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Oil Spill Funds Protect Old Growth Forest
Date Posted: January 22, 2003Over 100 acres of old growth forest, providing the largest contiguous block of marbled murrelet nesting habitat in the interior of Washington's Makah Indian Reservation, will be protected for the next 200 years under an agreement between the Makah Indian Tribe and the Tenyo Maru Natural Resource Trustees. The agreement, which protects portions of the Waatch Valley for conservation purposes, was signed on August 28, 2002 and is part of a plan to restore natural resources injured by the 1991 Tenyo Maru oil spill off the northern Washington Coast. The Tenyo Maru Natural Resource Trustees, who include representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Washington Department of Ecology (as lead state trustee), and the Makah Indian Tribe, are responsible for restoring natural resources injured by the spill. A dedication ceremony is planned for the Waatch Valley Land Use Agreement on the Makah Indian Reservation in early spring 2003. Under the agreement, approximately 135 acres of forest with old growth-stand conditions will be protected as nesting habitat for marbled murrelets, a threatened species protected by the State of Washington and the federal Endangered Species Act. Another approximate 150 acres of successional forest will also be protected to provide recruitment and buffer habitat.
Following the spill, claims for natural resource damages under the OPA were settled by consent decree resulting in a payment of approximately $5.2 million to federal, state, and tribal authorities. Approximately $1.4 million will be used for protecting the Waatch Valley property.
The agreement ensures that this area will be excluded from the commercial land base of the Makah Reservation for 200 years, protecting it from commercial timber harvest and other land use activities. In addition to protecting and enhancing marbled murrelet habitat, the agreement also will benefit other species dependent on old growth habitat; provide habitat for fish (including coho, chinook, chum, and steelhead salmon, and coastal cutthroat trout); and prevent increased silt production. The property will be administered by the Makah Natural Resources Department, which will post the boundaries of the property as wilderness and ensure that all activities related to the property are consistent with those established for Wilderness Management Zones.
The agreement between the Makah Tribe and the Trustees is the second of a number of marbled murrelet habitat restoration actions to be completed under the restoration plan. The first was the purchase of 338 acres of Teal Slough which have been added to Willapa NWR in southwest Washington. Other habitat protection and restoration projects will help restore seabird and kelp populations injured by the oil spill. These include efforts to protect and restore additional marbled murrelet habitats; restore common murre colonies in the Copalis NWR; educate the public to reduce disturbance of seabird nesting colonies; and potentially provide partial funding for an oiled wildlife rehabilitation center. Partial funding of an emergency rescue tug stationed at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect against devastating winter oil spills was also conducted under the Tenyo Maru restoration plan.