Threatened Bird Populations
Quartermaster Harbor, which lies between Maury Island and Vashon Island, has been declared by the Audubon Society as an “Important Bird Area” due to its rare intact ecosystem and eelgrass bed habitat (Audubon Society Washington Watchlist Webpage). The beds support herring, which are an important food source for many of the bird species that breed in Quartermaster Harbor (Audubon Society Washington Watchlist Webpage). Several of the species that use the area are either federally listed as being threatened or are strong candidates for state recognition as threatened species. Included on this list are the Marbled Murrelet, Common Loon, and Brandt's Cormorant (Audubon Society Washington Watchlist Webpage). In addition, Quartermaster Harbor plays a large role in Grebe ecology, with 8-10% of Washington’s total Grebe population using it as winter habitat (Holt, A1). Western Grebe populations have declined by about 95% since the 1970s, from 120,000 birds to less than 5,000 in the year 2000, making Quartermaster Harbor an important refuge for remaining birds (Holt, A1). Marbled Murrelets are also on the decline, having lost nearly 96% of their population to oil spills, loss of habitat, and gill nets (Holt, A1; Audubon Society Marbled Murrelet Webpage).
These integral bird populations that are being threatened helped to prompt the Washington Department of Natural Resources to select Quartermaster Harbor and the southeastern shore of Maury Island as an aquatic reserve in 2003. One of four sites selected in the state of Washington, this particular area is not only rich in species of birds, but also includes many other diverse habitats such as extensive eelgrass beds, kelp beds, herring spawning grounds, Chinook salmon migratory corridors, and bottom fish rearing habitats. The proposed shoreline has been surveyed by the department and was found to have 78% of its expanse covered in eelgrass beds, which provide food for marine species as well as anchoring sediments and keep sub tidal environments moist (Maury Island Aquatic Reserve Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement). It was felt that the creation of the reserve would positively impact the aquatic vegetation through the implementation of good management policies, as well as setting standards for operations and construction in regard to marinas, over-water structures, recreational docks, and mooring buoys. An aquatic reserve would help create a healthy ecosystem that connects all of these habitats, which would create economic advantages and opportunities to enjoy these aquatic ecosystems for generations to come (Washington State Department of National Resources Webpage).
The Department of National Resources would partner with King County and the Department of Ecology to help the species in the marine habitat by improving water quality and minimizing soil erosion and shoreline hardening. These improvements would be countered by the actions of Glacier Northwest, which could contribute to the depletion of water quality as well as the destruction of bluffs and shorelines across the site.
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