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At-risk critters and habitat to be protected…comments requested

Black tern Photo: Mike Yip
Black tern Photo: Mike Yip

The at-risk ‘water-dependent’ critters that we protect under our draft Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan are pretty interesting. Some species live long lives in the wild—like 70-to-100 years, and we’re not talking mammals like whales. We are talking FISH and TURTLES! Yes, the yellow-eye rockfish can reach 39 pounds and live for 100 years, and little western pond turtle up to 70 years. And then there are FROGS. The 2-to-4 inch carnivorous northern leopard frog can eat its way through beetles, flies, ants, dragonflies and other bugs, and mysteriously move overland to migrate from breeding ponds to other waters (we know not how yet)—and the black terns that winter in south and central America and come to breed in the cattails and bulrushes of shallow waters of the Columbia plateau in eastern Washington. Take a look at our other covered species factsheets.

Western pond turtle. Photo: W. P. Leonard
Western pond turtle. Photo: W. P. Leonard

Washington’s Department of Natural Resources set out to find a better way to protect at-risk native aquatic critters such as these on the 2.6 million acres of lands under marine and fresh waters of the state, managed by DNR for all Washingtonians. That better way is contained in the draft Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan, now available for your review, along with all related documents.

The species above are a few of the ‘fascinating 29’ that DNR is working to protect through guidelines in an HCP. They also show us which habitat challenges and activities may be causing harm not only to them but to other critters that use the same habitats. DNR’s goals are to protect sensitive, threatened and endangered aquatic species, several of which have been listed under the federal Endangered Species Act; and to identify, improve and protect important habitats on state-owned aquatic lands.

The draft HCP took nearly eight years of effort by DNR aquatics staff, working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. The draft HCP formalizes DNR’s efforts to conserve and enhance aquatic lands, and provides a stable management framework grounded in science and based on the principles of sustainability.

Northern leopard frog Photo: K. McAllister
Northern leopard frog Photo: K. McAllister

Public Comments welcomed on environmental analysis of plan

The Services have jointly prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) to analyze the potential environmental effects of the proposed plan. This analysis will support permitting decisions to be made by each of the federal agencies.

We are soliciting your review and comments on the Draft EIS and other draft documents during a 90-day comment period beginning today, September 5 through December 4, 2014.    

Public meetings will be held in October to explain the HCP and how to best offer your ideas regarding the potential environmental impacts addressed in eh Draft EIS.