Black Hills Audubon Society requests postponement of upcoming air show to accommodate lark breeding season   


Conservation group Black Hills Audubon Society (BHAS) is requesting the Port of Olympia to postpone the upcoming air show scheduled for June 15 and 16 to after August 15 so the event does not overlap with the breeding season of larks.  

In a letter signed by Sam Merrill, chair of BHAS’ conservation committee, and sent to the port on May 28, BHAS stated that the event would violate the required mitigations contained in an environmental permitting document that the port issued in 2014 for its updated master plan update for Olympia Regional Airport.  

The document was a mitigated determination of non-significance, which determined that the master plan update did not require a full review under the State Environmental Policy Act but nevertheless contained measures to mitigate the adverse impact of the project. 

According to BHAS, the determination included measures such as avoiding certain activities in nesting areas during the nesting season between March 15 to August 15. Such activities include mowing, vehicle and aircraft traffic, model airplane flying, dog walking, and gatherings of people or vehicles.   

BHAS also wrote that the air show violates a memorandum of understanding (MOU) the port has with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a conservation strategy for the streaked horned lark.  

The MOU, according to BHAS, stated that the port should avoid personnel and vehicle activities in lark nesting areas from March 15 to August 16 every year while the port is still developing its habitat conservation plan.  

BHAS held that the port will likely allow parking around gopher mounds to accommodate the air show’s participants. The group believes that parking on supposedly off-limit habitat areas would lead to the destruction of the mounds and even result in the loss of lives.  

The conservation group is also asking the port to end fire training activities by Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) which are being conducted on lark habitat areas. 

The letter stated that members of their group photographed two large helicopters landing on lark habitat on May 1 as part of what the group held was a training exercise by DNR. One of the helicopters stood on the ground for at least ten minutes with its rotor activated.  

BHAS stated they have contacted port management about the training activities but have not received a response so far. 

BHAS member Sue Danver raised these issues with the Port of Olympia Commission during the public comment section of the commission’s meeting on Tuesday, May 28.  

Commissioners do not normally respond to public comments, but Commissioner Jasmine Vasavada requested port staff to put the issue on the commission’s agenda in a future meeting.  

The upcoming air show is the 24th anniversary of the annual event hosted by the Olympia Flight Museum at the Olympia Regional Airport.  

According to a press release, the event will feature historic and modern aircraft displays, aerobatic demonstrations, visiting performances, and a World War II encampment with real military vehicles and uniformed personnel. DNR will also perform an aerial fire attack demonstration. 


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  • Duffish

    The Declaration of Non Significance measures seem very broad to the extent that the Port cannot comply with them. March through August is an extremely long period for a Lark breeding season and activities at the Port cannot be scaled back to accommodate this. I believe this should be re-examined. The air show activities can be delayed, but other activities are part of an airport's necessary functions for training and upkeep.

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