by Tim Manns
This month’s report gives brief updates on some on-going issues. For more, see Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website https://skagitaudubon.org/~dpnhwzgi/conservation/notes).
Skagit Wildlife Area Management Plan: Skagit Audubon sits on the Advisory Committee for Skagit Wildlife Area, which includes almost 18,000 acres, mostly in Skagit and Snohomish Counties. Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) has completed a draft 10-year update of this plan. At a public workshop September 5th (6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Padilla Bay Interpretive Center) you can learn about the plan and comment. Besides laying out goals for the next decade, the plan succinctly describes the many places comprising Skagit Wildlife Area, from ones well-known to birders such as Fir Island Farms (Hayton) to Killibrew Lake on Orcas Island. It’s informative about the challenges WDFW faces protecting and managing this wildlife habitat. (Wildlife Areas | Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife)
Designating the Cascade River an Outstanding Resource Water: As stated on Washington Wild’s website, “A component of the federal Clean Water Act (1972), Outstanding Resource Water (ORW) designation allows states to identify pristine waterways that constitute an outstanding state resource due to their exceptional water quality, statewide ecological importance, and/or unique recreational value. Once a waterway is designated as such, it protects that river, stream, or lake from any future activities or development that would degrade water quality.” (Washington Wild Outstanding Resource Waters - Washington Wild (wawild.org)) The Cascade is a major tributary of the Skagit River important for salmon, Harlequin Ducks, and other wildlife. The Cascade’s upper watershed proposed for ORW designation is entirely in national public ownership (North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest). Skagit Audubon supports this designation. Our County Commissioners are opposed. (Ecology considers putting outstanding waters in a class of their own - Washington State Department of Ecology) To comment (deadline September 27, 2023), go to WAC 173-201A-Outstanding Resource Waters - Washington State Department of Ecology.
Safety Standards for Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals: March Point refinery accidents in 1998 and 2010 killed 13 workers. After years of deliberation by agencies and non-governmental organizations and individuals, the Department of Labor and Industries has proposed changes to improve safety and reduce toxic pollutant emissions. Skagit Audubon commented supporting the new standards for improved human safety and protection of the important habitats adjacent to the refineries: March Point heronry, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve.
Grip Road Gravel Mine: Many months after the public hearing on this proposed large gravel mine along the Samish River, the Skagit County Hearing Examiner has yet to issue a decision.
Restoring grizzlies to the North Cascades: The draft Environmental Impact Statement and public review of this long-delayed project should come by year’s end. As an organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and habitat, Skagit Audubon has long been a member of the Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear, a coalition for restoring this keystone species in compliance with the Endangered Species Act (Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear - Restoring a healthy population of grizzly bears to the North Cascades.)
For more information about conservation issues, see Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website (Skagit Audubon Society - Home) under the Conservation tab.