Endangered birds

Endangered birds were on the agenda at a meeting held at the forestry office in Port McNeill

Endangered birds were on the agenda at a meeting held at the forestry office in Port McNeill Feb. 24. The two-

hour meeting was an opportunity for Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO)

personnel to provide an update on the proposed provincial mandate surrounding Marbled Murrelet and

Northern Goshawk – two species at risk under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). The ministry is hoping to

get feedback from First Nations and stakeholders by the end of March and has created an inbox where people

can visit and write their opinions, said Steve Gordon, Manager, Biodiversity & Old Growth. (Stakeholders

include forest and environmental sectors and local governments.) Port McNeill was the 12th location where

Gordon, and Senior Ecosystem Biologist Darryn McConkey, had held engagement sessions. The overall goal

of the provincial government strategy is to maximize conservation benefits and minimize the socio-economic

impacts of conservation measures. “We’re proposing a made-in-BC approach,” said Gordon. What makes the

tiny Marbled Murrelet so special is that it is the only seabird that nests in the forest or on the ground at higher

altitudes where trees cannot grow. They are listed as threatened due to the loss and fragmentation of their old-

growth nesting habitat and threats in the marine habitats where they feed. “They fly inland quite far to nest,” up

to 50 kilometres from the ocean, said McConkey. They only lay one egg a year and the fledglings “have to fly

from their nest to the ocean on their first flight,” McConkey said. Marbled Murrelets are a migratory bird that are

found from Alaska to central California. Population estimates are at 100,000 birds – plus or minus 25,000, said

McConkey. The overall goal is to sustain populations (via maintenance of suitable 2002 habitat) at 70 per cent

of 2002 levels. The proposed strategy does allow for a population decline and minimum habitat thresholds vary

by Conservation Region (of which there are six). The proposed implementation plan will result in a reduced

timber harvesting land base and will “represent a provincial government commitment that prioritizes

management actions that are informed by science and also consider socio-economic factors. In the North

Island and West Coast, it is estimated that 6,900 hectares of timber land base will be taken out of production for

Marbled Murrelet, due to “the historic amount of habitat loss,” which can not be replaced, said McConkey. “The

science is showing they don’t adapt well to loss of habitat,” said District of Port Hardy Councillor Fred

Robertson. The objective of the provincial habitat stabilization program is that “we will still have a stable

population of Marbled Murrelet in BC,” McConkey said. “The forest companies will be key players in coming up

with something that is going to work,” he added. Regional District of Mount Waddington Manager of Economic

Development Pat English asked if the government has considered what the economical impact on the North

Island is going to be. The North Island has a population of about 11,000 people and “48 per cent are tied to the

(forestry) industry,” English said. “Every time we lose one per cent (of the timber harvest land base), there’s an

immediate impact on our population. It does threaten our viability,” said English. “We do have a team of

economists that are currently looking into this,” said Gordon. Their findings will be part of a decision package

that will be going to senior provincial government officials. “It’s obviously been flagged as a concern,” Gordon

said. It is difficult to comment, said District of Port Hardy Councillor Pat Corbett-Labatt, because “we could end

up recommending something that cuts our own throat.” The discussion then moved to the threatened Northern

Goshawk. The Northern Goshawk is the largest forest raptor, the size of a raven, said McConkey.They have

one or two chicks and do not breed every year.Northern Goshawk live in mature and old growth forests. They

are a wide-ranging species, distributed around the world, that are at risk due mainly to their small population

size, and the loss and fragmentation of their nesting and foraging habitat which can range from 3,400 to 6,800

hectares, said McConkey. Setting aside habitat for Northern Goshawks will impact 14,250 timber harvesting

hectares coast wide. However, there will be some overlap between Northern Goshawk and Marbled Murrelet

habitat. “We’ll be able to co-locate some of these areas (which will) minimize the impacts,” said McConkey

said. Modelling indicates between 680-780 Northern Goshawk territories could be supported on the BC coast.

The proposed home range target is 411, or approximately 60 per cent of the estimated number of home ranges,

including protecting 95 new breeding areas in BC by 2020. The next steps in the process for Marbled Murrelets

will be to negotiate a memorandum of agreement for interim protection; review habitat mapping; conduct

inventories in priority areas; and encourage shared stewardship of habitat on non-Crown land. A similar

strategy is planned for Northern Goshawks with the addition of establishing a genetics research partnership

with the University of British Columbia to compare interior and coastal goshawks; and additional inventory,

monitoring; and foraging habitat research.The results of the engagement sessions will go to the ministry in

June of 2016. Those wishing to provide feedback may go to nogo_mamu_feedback@gov.bc.ca.

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