WDFW to review status of western gray squirrel, seeks public comment

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking updated information on western gray squirrels as the agency reviews the species’ threatened status in Washington.

WDFW is looking for information on topics such as the condition of western gray squirrel habitat, population levels in different regions, or private conservation efforts that have benefitted the species.

“The scientific data we gather from individuals as well as private and public groups will help the department determine whether to reclassify the western gray squirrel,” said Penny Becker, WDFW listing and recovery section manager.

The agency will accept public input on western gray squirrels through March 28, 2015.

Once hunted in Washington, western gray squirrels have been protected in the state since 1944 and were added to the state’s list of threatened species in 1993.

Western gray squirrels historically were more widespread in Washington but today inhabit three isolated regions: the Puget Trough in Pierce County; the southeastern foothills of the Cascade range (primarily Klickitat county); and the North Cascades (Chelan and Okanogan counties). The amount of suitable habitat for the species has declined due to the effects of urbanization, logging and land conversion, Becker said.

WDFW initiated this review after accepting a citizen petition to consider giving western gray squirrels a greater level of protection by elevating the species’ status to endangered. The petition presented sufficient information to warrant a more detailed status review, Becker said.

“We were planning to evaluate the status of western gray squirrels as part of the initiative we announced earlier this year to review all species currently listed in Washington as endangered, threatened or sensitive,” Becker said. “The petition just bumped up how soon we’ll look at western gray squirrels.”

Written information may be submitted through WDFW’s website athttp://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/status_review/comments.html, via email to TandEpubliccom@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Penny Becker, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

WDFW would seek additional public comment should the agency propose a change to the western gray squirrel’s listing status in Washington.

For more on western gray squirrels and other species under review, visit WDFW’s website athttp://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/status_review/ .



The Decline of the Western Gray Squirrel

The western gray squirrel was added to Washington’s list of state threatened species in 1993 when surveys indicated a decline in its geographical distribution. The species was once common at low to mid-elevations in dry forests where oak, pine, and Douglas-fir mix, and could be found in the south Puget Trough and Columbia River gorge and on the east slope of the Cascades north to Okanogan County. Its range is now limited to three isolated populations and each of these has serious threats to their continued persistence. These threats include (1) habitat loss and degradation from human development, catastrophic wild fires, logging, fire suppression, and invasion by weeds; (2) highway mortality; (3) disease (e.g., mange, tularemia); (4) possible competition with eastern gray, eastern fox, and California ground squirrels, and wild turkeys; and (5) potential loss of genetic diversity and inbreeding resulting from the small sizes and isolation of populations. State lawRCW 77.15.130 protects nest trees used by western gray squirrels. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists will consult with landowners to protect and enhance oak/conifer habitat.

Wind Power Reaches Milestone for Bonneville Power Administration


Of the 22 wind farms that contributed to this record, six have come on line this year.  Most of the wind power in the Northwest, although largely owned by private developers, is connected to BPA’s transmission grid, primarily east of the Columbia River Gorge.  BPA has built five substations and six taplines to tie wind farms into its transmission grid with more in progress.  BPA also has just begun constructing the first of 14 new meteorological stations that will facilitate wind forecasting.

As wind development increases, new transmission will be needed to carry the energy to population centers, which are some distance from the wind farms.  This summer, BPA broke ground on a major new project, the John Day-McNary 500-kilovolt transmission line in eastern Oregon and Washington.  When energized in late 2012, the transmission line will deliver more than 575 megawatts of additional wind energy across BPA’s transmission system.  Nearly two-thirds of the wind power in the region goes over BPA’s system.

“The Northwest has clearly distinguished itself as a leader in the effort to add wind to the mix of resources that helps power the nation," Silverstein said.  “States are calling for adding more clean, renewable sources of energy to the region’s power supply and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is clear evidence that power providers are responding and taking action to address the region’s changing needs.”
Wind power that enters BPA’s transmission system serves consumers throughout the Northwest and in California, including customers of Puget Sound Energy, PacifiCorp, Avista and Portland General Electric, as well as the region’s publicly owned utilities, Silverstein said.

In addition to adding substations and transmission lines, BPA is supporting wind power by working to overcome significant challenges to integrating large amounts of a variable resource, such as wind, into its grid.  This is critical to the advancement of wind because the amount of generation entering the grid must equal the amount consumed. 

BPA is instituting new operational procedures and developing new technologies to deal with the variability of wind on the system.  “Wind presents a unique set of challenges, but we are working aggressively to solve them,” BPA Administrator Steve Wright said.  “It’s exciting to be figuring out in real time how to make this all work, and we are confident we’re making real progress.”

“Two years ago, we thought we might see 6,000 megawatts of wind power in the Northwest by 2023. We now expect to see more than 6,000 megawatts of wind power in the BPA grid alone in the next five years,” Wright said.  “We’re working closely with utilities and the wind community to develop the new transmission management tools we’ll need to do it well.” 

 The more than 2,000 megawatts of wind power in BPA’s Northwest transmission system are expected to triple in the next five years.

The chart above can be accessed at:  http://www.transmission.bpa.gov/Business/Operations/Wind/WIND_InstalledCapacity_current.xls

BPA is a not-for-profit federal electric utility that operates a high-voltage transmission grid comprising more than 15,000 miles of lines and associated substations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.  It also markets more than a third of the electricity consumed in the Pacific Northwest. The power is produced at 31 federal dams operated by the U.S. Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation and one nuclear plant in the Northwest and is sold to more than 140 Northwest utilities.  BPA purchases power from seven wind projects and has more than 2,200 megawatts of wind interconnected to its transmission system.