FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2009
Public meeting about proposed Smith and Minor Islands Aquatic Reserve to be held April 29 in Oak Harbor
One of many opportunities for public to offer ideas, help define reserve
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and People for Puget Sound—the site proponent for the proposed Smith and Minor Islands Aquatic Reserve—will hold an open house-style public meeting on Wednesday, April 29 to provide information and gather ideas from the community regarding the proposal.
Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Date: Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Where: Oak Harbor High School 950 NW 2nd Ave.
At the meeting, a brief presentation will discuss DNR’s Aquatic Reserve Program and the proposal for the state-owned aquatic lands around Smith and Minor Islands. Following the presentation, the public will have the opportunity to have their concerns heard, offer ideas about the location of the proposed reserve, provide local information about the wildlife habitats and activities that occur in the area, and share their ideas about DNR management of the proposed reserve.
This open house provides an opportunity for greater public input into the sustainable management of state-owned aquatic lands.
Why would this area become a reserve?
DNR manages state-owned aquatic lands for a large number of uses. In addition to encouraging navigation and other water-dependent uses and public access, uses includes many others such as utility easements and outfalls, marinas, net pens for fin fish culture, or energy projects, to name just a few. By making an area an aquatic reserve, we work with the community to develop a site- specific management plan that specifies the uses within the reserve, and also may limit the activities that can take place on that site. Without a reserve designation and a plan in place to guide management decisions, DNR might consider a number of uses of the aquatic lands.
In 2008, the non-profit People for Puget Sound submitted a proposal that described why they want DNR to consider establishing a reserve on the state-owned tidelands and bedlands in the area around Smith and Minor Islands. They pointed out that the shorelines and deep waters surrounding Smith and Minor Islands are an important area for the following native species: tufted puffins, black oystercatchers, rhinoceros auklets, orcas, harbor seals, double-crested cormorants, halibut, rockfish, such as kelp greenling, lingcod, cabezone, and salmon. The proposal covers approximately 25,000 acres that extend the shores of Whidbey Island from Joseph Whidbey State Park to Fort Ebey State Park This proposal is supported by SeaDoc Society, the Wildfish Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Protect Peninsula’s Future, and a variety of other organizations.
What is outside the aquatic reserve designation?
Recreational and commercial fishing is managed by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Washington’s Treaty Tribes and would not be affected by management of the reserve. Aquatic reserve management does not restrict access to fishing, crabbing or boating, nor does it set harvest restrictions.
A reserve only would include DNR-managed state aquatic lands. A reserve does not include private tidelands or tribal lands, bluffs or beaches and does not impact private property.
DNR-Steward of state aquatic lands
As steward of the 2.6 million acres of state aquatic lands, DNR manages the bedlands under Puget Sound and the coast, many of Washington’s beaches, and natural lakes and navigable rivers. DNR manages these lands not only to facilitate navigation, commerce, and public access, but also to ensure protection of aquatic habitat. State-owned aquatic lands include:
• About 68,100 acres of state-owned tidelands, or 106 square miles
• 90,000 acres of harbor areas
• All submerged marine lands below extreme low tide—that’s 3,430 square miles of bedlands under navigable waters, as well as freshwater shorelands and bedlands
Peter Goldmark, who administers the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, is Washington’s 13th Commissioner of Public Lands since statehood in 1889 and the first commissioner from Eastern Washington.
Media Contact: Jane Chavey, Sr. Communications Manager, 360-902-1721, firstname.lastname@example.org
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