The first 3 items below were on the agenda for the June 2nd Skagit Audubon board meeting. All 3 include actions for Skagit Audubon members to take.
- Johnson-DeBay Swan Reserve observations
The Johnson-Debay Swan Reserve near Clear Lake was established in 2001as a non-hunted part of Skagit Wildlife Area where Trumpeter Swans could rest and feed in winter. For information about the reserve and directions to it: https://nwswans.org/where-to-watch/.The designation of the area as a non-hunted reserve is administrative, and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife could choose to reverse the designation and allow hunting. Immediately adjacent to the reserve there is WDFW property which is open for that activity in season. Martha Jordan of the Northwest Swan Conservation Association has repeatedly noted inappropriate activity at the reserve, such as dogs off leash and dumping of trash. WDFW has never had and is unlikely to ever have enough staff to frequently monitor the area. Martha therefore asks that birders visiting the Reserve at any time of year contact her with observations of activity contrary to protecting birds. It would also be appropriate to contact WDFW. Bird observations of any and all species in the reserve posted to eBird or reported directly to Martha will also help build and maintain the case for retaining the reserve status of this property. To contact Martha:
Northwest Swan Conservation Association
914 – 164th Street SE
Mill Creek, WA 98012
- Comment on the U.S. Navy’s request to use state parks for training
Scroll down to find details on this issue in the May Conservation Notes. Because of the controversial nature of the Navy’s request, it will not be considered at the July meeting of the State Parks Commission. The Commission plans to hold a public meeting focused on this request later in the year when large public gatherings may be possible. According to the State Parks website, the Commission will make a decision late in 2020 or early in 2021. Apparently it is possible to send comments any time before then: https://parks.state.wa.us/1168/Navy-training-proposal. The Navy’s position on this request and its response to actual or anticipated criticism is in a letter and presentation by Rear Admiral C.S. Gray, Commander, Navy Region Northwest at https://parks.state.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/15170/Navy-Special-Operations---WA-State-Parks-Commission-letter-3-12-20. The 29 parks where the Navy would like to conduct training include Cama Beach, Camano Island, Deception Pass, Fort Casey, Fort Ebey, Joseph Whidbey, South Whidbey, etc. The map on page 9 of the Environmental Assessment the Navy prepared in 2019 for its training program shows the locations (state parks, naval bases, etc.) where it proposes to conduct special operations training (Environmental Assessment for Naval Special Operations Training in Western Washington State https://parks.state.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/15033/Navy-Environmental-Assessment-FONSI). In the Navy’s estimation, there would be no significant environmental impact from the proposed activities. I will be drafting a comment letter for review by the Skagit Audubon board mentioning concern for potential adverse impacts to a variety of seabirds, terrestrial species, and rare plants particularly in and near Deception Pass State Park.
- Support for Deception State Park Expansion
The approximately 80-acre Nyberg property is situated adjacent to Deception Pass State Park west of Pass Lake and north of Rosario Road. A group of Fidalgo Island residents, in partnership with Skagit Land Trust, Skagit County Parks and Recreation Department, Deception Pass State Park, and The Conservation Fund (TCF), are working together to add this largest intact, privately owned piece of land on South Fidalgo Island to the state park. Funds needed for an appraisal are being raised locally, but the plan is that TCF would purchase and hold the property until it can be acquired by the State for addition to the park. It is anticipated that this could happen in the 2021‐2023 Biennium. The property ranks high in the State’s ranking for additions to the State Parks system. In early June, Skagit Audubon wrote a letter of support to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. As noted above, donations are needed to cover particular costs of this acquisition and addition to the state park. Skagit Land Trust is helping coordinate this effort. If you would like to help the park expansion happen, you can do so by donating to Skagit Land Trust, designating your donation for this purpose (Skagit Land Trust, PO Box 1017, Mount Vernon, WA 98274 360-428-7878 www.skagitlandtrust.org).
