Panel seeks ways to guard state's biodiversity


What's next
A committee formed to create a blueprint for statewide biodiversity protection will meet at 9 a.m. Jan. 30 at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, 100 Brown Farm Road, Olympia. The meeting is open to the public.


Jan. 21, 2003

Olympia, WA - A committee of diverse interests has begun work on a plan to protect the biological diversity of the state.

The 2002 state Legislature launched the Biodiversity Conservation Initiative, calling on the committee's 29 members to report back to state lawmakers and the governor by Oct. 1.

Biodiversity is loosely defined as the sum of all life forms living in a specific geographical area.

Committee members agree that it will take more than land-use regulations, environmental laws and public land set-asides to protect the state's biodiversity.

"We need to look for nonregulatory solutions and incentives to sustain biological diversity across the state," said committee member Ken Risenhoover, director of wildlife and fisheries programs for Port Blakely Tree Farms.

"You just can't put enough land in preserves and parks," added Leslie Brown of The Nature Conservancy of Washington. "And regulations only go so far."

The Nature Conservancy is managing the committee's efforts. The initiative budget is $160,000, including funds from the state, The Nature Conservancy and the Bureau of Land Management, according to Carole Richmond of the state Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation.

One of the goals of the legislation is to identify ways the state can move away from crisis-driven natural resource policies born out of such events as the federal Endangered Species Act listings of the northern spotted owl and several Northwest salmon stocks.

Protecting entire ecosystems will require the cooperation of public land managers and private property owners.

"Some 60 percent of the state land is in private ownership," Brown said. "Public lands can carry all of the responsibility for biodiversity."

Yakima County Commissioner Jesse Palacios, a member of the committee, echoed the need for a public-private partnership.

"The only way we are going to make meaningful steps in biodiversity protection is by working with landowners so that we can protect whole habitats on both private and public lands."

One of the balancing acts facing the committee is how to boost biodiversity without restricting landowners from using their land.

Committee members include: agribusinessman Alex McGregor, president of McGregor Co.; Naki Stevens, director of conservation for Audubon Washington; John Ladenburg, Pierce County executive; Dave McEntee, director of environment, health, safety and energy for the Simpson Investment Co., Donna Darm, assistant regional manager for the National Marine Fisheries Service and Terry Williams, natural resources director for the Tulalip tribes.


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