198 to 213 nays). According to TWS, the takeaway: This version failed because of its radical departure from the past more bipartisan efforts. The Senate will be taking up some version of the farm bill. The regressive goals of the bill likely will come back in other forms; for now, they have failed. They include:

  • Repealing the Conservation Stewardship Program and incorporating parts of the program into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program;
  • Revising the requirements and process for the Environmental Protection Agency pesticide registration program;
  • Requiring farmers to make a one-time election to obtain either price loss coverage or agricultural risk coverage for the 2019–2023 crop years; and
  • Expanding the categorical exclusions that exempt certain forest management activities from requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act to prepare an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement.

(excerpted from the Congressional Research Service bill summary)

See the conservation letter here.

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OFCO Opposes Expansion of Penn Cove Shellfish Project in Quilcene Bay: Outdated and Inadequate Science

The Olympic Forest Coalition (OFCO) submitted comments to the Jefferson County Dept. of Community Development on the controversial expansion of the Penn Cove mussel raft operations in Quilcene Bay. OFCO expressed concerns over the inadequate scientific documentation underlying the conclusion that the new project will not pose significant impacts to threatened and endangered species, to the habitat in Quilcene Bay, and to public health in nearby swimming beaches. Penn Cove has applied for a 60% expansion of their operations. Penn Cove currently subleases the Coast Seafood Dept. of Natural Resources tidelands lease for the project and the expansion will add 9 more mussel rafts to the existing 24. Mussel raft operations in Hood Canal and Puget Sound are raising protests. The Olympic Peninsula Environmental News (OPEN) blog posted a recent article on other mussel projects.

Environmental and legal concerns over the lack of strong regulatory oversight by the Washington State Dept. of Ecology go back several years. OPEN’s blog linked to a 2014 law review article in the Seattle Journal of Environmental Law discussing the subject.

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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Coast Seafood Petition for En Banc Review

The U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied Coast Seafood’s petition for en banc review. The Court has discretion to allow en banc review by 11 judges where there are grounds to do so.

OFCO alleges that Coast Seafoods is violating the federal Clean Water Act by discharging pollutants from an oyster hatchery on Quilcene Bay without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. Coast previously had claimed its oyster hatchery is the world’s largest shellfish hatchery, capable of producing over 45 billion eyed oyster larvae per year. Coast moved to dismiss the case and lost at the District Court, saying it was not required to apply for a permit. In March the Ninth Circuit decided that Coast is not exempt from the permit requirements.

The case will go back to federal District Court for decision unless Coast chooses to apply for a permit and settle the case. Coast also has the option of appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Coast Seafoods Delays Complying with Clean Water Act – Asks Court to Re-review Its Decision

Coast Seafoods has petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for an en banc review (review of the appellate decision by the Ninth Circuit by 11 judges). The Ninth Circuit Court has the discretion to grant the petition or not, but there must be a basis for the court’s review.

In an interview by the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader, OFCO President Connie Gallant said, “We are not trying to close the business and only want the company to get a permit and filter any pollutants. The goal has not changed. That is the way to keep the bay cleaner. It’s the only fair thing for residents of the community. Kids swim in the bay and around the marina, and there’s a lot of activity from shrimpers. It affects our local economy if the waters are full of brown crud coming out of their pipes.”

The Ninth Circuit will respond to the petition in the next several weeks, either to grant it or not. See the original decision by the Ninth Circuit and more information here.

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Marbled Murrelet Conservation Topic of Interview

Author photo by Michael Ruth 2017

Maria Ruth, author of the book Rare Bird and member of Black Hills Audubon, was interviewed on the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy (LTCS) decision facing our state on the TVW show “The Impact,” which will be following the story as it evolves. We have a way to go to tell the story of the Marbled Murrelet. The narrative that protecting endangered species is responsible for the decline in forestry and timber-dependent counties is still dominant, even though the economics of timber, the excessive clearcut harvests of the seventies and eighties reducing available supply, and profits on foreign exports eclipsing paying American wages in local mills are equally important factors.

Latest news on the timelines: The second Draft EIS on the “preferred alternatives” for the LTCS will be out in late summer.