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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Lindell Haggin: State and individuals must at to protect biodiversity

Lindell Haggin

By Lindell Haggin

With spring now here, we usually start seeing more of the common harbingers of the season like robins and bluebirds. But some bird populations in Eastern Washington are facing significant threats from habitat loss, climate change and other human activities.

For example, much shrub-steppe habitat has long been converted to others’ uses and recently lost to the wildfires that are more frequent in the drought cycles exacerbated by climate change. Shrub-steppe species like sharp-tailed and sage grouse are state endangered, and sage thrasher, sagebrush sparrow, burrowing owl and others are candidates for protective listing.

The biodiversity these and other declining birds represent is essential for the health of our planet and its ecosystems. It helps maintain balance in nature, provides crucial resources for humans and our economy, and is integral to the survival of many species beyond birds.

One way our state legislators can help protect birds and promote biodiversity is by fully funding the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s $47.6 million biodiversity initiatives. Unfortunately, Gov. Jay Inslee denied this budget request, but legislators have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of how important biodiversity is to both our environment and our economy.

A diverse array of plant and animal species supports multiple industries, including agriculture, forestry, tourism and recreation. These industries rely on the availability of healthy ecosystem services, such as pollination, pest control and water regulation. Washington’s rich biodiversity supports a thriving recreation industry, including wildlife viewing, fishing and hunting. Protecting and promoting biodiversity contributes significant revenue to the state’s economy and provides employment opportunities for residents.

With full funding for their biodiversity initiatives the Department of Fish and Wildlife can finally implement the State Wildlife Action Plan. This plan serves as a roadmap for protecting and restoring habitats, preventing species from becoming endangered, and maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife. The implementation of this plan helps to ensure that Washington’s rich natural heritage is preserved for future generations.

The action plan also provides important guidance for land use decisions, natural resource management and wildlife conservation efforts, making it a key tool for protecting and managing the state’s biodiversity. By prioritizing conservation efforts and working together, we can ensure the sustainability of Washington’s unique wildlife for many years to come.

I encourage individuals and communities to get involved in birdwatching, bird-friendly landscaping and conservation efforts. Small actions, such as reducing pesticide use and maintaining year-round bird habitat with native vegetation plantings, can have a big impact on the health of bird populations and the overall health of our planet.

I also encourage contacting your state legislators about supporting the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s biodiversity funding that will help species and ecosystems beyond our backyards that are important to the overall health of our environment. Together, we can create a brighter future for all birds and all of us.

Retired teacher and avid birder Lindell Haggin has been a Spokane Audubon Society board member for over 30 years, serving as treasurer, education co-chair, and a coordinator for Eastern Washington citizen science projects. Lindell was named Washington Audubon’s 2020 Volunteer of the Year.