Skagit County and Washington State have made progress in the battle against COVID-19. Nearly every Washingtonian has now been impacted by the pandemic and we are beginning to see the positive results of increasing vaccinations. In recognition, we will begin offering field trips to members and friends with certain limits. Depending on the trip leader, we will limit the size of the field trip to 10 to 15 people including the leader. Participants that are fully vaccinated will be welcomed and requested to maintain 6 feet spacing at all times.
Carpooling will be discouraged and at the discretion of individual drivers. We encourage participants to follow good hygiene practices, especially when sharing binoculars or scopes.
The hiking group will begin a new season when the Governor moves the State to Phase IV of pandemic protocol. Joan Melcher, Hiking Chair, will provide more details at the appropriate time.
JUNE MEETING – PRESENTED ON ZOOM
If you missed the excellent and informative June 8th Zoom presentation “The Migratory Shorebird Project: Connecting Communities of the America’s through Research for Conservation” by Dr. Matthew Reiter from Point Blue Conservation Science, a recording is now available at the following link: https://youtu.be/0c2Q14UTP5g
If you missed the excellent May 11th presentation about avian ecological research and conservation in the SE Peruvian Amazon by Dr. Ursula Valdez, the recording can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/fua5akE9B1o
Conservation Report - June 2021
By Tim Manns
Happily, I can lighten the gloom of May’s Conservation Report. Just when it seemed the state legislature would not pass any major bills addressing climate change, several made it - - with conditions. The two which would most reduce greenhouse gas emissions are the Clean Fuel Standard (HB 1091) and the Climate Commitment Act (SB 5126, “Cap & Invest”). With transportation accounting for 44% of Washington’s carbon emissions, really addressing the climate crisis requires transitioning away from fossil fuels. The Clean Fuel Standard does this. The Climate Commitment Act will reduce emissions from the largest single sources and also invest in the transition. The compromise in passing these bills tied their implementation to passing a transportation package before January 2023. On May 17th, Governor Inslee signed the bills but vetoed the delay provisions, likely prompting a legal challenge. The Governor stated, “Our climate commitment, made by our legislature in 2020, is to cut climate pollution by over 50% in the next nine years, on our pathway to net-zero climate pollution by 2050. It won’t be easy, but these bills go a long ways to getting us there.
Another happy outcome of the session was passing operating and capital budgets that did not cut funding for conservation and land-managing agencies, such as the Department of Fish & Wildlife, and amply funded grant programs for acquiring and restoring habitat. This was another of Audubon Washington’s priorities for the legislative session. Examples of what this means in Skagit County include funding to add the last large undeveloped South Fidalgo Island tract to Deception Pass State Park and a grant to Skagit Land Trust through the Estuary & Salmon Restoration Program, which paired with a federal grant and many generous private donations has bought and will clean up 50 acres of Samish Flats at the entrance to Samish Island.
Audubon and its partner organizations in the Environmental Priorities Coalition also prioritized passage of the HEAL Act (SB 5141, Healthy Environment for All). This bill codifies the definition of environmental justice across state agencies and requires considering environmental justice in their decisions. Unfortunately, adding climate change adaptation to the Growth Management Act (HB 1099) requirements did not succeed. However, the operating budget includes funds to create guidance for counties and cities to reduce carbon pollution and adapt to the impacts of climate change by directing growth away from rising seas, wildfire risk, flooding, and drought. This sets the stage to pass HB 1099 next year. In the meanwhile, we can work to convince our county and cities to voluntarily address climate impacts in updating comprehensive plans and shoreline master programs. Much more could be said about the pluses and minuses of the 2021 legislative session, but it’s safe to say that more was accomplished than expected in an unprecedented session conducted for the most part virtually because of the pandemic. Let’s be sure to thank our legislators who made good things happen despite the challenges.
As always, you can read about other issues Skagit Audubon is tracking in the Conservation Notes on the chapter website (www.skagitaudubon.org), but I would mention one more here. In mid-May the Skagit County Commissioners did something they had declined to do the last several years: despite 700 letters in opposition, they docketed a petition to amend the Skagit County Planning Policies to allow Fully Contained Communities (FCC’s). Docketing opens the path for further study of a planning proposal and the very real possibility of its approval by the commissioners. Counties closer to Seattle which have allowed FCC’s have come to regret these large housing developments which plunk urban density into rural areas leaving the county responsible for services that cities provide in incorporated areas. Under the Growth Management Act, Skagit County and the incorporated towns and cities here agreed years ago that 80% of the new growth our county is required to accept would take place in the Urban Growth Areas (UGA’s) established around the towns and cities. These UGA’s have enough capacity for this growth, yet the County Commissioners approved the first step in the process towards allowing (misnamed) FCC’s in Skagit County, meaning huge housing developments in unincorporated, rural areas. The more accurate term for FCC’s is sprawl and opening the door to them would significantly threaten agricultural and forested lands in Skagit County. The lack of sufficient housing and its skyrocketing cost are a serious problem, but opening the door to multi-thousand home developments outside incorporated areas is not the solution and could well mean the end of much that we value here, including habitat for swans, snow geese, bald eagles, … This is an issue for us all to watch and speak out about.
ANNUAL ELECTION TO BE HELD ON JUNE 8th
The election of Officers and At-Large Directors for the Skagit Audubon Society fiscal year July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 will be held during the annual meeting on June 8th, 2021, 7 p.m. The meeting will be conducted on the Zoom platform.
Skagit Audubon Society Candidates for Board July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022
Officers President Jeff Osmundson (one year) Vice President Vacant Treasurer Neil O’Hara Secretary Don Jonasson
At-large Directors Tim Manns Conservation Chair Sheila Pera Education, Adult Chair Kim Nelson Education, Youth Chair Libby Mills Field Trip Chair Lisa Hopkins Finance Chair Joan Melcher Hikes Chair Pam Pritzl Membership Chair Mary Sinker Publications Chair John Day Diana Hoffman Katherine O’Hara Jeff Sinker Ann Skinner Alice Turner
SAS hosts event ar Wylie Slough
SKAGIT AUDUBON hosted an educational event for the public at Wylie Slough on Sat., May 8th and although it was scaled back due to ongoing COVID requirements, it sure felt good to be able to engage with people and share the joy of spring birding. Wiley Slough offers remarkably diverse and yet inter-connected habitats that continually draw a wide variety of bird species throughout the year. Spring birding is no exception and the interdependence between birds and the estuary/wetland habitat at Wiley is a great educational opportunity.
Members of the public were able to see some of the SAS mounted birds, ask questions and look through scopes for close-up views of some of the more distant shorebirds (Dowitchers and Yellowlegs). The nesting Great-blue Heron was in full view and the male Great-horned Owl was napping in a tree just off the main trail, not surrounded by branches and leaves!
Thank you Kim Nelson, Jane Brandt, Sheila and Ron Pera, Alan Brewer, Di Hoffman, Jeff Osmundson, Tim Manns, John Day, and Neil O’Hara for all the work before, during and after the event.
The Education Committee needs volunteers to help with a number of adult presentations coming up in the next several months. These Power Point presentations are scheduled at libraries and private organizations/clubs in the area. If you can help give part of a presentation (already written), that would be great; or, you can assist with the computer and help answer questions from the audience. If you can lend a hand, please contact Sheila at email@example.com
Skagit Audubon Society holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month except for the months of July and August. We meet at 7:00 pm at Padilla Bay Interpretive Center(Google map), 10441 Bayview-Edison Rd. Mount Vernon. Meetings are open to all.
The board of directors meets at the same location at 7:00 pm on the first Tuesday of each month, except for the months of July and August.