The public can voice its opinion on recommendations to change the endangered species listing status for five protected wildlife species in the state.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended removing bald eagles and peregrine falcons from the state’s endangered species list. It also is recommending downlisting American white pelicans, from endangered to threatened status.
Agency wildlife managers also have recommend elevating the status of marbled murrelets and lynx to endangered from threatened status.
The department periodically reviews the status of protected species in the state. Staffers are tentatively scheduled to discuss the recommendations with the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at its November meeting.
45 The number of species of fish and wildlife listed for protection by the state as endangered, threatened or sensitive species.
Here is a brief look at each species:
Bald eagle: They can be found across state, but most of the population is west of the Cascades. The population dwindled following exposure to the pesticide DDT and, to a lesser extent, because of habitat loss. That led to the imperiled status of bald eagles, which were listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1978. Bald eagles have made an extraordinary recovery nationally and within Washington, according to wildlife biologists. Here in the state, there were 1,334 eagle nesting sites in 2015, compared to 100 in 2005. If the species is delisted in Washington, bald eagles would continue to be protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Act.
Peregrine falcon: This bird can be found throughout North America, including both sides of the Cascade Mountains. The species was listed as endangered in Washington in 1980 when only five nesting pairs were found statewide. A falcon reintroduction programs and a ban of DDT, which had caused the decline of falcon populations nationally, have helped the species recover. The department estimates there are 148 peregrine falcon nesting sites in the state in 2016, up from 70 in 2002. The peregrine falcon would continue to receive protection under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, regardless of its state listing classification.
American white pelican: A large nesting bird, white pelicans eat fish, amphibians and crayfish. The population and range declined in the 19th and early 20th centuries due primarily to habitat loss. The only white pelican breeding colony in Washington was established in 1994 on the Columbia River, north of Walla Walla, according to biologists. While pelican numbers have increased — more than 3,000 birds counted in 2015 — the pelican population is still vulnerable. Pelicans are sensitive to disturbances by humans or predators. Other factors include the loss of breeding and foraging habitats due to severe weather and changes in water levels. White pelicans will continue to be protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, no matter what the state does.
Lynx: This is the rarest of the three native cats, including bobcats and mountain lions, in Washington. Western Okanogan County is the only area in the state with a resident lynx population, estimated at 54 animals. Threats to this population include the loss and fragmentation of habitat due to wildfire, and the unpredictable effects of climate change, according to the department. There’s no indication that Washington’s lynx population has improved since it was listed for protection.
Marbled murrelet: This small, elusive seabird inhabits the southern Salish Sea and the outer Washington coast. These birds fly considerable distances inland to establish nesting locations, unusual behavior for seabirds. Marbled murrelets face threats from oil spills and net fisheries in marine areas and the loss of nesting habitat inland due to logging. There has been a substantial decline in old growth forest habitat since the species was listed by the state as in 1993. Murrelet population numbers in the state dropped 44 percent from 2001 to 2015. Wildlife biologists believe the marbled murrelet could become extirpated in Washington within the next several decades if solutions aren’t found to address the threats.
Online: The public can comment on the listing recommendations and draft reviews at wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/status_review.
Written comments: Can be submitted by Oct. 10, via email to TandEpubliccom@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Hannah Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.