The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will hold three public meetings next month to collect public comments on proposals to reduce the state protection status for bald eagles and peregrine falcons.
At the same time, a proposed recovery plan for the sandhill crane, a state endangered species, will be discussed.
Meetings are scheduled for Aug. 7 from 7-9 p.m. at the Olympia Community Center, 222 N. Columbia; Aug. 8 from 7-9 p.m. at the Yakima Senior Citizens Center, 602 N. 4th St; and Aug. 14 from 6-8 p.m. at the WDFW Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd., in Mill Creek.
Washington's growing bald eagle populations have led the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to propose "downlisting" the birds' status on the state's species of concern list, while the continued endangered status of the sandhill crane has prompted the agency to develop a recovery plan for the bird.
WDFW maintains a list of endangered, threatened, and sensitive state species separate from lists maintained by the federal government. There are currently 24 endangered, 11 threatened and four sensitive species on the state's list.
Endangered species are those in danger of becoming extinct in the state; threatened species are considered likely to become endangered unless preventive steps are taken, and sensitive species are those which are vulnerable, showing declining numbers and are in danger of becoming threatened or endangered.
The state currently lists the peregrine falcon as endangered and the bald eagle as threatened and is considering a downlist of both birds to sensitive species status. Sandhill cranes are listed as an endangered species.
Bald eagles have made strong gains nationally, as well as throughout the state. Just 105 nesting pairs were located in a 1980 statewide survey but in 1998 WDFW documented 664 occupied nests.
This year there were 72 pairs of peregrine falcons throughout the state, a significant increase from 1980 when WDFW biologists began monitoring the population and found just four pairs. The bird was removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999.
"Bald eagles and peregrine falcons will still be protected by state and federal laws, and we will continue to monitor their progress," said Harriet Allen, manager of the WDFW's Endangered Species Section. "The state's proposal for eagles is in concert with a federal proposal to remove the bird from the national endangered species list, and the state's peregrine falcon population is not only growing, but the overall regional population has increased as well. "
The recovery from historical declines of both the falcon and eagle populations began after the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972. Increased habitat protection, as well as a reduction in illegal shooting and incidental trapping and poisoning, also contributed to their recovery.
Meanwhile, sandhill crane numbers remain weak throughout the state, where the species breeds, overwinters, and stops during migration between breeding and wintering grounds along the West Coast. A 2000 survey revealed just 19 territorial pairs and a total of 53 birds. Allen said the number of nesting pairs has been slowly increasing since 1972 when, after 31 years without a siting, the species began nesting again in Washington.
"The state's proposed recovery plan calls for protection of the existing breeding habitat and making more habitat available for both breeding and migrating cranes," Allen said.
The public review period for the draft status report on the peregrine falcon and the sandhill crane recovery plan begins Aug. 1 and runs through Nov. 1. The public review period for the draft bald eagle status report and proposed state rule revisions began June 1 and runs through Sept. 4.
The bald eagle reclassification proposal will be presented to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for approval at its December 7-8 meeting, while the peregrine falcon reclassification proposal is expected to go to the commission next April.
Copies of the reports are available at WDFW's main Olympia headquarters, on the Department's website and in public libraries. Copies can also be obtained by sending a request to email@example.com.
Comments on the reports must be received by WDFW by Nov. 1. Written comments can be mailed to: Endangered Species Section Manager, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA., 98501-1091.