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Daily News Blog

11
Sep

Take Action: Officials Implored To Protect Ecosystems of National Wildlife Refuges

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge in WA

(Beyond Pesticides, September 11, 2023) As environmental groups pursue a legal strategy to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for its failure to protect a wildlife refuge from industrial aquaculture, they are also urging the public to hold Refuge officials accountable to the Refuge Improvement Act with a write-in campaign. (See Take Action campaign below.) Earlier this year, USFWS allowed the establishment of a commercial aquaculture operation that cultivates 34 acres of non-native Pacific oysters within a 50-acre tideland parcel leased  from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources within the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. The failure to fully evaluate the compatibility of this use with the purposes of the refuge raises concerns of compliance with the law governing National Wildlife Refuges throughout the country. Beyond Pesticides has said, “USFWS is willing to allow, for private profit, the industrialization of refuge lands for shellfish operations.” 

Refuges are critical habitat throughout the U.S. that protect critical ecosystems. According to the lawsuit, the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge shelters a bay rich in marine life. Eelgrass beds attract brant, shorebirds feed on the tideflats, and ducks find sanctuary in the calm waters. The Refuge is a preserve and breeding ground for more than 250 species of birds and 41 species of land animals. Dungeness Spit protects nutrient-rich tideflats for migrating shorebirds in spring and fall; a quiet bay with calm waters for wintering waterfowl; an isolated beach for harbor seals and their pups; and abundant eelgrass beds for young salmon and steelhead nurseries and some duck species, such as the Black Brant.

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland that the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge lease for industrial aquaculture must be rescinded.

In spite of demonstrated harm to birds, salmon, forage fish, and shellfish, and a recommendation by the National Marine Fisheries Service that “an alternative site be identified in a location that results in less potential impacts to wildlife that is more appropriate for aquaculture and meets the goals of the tribe,” USFWS approved a lease for an industrial oyster farm inside the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. This decision, which is in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, must be reversed. 

In the words written within an October 2022 USFWS internal memorandum, “Forgoing a compatibility determination in order to facilitate incompatible commercial activities by any entity would be a subversion of the fundamental requirements in the [USFWS] Improvement Act.” 

We are targeting the most recent case of the USFWS’s permissiveness in one of the country’s most pristine nature lands, the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge in the small rural town of Sequim Washington, just below the Olympic National Park. In this case, the shellfish corporation raises shellfish on other sites. They do not need to operate in a national refuge and deny wildlife their feeding and breeding grounds. 

The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge was created by Executive Order in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson, directing the area to be set aside as a “refuge, preserve and breeding ground for native birds and prohibits any disturbance of the birds within the reserve.” The front page of the Refuge website states: “Pets, bicycles, kite flying, Frisbees, ball-playing, camping, and fires are not permitted on the Refuge as they are a disturbance for the many migrating birds and other wildlife taking solitude on the Refuge.” With this level of concern, it is counterintuitive to allow destructive industrial aquaculture.  

Industrial shellfish aquaculture is known to reduce or eliminate eelgrass with the use of pesticides. Shellfish aquaculture also involves large-scale use of plastics—PVC tubes and plastic netting—that are hazardous to marine organisms and can trap and entangle wildlife. Commercial shellfish aquaculture is a major industry in Washington state that has significant impacts on the nearshore marine environments, which provide essential habitat for many species, including invertebrates, fish (including herring and salmon), and birds (migratory and shorebirds). 

Among the negative impacts of this project are: 50% reduction in bird primary feeding grounds;  plastic oyster bags that exclude the probing shorebird flocks from feeding deeply into the substrate, entrap fish and birds, add macro- and micro-plastic bits to the sediment throughout the refuge, and shift the benthic community composition; diminishing of the ecological benefits provided by eelgrass to threatened fish and birds, such as nourishment and cover from predators; and increased algal blooms that will leave a graveyard of dead oysters. These detrimental effects to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge are NOT minimal. Decisionmakers should not place financial benefits to the corporation above the long-term and cumulative impacts to the refuge. Half of the world’s 10,000-odd bird species are in decline. One in eight faces the threat of extinction. 2.9 billion breeding adult birds have been lost from the United States and Canada in only 50 years. 

Let’s raise our national voice and try and stop this refuge destruction with public persuasion. This is a public space we pay to protect. For more information, check out the Daily News post from last August, “Groups Sue U.S. Interior Department to Protect the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge from Industrial Aquaculture.” 

This action follows a lawsuit filed by three environmental organizations against the U.S. Department of Interior for failing to protect the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge from industrial aquaculture. The groups, including Protect the Peninsula’s Future, Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat and Beyond Pesticides, filed their complaint in the U.S. Western District Court of Washington State. The complaint states that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Department of Interior, must “take action that is required by the Refuge Improvement Act and conduct a compatibility determination and require a special use permit for a proposed industrial aquaculture use” that will abut and impact the Refuge. The plaintiffs are represented by the Seattle, WA law firm of Bricklin and Newman LLP. 

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland that the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge lease for industrial aquaculture must be rescinded.

The targets for this Action are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Secretary of State.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Letter to Hugh Morrison, Regional Director for the Pacific Region USFWS, and U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland: 

As a citizen and taxpayer of the United States, I strongly oppose your support for allowing a for-profit shellfish operation in the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. It is upsetting to learn that USFWS would have operations known to be destructive of the wildlife refuge and refuse to abide by its own compatibility determination regulations. 

In spite of demonstrated harm to birds, salmon, forage fish, and shellfish, and a recommendation by the National Marine Fisheries Service that “an alternative site be identified in a location that results in less potential impacts to wildlife that is more appropriate for aquaculture and meets the goals of the tribe,” UFWS approved a lease for an industrial oyster farm inside the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. This decision, which is in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, must be reversed. 