Additional, Late-breaking Item for Board Consideration on June 2nd:
- Constructing a parking area at the East-90
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has applied for a joint wetlands permit from the Department of Ecology and the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a 0.36 acre parking lot along Bayview Edison Road by what birders call the East-90. This is what was formerly known as the Welts property and is now part of the Samish Unit of Skagit Wildlife Area. Restoration work took place in 2016 to reestablish wetlands on this property which had been drained and farmed. The plan at that time, supported by Skagit Audubon before the Skagit County Hearing Examiner, called for a small parking area, but funds were not available in the project grant. The size of the parking area has been decreased from the original 1-acre plan to reduce impact on wetlands. The total area of wetlands to be impacted is 0.41 acres. Mitigation would consist of creating 0.82 acres of wetland on the WDFW property known to birders as the West-90. You can read about this project and how to comment on the permit application at https://apps.ecology.wa.gov/aquatics/notices/. The deadline for comments is July 2.
Issues needing action:
- Fish Farming by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific - - deadline for comments: June 8
Cooke Aquaculture’s fish farming operations require multiple permits from several state agencies. Skagit Audubon commented in opposition to the application for a permit from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to transition certain Cooke Aquaculture facilities from raising Atlantic salmon to raising triploid rainbow trout designed to be sterile. WDFW decided to issue this permit. Now Cooke Aquaculture has applied to the Department of Ecology (DOE) for a modification to its water quality permit as part of the same plan to change the type of fish to be farmed. In Skagit County these permits pertain to the company’s operation near Hope Island by the Swinomish Reservation. Skagit Audubon submitted comments on the June 8th deadline. ( https://ecology.wa.gov/Water-Shorelines/Water-quality/Water-quality-permits/Water-Quality-individual-permits/Net-pens. The website of the Wild Fish Conservancy has detailed comments submitted to DOE by the Our Sound Our Salmon coalition. https://www.oursound-oursalmon.org/submit-comments-now.
(The fish farm off Cypress Island, part of which collapsed in 2017 releasing thousands of Atlantic salmon, lacks another key permit, from DNR, and is not part of the present request.)
The May 2020 Skagit Audubon Conservation Notes include issues that would still benefit from additional public comment. Scroll down under “Conservation Notes” beneath the Conservation Tab on www.skagitaudubon.org to find information on these issues and more:
- Preserving the Roadless Rule
- Protecting the Skagit River’s Headwaters
- Improving the protection of heronries in Skagit County’s Critical Areas Ordinance
Some of the best ways for Audubon members to be advocates for the protection of birds and other wildlife and their habitat are to receive and act on action alerts from Washington Audubon and National Audubon. Sign up for Washington Audubon’s Action Network at https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/JGKjknsVTUKMSr4BoP2Nvw2. Recognizing that climate change poses the greatest threat of all to birds, Audubon Washington is especially focused on advancing policies and laws that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Find and participate in National Audubon ‘s current issue campaigns at https://www.audubon.org/takeaction. Sign up there to receive alerts.
Other issues Skagit Audubon is following
For information about these issues, on the Skagit Audubon website (https://www.skagitaudubon.org/) go to the Conservation tab, then to Conservation Notes and scroll down to earlier monthly editions.
1. DNR’s Marbled Murrelet Long-term Management Plan and Sustainable Harvest Calculation and related lawsuits.
- Revision of the Critical Areas Ordinance of the City of Anacortes in relation to protecting wetlands. Connected to this: the city’s proposed routing of the Guemes Channel Trail through the buffer of the Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve
- Increase in the number of Growler flights from Whidbey Naval Air Station and their effects on people and protected wildlife such as the Marbled Murrelet, along with the effects of radar-jamming training flights by Growlers over Olympic National Park (Marbled Murrelet, Spotted Owl, etc.) and adjacent marine shoreline and waters. A local group, Sound Alliance (https://sounddefensealliance.org/), and National Parks Conservation Association have succeeded in obtaining a Congressional requirement for the U.S. Navy to do actual noise monitoring rather than depending solely on modeling to determine likely impacts of the Growler flights.