TAS Conservation Committee 2022 Accomplishments by Kirk Kirkland
State Survey of Eelgrass: In January 2022, our committee learned of a state legislative effort to omit non-native eelgrass from a state wide survey of eelgrass, that was intended to restore habitat for salmon and other wildlife. Non-native eelgrass provides good habitat and performs many shoreline functions similar to native eelgrass.
Unfortunately, the geoduck industry finds all eelgrass a problem. If the state didn't survey all eelgrass, then the non-native could be targeted and eliminated as it was in Willapa Bay by helicopters spraying pesticides. Our committee members Zoomed in to the legislature for three separate public hearings. In the end, it was an Audubon member who negotiated with the legislative sponsor to upgrade the legislation and successfully add non-native eelgrass to the survey.
Shoreline Management Act: The Conservation Committee protects beaches and bird habitat by changing zoning using the county's Shoreline Management Act. In December, the County Council increased the length of protected shorelines by 50 miles. This latest change prevented new piers and docks from expanding into these natural shorelines below the ordinary high water mark.
Many of these areas have high bluffs that are used for nesting, while others have eelgrass that is helpful for the life cycle of salmon.
End of net fish pens in Washington: In November, the Washington Department of Natural Resources did not renew permits or offer new ones for net fish pen aquaculture. Our state joined California, Canada, and Alaska in reducing net fish pen leases, improving salmon habitat for the entire Pacific Coast.
Unfortunately, when Pierce county updated the Shoreline Management Act in December, net fish pens in the county were not outlawed, because the state law did not change when DNR withheld new leases. So this fight with WA Department of Ecology continues, as they insist that each county set aside land for net fish pens. We are the only state on the Pacific Coast that has not outlawed net fish pens.
City of Lakewood won a Climate Change award: As a result of this yearlong effort to rewrite the city's tree retention ordinance, the city agreed to expand its tree cover by 12%, from 18% to 30% of the city. Although the city made several other changes as well, the governor gave Lakewood a climate change award for adding enough trees to sequester enough carbon to offset the growth projected by their Growth Management Plan. Tahoma Audubon participated in the yearlong process with testimony and e-mails that contributed to achieving these changes with our partners.
Canyon Road Extension: The Conservation Committee protects working farms from industrialization and from suburban sprawl. In 1995, Pierce County Public Works department proposed a new 5-lane road through Puyallup Valley, which contains some of our largest and most productive farmland. The Canyon Road extension is unnecessary because there is an existing freeway parallel to this route that would move trucks quicker from Frederickson to the Port of Tacoma.
In stopping this proposal, the county council evidenced new priorities for county transportation projects. The new priorities direct new transportation projects into the Urban Growth Boundary to relieve congestion. This change helps retain the rural character of our farm roads, which are needed for slow tractors rather than semi-trucks eager to get back on the freeway.
Clover Creek Reserve: In 2000,this 15 acre reserve of Garry Oaks, creeks and prairie were set aside after a housing subdivision was proposed for the site. For 10 years the reserve was restored to enhance local salmon runs. Now the reserve has become important flyway habitat for migrating birds and for wildlife moving up and down the creek drainage. On weekends, Conservation Committee work parties are restoring corridors for wildlife and bird habitat in this area of sprawling homes in Spanaway and Parkland.
National Airport proposed for agriculture areas: State Airport Commission chose three possible airport locations in Pierce and Thurston County. These are located in ranchland and lowland forests in rural areas of both counties. Our Growth Management Plan did not designate these areas for urban development such as hotels, restaurants and parking lots to service a national airport.
The airport would impact Morris Wildlife Reserve and many creeks flowing into the Nisqually River. TAS has partnered with Thurston County Audubon Society and local neighborhood groups. Together we proposed legislation to the state legislature to prevent the Airport Commissioners from considering a proposed airport located anywhere in South Puget Sound counties.
Partners and old friends: Thiswas a transition year for local environmental partners. Mid-year, the local chapter of Sierra Club disbanded. For years the club provided leadership in many local issues and, during election years, reviewed candidates for public office and shared their evaluations.
Friends of Pierce County, who provided leadership on Shorelines and Growth Management issues, lost their long time Executive Director Marian Berejikian, who began working for Washington Fish and Wildlife. The group continues, but the diminished role of Marian and her leadership and experience with Growth Management is a loss to all of us.
What we do for birds, we do for climate change.
This conservation advocacy is done by an all-volunteer conservation committee with members like you. This work gives people meaning and purpose not always found in some vocations. Learn more about our projects and meet with us on the third Wednesday of each month, next on January 18th at 6 PM.