The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge was created by Executive Order in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson, directing the area to be set aside as a “refuge, preserve and breeding ground for native birds and prohibits any disturbance of the birds within the reserve.” The front page of the Refuge website states: “Pets, bicycles, kite flying, Frisbees, ball-playing, camping, and fires are not permitted on the Refuge as they are a disturbance for the many migrating birds and other wildlife taking solitude on the Refuge.” With this level of concern, it is counterintuitive to allow destructive industrial aquaculture.  

Industrial shellfish aquaculture is known to reduce or eliminate eelgrass with the use of pesticides. Shellfish aquaculture also involves large-scale use of plastics—PVC tubes and plastic netting—that are hazardous to marine organisms and can trap and entangle wildlife. Commercial shellfish aquaculture is a major industry in Washington state that has significant impacts on the nearshore marine environments, which provide essential habitat for many species, including invertebrates, fish (including herring and salmon), and birds (migratory and shorebirds). 

Among the negative impacts of this project are: 50% reduction in bird primary feeding grounds;  plastic oyster bags that exclude the probing shorebird flocks from feeding deeply into the substrate, entrap fish and birds, add macro- and micro-plastic bits to the sediment throughout the refuge, and shift the benthic community composition; diminishing of the ecological benefits provided by eelgrass to threatened fish and birds, such as nourishment and cover from predators; and increased algal blooms that will leave a graveyard of dead oysters. These detrimental effects to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge are NOT minimal. Decisionmakers should not place financial benefits to the corporation above the long-term and cumulative impacts to the refuge. 

Please let me know that you will write an honest compatibility determination. 

Thank you. 

 

Share

8 Responses to “Take Action: Officials Implored To Protect Ecosystems of National Wildlife Refuges”

  1. 1
    Cathie Wanner Ernst Says:

    Protect people and bees and not big biz.

  2. 2
    Tracy Feldman Says:

    Plastic oyster bags are destructive to the environment on which we depend. please disallow their use.

  3. 3
    Leslie Richardson Says:

    Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge must be rescinded.

    As a citizen and taxpayer of the United States, I strongly oppose your support for allowing a for-profit shellfish operation in the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. It is upsetting to learn that USFWS would have operations known to be destructive of the wildlife refuge and refuse to abide by its own compatibility determination regulations.

    In spite of demonstrated harm to birds, salmon, forage fish, and shellfish, and a recommendation by the National Marine Fisheries Service that “an alternative site be identified in a location that results in less potential impacts to wildlife that is more appropriate for aquaculture and meets the goals of the tribe,” UFWS approved a lease for an industrial oyster farm inside the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. This decision, which is in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, must be reversed.

    The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge was created by Executive Order in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson, directing the area to be set aside as a “refuge, preserve and breeding ground for native birds and prohibits any disturbance of the birds within the reserve.” The front page of the Refuge website states: “Pets, bicycles, kite flying, Frisbees, ball-playing, camping, and fires are not permitted on the Refuge as they are a disturbance for the many migrating birds and other wildlife taking solitude on the Refuge.” With this level of concern, it is counterintuitive to allow destructive industrial aquaculture.

    Industrial shellfish aquaculture is known to reduce or eliminate eelgrass with the use of pesticides. Shellfish aquaculture also involves large-scale use of plastics—PVC tubes and plastic netting—that are hazardous to marine organisms and can trap and entangle wildlife. Commercial shellfish aquaculture is a major industry in Washington state that has significant impacts on the nearshore marine environments, which provide essential habitat for many species, including invertebrates, fish (including herring and salmon), and birds (migratory and shorebirds).

    Among the negative impacts of this project are: 50% reduction in bird primary feeding grounds; plastic oyster bags that exclude the probing shorebird flocks from feeding deeply into the substrate, entrap fish and birds, add macro- and micro-plastic bits to the sediment throughout the refuge, and shift the benthic community composition; diminishing of the ecological benefits provided by eelgrass to threatened fish and birds, such as nourishment and cover from predators; and increased algal blooms that will leave a graveyard of dead oysters. These detrimental effects to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge are NOT minimal. Decisionmakers should not place financial benefits to the corporation above the long-term and cumulative impacts to the refuge.

    Please let me know that you will write an honest compatibility determination.

    Thank you.

  4. 4
    Marcelo Says:

    Protect ecosystems of National Wildlife Refuges

  5. 5
    Joyce Stoffers Says:

    The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge lease for industrial aquaculture must be rescinded.The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge was created by Executive Order in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson, directing the area to be set aside as a “refuge, preserve and breeding ground for native birds and prohibits any disturbance of the birds within the reserve.” The front page of the Refuge website states: “Pets, bicycles, kite flying, Frisbees, ball-playing, camping, and fires are not permitted on the Refuge as they are a disturbance for the many migrating birds and other wildlife taking solitude on the Refuge.” With this level of concern, it is counterintuitive to allow destructive industrial aquaculture.

  6. 6
    Eric Wollscheid Says:

    The lease must be rescinded.

  7. 7
    Sonia Romero Villanueva Says:

    Beyond Pesticides, September 4, 2023) Despite demonstrated harm to birds, salmon, forage fish, and shellfish, USFWS allowed commercial aquaculture to cultivate 34 acres of non-native Pacific oysters within the tidelands of Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge in Washington State

  8. 8
    Ahmad Mahdavi Says:

    Now bits and pieces of pesticides/ chemicals and their metabolites are found in all niches and habitats preventing the natural processes of speciation responsible for the development and diversification of animals since 100s millions of years ago.

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