by Tim Manns
Skagit County Shoreline Master Program
In compliance with the Shoreline Management Act, Skagit County has updated its 1970s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) describing how it will protect the county’s fresh and saltwater shorelines. The revised plan must meet the Department of Ecology’s (DOE) approval. Through May 18th, DOE is accepting public comment on the draft SMP revision. You can read the draft and find instructions on commenting here: Skagit Hamilton Lyman Coalition - Washington State Department of Ecology. Though the county has signaled its intention to eventually address the effects of climate change in this plan, the present draft does not. Skagit Audubon has been coordinating with Audubon Washington (the state office) and several other conservation organizations urging the county to quickly proceed to amending the SMP to take account of sea level rise, changing flood regimes in the Skagit, Samish, and other watersheds, and to be more protective of shoreline ecological functions. If you would like suggested points to make in commenting to DOE, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Cascades Elk Herd
Elk ranged the Skagit Valley for thousands of years before Euro-American settlers extirpated them by over-hunting. The North Cascades Elk Herd grew from animals moved from Yellowstone National Park, Mount Saint Helens, and other areas. Today the herd numbers between one and two thousand.
In early April, the Fish & Wildlife Commission, which oversees the Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), held its regular meeting in Anacortes. On April 7th WDFW staff updated the Commission on the status of the North Cascades Elk Herd and issues related to the presence of elk in the Skagit Valley. WDFW co-manages this herd with Point Elliott Treaty Tribes to ensure a viable population and meet treaty obligations. Before the staff presentation members of the public could present brief testimony to the Commission on any relevant wildlife topic. The majority who spoke addressed the elk situation. A vocal minority of valley residents have long been extremely critical of WDFW for what they see as a failure to control these wild animals with resulting economic injury to farmers, collisions on State Route 20, grazing of school play fields, and damage to gardens. County Commissioner Ron Wesen, a dairyman, questions why WDFW does not take the same responsibility for elk that his extended family does for their dairy cows. The most extreme critics demand that elk be entirely removed from the valley bottom, an important part of their natural range since time out of mind.
Skagit Audubon presented comments to the Commission supporting the continued presence of elk in the Skagit Valley, as did most speakers. WDFW has gone to great lengths to compensate legitimate claims of economic loss, provide free fencing to protect crops, arrange for safely removing problem or diseased elk, etc. You can read about WDFW’s perspective at: https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/management/north-cascade-elk. Why do elk matter to Skagit Audubon? Our organization’s purpose is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. Elk belong in the Skagit Valley. People who live in elk habitat but insist that elk stay off their property as if wild animals were trespassers are perhaps living in the wrong place. Fortunately, there are Skagit Valley residents who welcome wildlife, including elk, and who actively restore and protect habitat and ecological corridors for them from the foothills to the river. Elk and people have long co-existed quite well in many parts of the U.S. and can do so in the Skagit Valley too.
For more information about conservation issues Skagit Audubon is following, see Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website (Skagit Audubon Society - Home) under the Conservation tab.