By Tim Manns
For many Audubon members, birding sparked or deepened an interest in conservation. It makes sense that caring about birds leads to support for protecting the habitat and environmental quality they need, benefitting people too. When development or resource extraction changes places we enjoyed watching birds the message is clear: habitat doesn’t protect itself. Simply valuing a place doesn’t protect it. The latest case in point, and a present opportunity, lies on the flats at the edge of Samish Island. Fifty acres with shoreline on both Alice and Padilla Bays, seasonal ponds, and what’s left of the slough making Samish technically an island, is for sale. Will this piece of Samish Flats end up with Skagit Land Trust and open to the public or become a waterfowl hunting club reserved for members only?
Twenty-nine years ago, three Skagit Audubon members, including Keith Wiggers who many of you know, founded Skagit Land Trust when our chapter was offered a gift of land. Three decades later, our local land trust is a leader in protecting and restoring habitat in Skagit County, with 3,000 acres directly owned and managed and over 5,000 more protected by conservation easements or through transfer to public land-managing agencies. Skagit Land Trust combines government grants with private donations to protect areas important to salmon, birds, and other species as well as places special to the human Skagit community. All too frequently we take for granted that the places important to us will remain the same. We regularly see the results of this mistake here where population is growing rapidly. Unless a place we care about is protected by legal provisions to keep it in conservation, it is liable to change to the detriment of birds and other wildlife and of our interest in protecting and observing those creatures.
Skagit Audubon’s mission calls for protecting and restoring the habitat birds and other wildlife require. On our own, we would be hard put to accomplish this, but fortunately partners who specialize in just this are at hand. One of these is Skagit Land Trust.
Which brings us to Samish Shorelines. Full disclosure – I serve on the Skagit Land Trust board, but I mention this current land protection project because my birding experience tells me that Samish Flats is a place we need to act to protect and restore whenever we can, or crucial habitat will inevitably be lost. The fifty acres for sale are just down the road from the West-90 towards Samish Island. The Land Trust needs to act quickly to acquire the property, and at this writing the prospect is good. A grant from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation program has been approved. The fate of a grant from Washington’s Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program won’t be known until the state’s capital budget is passed in April. Even with both grants, there will be considerable additional expense to remove extensive trash and restore the property. The sooner this happens, the sooner the area can for the first time be open for birding and other low impact activities. You probably have birded on land owned or otherwise protected by Skagit Land Trust without your knowing it. Consider helping protect the places you appreciate as a birder and thereby fulfill our chapter’s mission. Some ways to help:
2) Write your state legislators and encourage them to approve adequate funding in the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, part of the state’s capital budget. Funding this program and those which add to state parks and restore habitat is a top priority for Audubon Washington in this legislative session.
For information on issues Skagit Audubon is tracking and how you can learn about the progress of state legislation and contacting your representatives during the current session (ends April 25th), go to “Conservation” on the Skagit Audubon website (www.skagitaudubon.org) and click on “Conservation Notes”. Also see conservation reports in recent issues of the Skagit Flyer.