The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will accept public comments through April 19 on a draft recovery plan for the Mazama pocket gopher, a burrowing rodent listed by the state as a threatened species.
The draft recovery plan, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01449/on WDFW’s website, outlines strategies the state and its partners will use to conserve and restore existing pocket gopher populations in seven areas of the south Puget Sound region.
Five of those areas are in Thurston County, one is in Mason County near the Shelton Airport, and another is in southern Pierce County and includes part of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
The primary goal of the draft plan is to maintain or increase pocket gopher populations in the seven areas where wildlife managers believe they have the greatest chance of long-term survival, said Eric Gardner, WDFW wildlife diversity manager.
“Much of the historical gopher habitat of the south Puget Sound area has been lost to housing construction and other development in recent decades,” he said. “This plan focuses on protecting gopher populations living on the larger remaining grasslands in prairie areas.”
Recent surveys conducted by WDFW confirm that the largest remaining gopher populations inhabit public land around the airports in Olympia and Shelton, and at JBLM in Pierce County.
To protect these and other key populations, the draft plan supports a combination of existing local land-use regulations, habitat restoration and educational programs designed to increase public understanding and acceptance of pocket gophers.
Gardner said all three counties included in the draft recovery plan provide protection for pocket gophers through their critical area ordinances. In addition, WDFW has been working with a variety of partners – including the two airports and JBLM – to maintain or restore essential gopher habitat.
“In many ways, the draft recovery plan reflects the management initiatives that have been in place since pocket gophers were listed for protection by the state in 2006,” he said. “This plan is really designed to provide more focus for those efforts.”
Updated State Hatchery Genetic Management Plans Available For Review
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will accept public comments through Feb. 15 on several updated draft management plans designed to guide state hatchery operations in portions of Puget Sound.
The draft plans, known as a Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans (HGMP), describe the operation of the state hatchery programs for Tumwater Falls fall chinook salmon; Minter Creek fall chinook; Hamma Hamma River fall chinook; and Nooksack River chum and spring chinook.
The draft HGMPs describe the potential effects of the programs on wild fish species – including salmon and steelhead – that are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The draft plans are available for review on WDFW’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/hatcheries/hgmp/) or at the department’s office in Olympia. To schedule an appointment to review the plans in person, call (360) 902-2782.
People who would like to receive email notification of updated HGMPs must subscribe at the website. All future notifications will be distributed to subscribers and posted on the website.
WDFW is updating the draft HGMPs to better reflect current efforts to protect and restore wild salmon.
Public comments, WDFW's response and any resulting modifications to the draft HGMPs will be posted on the department's website. The finalized HGMPs will be forwarded to NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for implementing the ESA.
NOAA Fisheries is currently working to produce a final environmental impact statement on the effect of hatchery programs on protected salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River and Puget Sound.
Recent work by University of Washington researchers shows noise in some Puget Soundshipping channels regularly meets or exceeds levels the federal government suggests may be harmful to marine life.
For a year, UW engineering students placed and monitored a set of underwater microphones called hydrophones in Admiralty Inlet between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend. They also deployed a device that, in real time, tracked precisely which ships sailed through that area at any moment.
They found that at least one big noisy vessel — a container ship, ferryboat or tug — was traversing that area's busy shipping lanes at least 90 % of the time. And they found that noise in the area from these vessels averaged about 120 decibels, a threshold federal agencies discourage developers from surpassing when they seek permits for work in or near the Sound.
Dock On Washington Coast Is Debris From Tsunami
The dock that washed ashore on a remote Washington beach last month has been confirmed as debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan.
The state Marine Debris Task Force says it was identified by the Japanese government through photos that showed a fender serial number. The dock came from the Aomori Prefecture and is similar to the dock that washed ashore last summer at Newport, Ore., also from the tsunami.
The Coast Guard spotted the dock Dec. 18 on a beach near Forks. It's within a wilderness portion of Olympic National Park and also within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and will be removed.
A crew has already scraped off 400 pounds of marine plants and animals in an attempt to prevent any invasive species from taking hold.