Conservation Groups Call For Increased Protections For Rapidly-Declining Seabird

Monday, May 13, 2013
Marbled Murrelet
Marbled Murrelet
- photo by U.S. Forest Service

In a letter sent Monday, over 100 conservation and scientific organizations are calling on the Obama administration to provide new protective measures for the Marbled Murrelet, a federally-listed bird species whose population is rapidly declining.

The letter asserts that the “accelerated decline of this species is an indication that current protections for its old-growth forest habitat need to be augmented, benefitting clean air, clean water, wild salmon runs, carbon sequestration, and other ecosystem services uniquely provided by these irreplaceable forests.”

A recent peer-reviewed study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Forest Service found that the Marbled Murrelet’s population in California, Oregon, and Washington had declined by 29 percent over the last decade. This trend is consistent with the government’s 2009 five-year status review of the species, which concluded the population could be extinct outside of the Puget Sound area within 100 years.

“More needs to be done. These findings indicate that current efforts to eliminate threats and protect habitat are not enough to bring this species back,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy, a leading bird conservation group. “Additional habitat protection, acquisition of new forest reserves, and improved recreation management offer hope for its eventual recovery.”

Murrelet habitat on state and private lands continues to be lost to logging. One study (Falxa et al) documented a 30 percent loss of murrelet habitat on nonfederal lands within the tri-state range between 1996 and 2006. That same study recognized timber harvest as the primary cause of habitat loss on nonfederal lands.

Proposed changes to the Northwest Forest Plan have also left the species’ habitat more vulnerable to disturbance. The final 2012 Northern Spotted Owl critical habitat rule encourages logging in owl-critical habitat, which, in part, overlaps with that of the murrelet. Agency analysis included in the owl rule’s draft environmental assessment indicates that such management practices would likely be harmful to the Marbled Murrelet. Logging—both clearcutting and commercial thinning—increases fragmentation, opening the forests to nest predators such as crows, ravens, and jays.

“To conserve the murrelet, a plan is needed that will protect the remaining habitat and prevent fragmentation in nearby forests to minimize predation and nest disturbance,” said Mr. Holmer. “These steps would offer hope for the Marbled Murrelet, and help to preserve an ancient forest legacy for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations of Americans.”


System For Reserving Camp Sites At Chester Frost Park Online Is On The Way

County officials said a system is being developed to allow members of the public to reserve coveted camp sites at the county's popular Chester Frost Park. County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the system has been working in tests by the county's IT department. A few final tests are underway. The county mayor said the system will avoid having applicants stand in line at the park. (click for more)

Alexander: Tennessee Receives $10 Million For Foothills Parkway To Improve Access To The Smokies

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that a $10 million federal transportation grant he supported will help complete a 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway in Blount and Sevier counties, improving access to the federally owned and operated Great Smoky Mountains National Park and “enhancing tourism and economic development” in East Tennessee. “I grew up hiking, ... (click for more)

Baylor School Tennis Coach Charged With Buying Meth In Whitfield County, Ga.

A Baylor School tennis coach has been arrested on charges of buying meth in Whitfield County, Ga. Philip Johnson, 51, of Ooltewah, was taken into custody on Thursday and charged with attempt or conspiracy to violate the Georgia Controlled Substance Act, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and use of a communication facilities during drug transactions. ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Whiskey Company To Construct Large Distillery At Former Site Of Newton Chevrolet

The Chattanooga Whiskey Company has begun construction on a larger production distillery in the former Newton Chevrolet property at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Riverfront Parkway near the Tennessee River. Once fully operational, the Riverfront Parkway facility will be capable of producing upwards of 14 (53-gallon) barrels per day, making it one of the largest craft bourbon ... (click for more)

Judge Steelman Was Unfairly Criticized In Handling Of School Bus Driver Rape Case - And Response

We are blessed to have freedom of speech in our society, but I am always amazed at the number of folks who voice such strong antagonistic opinions about things without any apparent first-hand knowledge.   As any who wish to criticize the system should know, people get arrested and charged for criminal offenses every day.  The ultimate charge and penalty which results ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vote For Rhonda Thurman

After studying the Hamilton County School Board quite harshly during the last seven most-tumultuous months in its history, it is only proper that I share my belief that Rhonda is its Most Valuable Player. Four of the school board’s nine members are up for re-election, with Rhonda facing capable opponents in Jason Moses and Dr. Patti Skates in District 1, but let’s never forget that ... (click for more)