WEC sees our state forests as more than timber. Trees help clean our air and water and provide critical habitat for some of our most vulnerable wildlife – including marbled murrelets.
We will continue our efforts to ensure that state’s forests are managed sustainably, including encouraging responsible thinning and other innovative forestry practices, which can improve forest habitat. Without WEC’s work, the state would be clear-cutting far more of our forests and FSC-certified lumber would not be coming from our state’s public forests.
After three years of work and almost 1,000 comments to the Department of Ecology by WEC supporters, changes to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) makes new funding available to local governments, tribes and their conservation partners to protect working forestland at a watershed scale. Learn more here.
WEC has also secured protections for older forests, which are important to wildlife such as the spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and salmon.
What is an indicator species?
The marbled murrelet is what is known as an indicator species, meaning they are a species that help scientists measure the environmental condition of a region. A declining population of marbled murrelets suggests that the overall health of the region might be in peril.
Our state forests provide habitat for a number of species protected under the Endangered Species Act. By protecting marbled murrelet habitat, we are also protecting an entire ecosystem. Here is a list of all the federally listed species currently on Washington state lands:
Columbian white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus leucurus)
Gray wolf (Canis lupus)
Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori)
Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama subspecies)
Streaked horned lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata)
Northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)
Marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)
Snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus)
Western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)
Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa)
Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene hippolyta)
How are we protecting marbled murrelet habitat?
The marbled murrelet population in Washington has declined by 44% in the last fifteen years, leaving only about 7,500 birds. Because of this, Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife up-listed the murrelet from threatened to endangered in 2016. Read more about their studies here.
The biggest threat to the murrelet is commercial logging of its nesting habitat. The murrelet lays a single egg on the mossy branch of a large, old-growth tree. If more habitat isn’t protected, we could easily see the murrelet becoming extirpated in Washington.
But we can give the murrelet a chance at recovery!
The Department of Natural Resources, tasked with managing state-owned lands in Washington, is asking for public input on their conservation plans for the marbled murrelet. You can learn about the plans, including maps of proposed conservation areas.
What is the Sustainable Harvest Calculation?
Every 10 years DNR devises its next Sustainable Harvest Calculation. This number projects how many trees can be cut on the 1.4 million acres of state lands in Western Washington. This important but obscure decision has an enormous impact on our state. It determines how much habitat is protected, and how much revenue the beneficiaries can expect.
This number projects how many trees can be cut on the 1.4 million acres of state lands in Western Washington.
The draft EIS of the sustainable harvest calculation was released co-currently with the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy draft EIS in December 2016. You can find the SHC draft EIS here.
WEC is working hard to ensure the best, most scientifically sound policies are implemented. We’ve been encouraging the DNR to set a modern and forward-looking SHC for the next decade. Here are some of the policies we are asking the DNR to implement:
- Cutting trees should not be the only way to get money to the beneficiaries. The department should be analyzing new market opportunities including carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services payments. State forests can play a significant role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The DNR can fulfill its fiduciary duties while also making conservation a priority.
- The calculation needs to be an accurate number. Sometimes there’s a difference between how many estimated trees DNR calculates it can cut versus what they actually do cut. This gap is called arrearage. The fairest and most balanced option is to include the arrearage in this decade’s calculation.
- Completing the Sustainable Harvest Calculation before selecting the conservation strategy for the marbled murrelet does not make sense. The draft EIS for the MMLTCS was released at the same time as the draft EIS for the SHC. Until the US Fish and Wildlife Service approves a conservation strategy for the murrelet, it will not be possible to determine the environmental impacts of the Sustainable Harvest Level.
The Forest Stewardship Council®
The Forest Stewardship Council sets standards for responsible forest management. A voluntary program, FSC® uses the power of the marketplace to protect forests for future generations. The average American uses nearly six trees worth of paper each year. If we are going to harvest our forests for paper, lumber, and other products, we should strive to make sure those trees are sustainably sourced. That is why we are encouraging the DNR to get as many of its forests FSC-certified. Currently, of DNR’s 2.1 million acres of forested state trust lands, only 172,000 acres are certified under FSC.
How does FSC certification work?
FSC harnesses market demand to ensure forests are responsibly managed. Many major companies have policies that state a preference for FSC-certified products. Green building standards, including the US Green Building Council’s LEED program, provide incentives for using FSC-certified materials. Increasingly, consumers are requesting FSC-certified products in retail stores across the country. Many governments require the use of FSC-certified products. Companies that produce FSC-certified products gain access to these markets, and many others.
How is FSC different from other certifications?
FSC’s forest management standards expand protection of water quality, prohibit harvest of old-growth forest, prevent loss of natural forest cover and prohibit highly hazardous chemicals. For example, FSC prohibits the use of atrazine, which is otherwise legal in the US but banned in Europe because it has been shown to cause water pollution and birth defects. Other certifications allow atrazine use, including aerial spraying of the chemical.
FSC is the only standard with clear requirements to protect high conservation value forests. In areas where old growth is rare, the extent and values associated with old growth are strictly protected in an FSC-certified forest. Other certification programs do not require protection of old growth on certified forestlands.
Learn more about FSC here.