Protecting wildlife habitat, agricultural and forest lands, scenic open space, wetlands, and shorelines for the benefit of our community and as a legacy for future generations.
Skagit County – It’s Worth Protecting
With a population of 118,000 people, Skagit County in Northwestern Washington is a rural county renowned for its wild and scenic rivers, expansive floodplains, fertile agricultural lands, native forests and abundance of wildlife. This natural wealth, within 60 miles of the major metropolitan area of Seattle to the south and Vancouver B.C. to the north, makes the Skagit stand out as a special region in the United States. The artery of the county is the Skagit River, one of the principle rivers in the Western United States, draining more than 3,000 square miles. The Skagit River boasts one of the largest endangered wild Chinook salmon runs in Puget Sound and is the only river in the state that supports all five species of native salmon. Standing above the river are the still-wild North Cascade Mountains. The upper elevations in the county are forested and glacier-clad designated wilderness, providing critical habitat wildlife. In the lowlands, where over 90% of the county’s population resides, extensive floodplains and farm fields create open space, agricultural wealth and offer world-class bird habitat. The Skagit has the highest number and variety of raptors in North America. Conifer forests, extensive eelgrass bays, rocky cliffs, islands and rich estuaries line the county’s coastal edge and form the entrance to the San Juan Islands.
What's at Stake
The natural riches in Skagit County are, however, under threat. With Skagit County’s location between two growing metropolitan areas, loss of the county’s natural heritage is happening at an alarming rate. Sprawl and development are particularly placing lowland ecosystems in Skagit County at risk - streams, streamsides, floodplains, lowland forests, marine shorelines, freshwater wetlands and agricultural lands. Population growth for the county has surpassed population growth rates in other areas of the state with a 31% increase between 1990 and 2001. Development is funneled to the lowlands and river basins with on-going disturbance to ecosystem integrity and loss of open space.
Yet even under this increasing threat, a geography of coincidences coupled with the influence of a rural economy and natural disturbances such as flooding, have allowed Skagit County to resist convergence to a suburb of Seattle/Everett to the south, or Bellingham to the north. Remarkably, given its location, the county offers one of the best chances for conservation of critical habitat and open space in Western Washington.
Skagit Land Trust's History and Mission
Skagit Land Trust was founded in March 1992 by three visionary leaders and 31 Charter Members to help protect the natural lands, open space and wildlife habitat of Skagit County for the benefit of this and future generations. The Trust has grown steadily to become a respected organization with strong local support and is recognized as an innovative leader in conservation. The seven staff, 15 board members and nearly 100 active volunteers are joined by approximately 1,000 members to protect the most important and beloved land and landscapes in the county. The amount of land and habitat protected by the Trust has grown to over 6,400 acres including more than 29 miles of shoreline. The Trust is currently working on a dozen new projects under the guidance of a Conservation Strategy that helps protect the best, most at-risk lands first.
In 2009, Skagit Land Trust became one of the first land trusts in the nation to receive official accreditation from the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission, allowing us to proudly display this seal. Accreditation recognizes the land trust's dedication to following rigorous standards and practices established by the national commission to ensure the long-term viability of the organization and the protection of the areas that we conserve.
Skagit Land Trust's Unique Position
While other partner organizations are working very effectively at the local level on protection of particular types of land in Skagit County (e.g. Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, Ducks Unlimited) Skagit Land Trust focuses on permanently protecting all types of natural and resource lands with exceptional conservation value throughout Skagit County. For example, no other organization in the county routinely accepts Conservation Easements on diverse private lands, countywide. Yet today in the world of conservation we do not have the luxury of a singular or divided vision. Ecosystems are a web and thus no organization is effective “going it alone”. We are fortunate to work in a region of strong and capable partners and committed citizens. In addition to our work with private landowners, Skagit Land Trust works in collaboration with over twenty local and regional organizations preferring to leverage limited resources to achieve common goals.
How We Protect Land
Skagit Land Trust acquires land for protection through purchase or gifts of land and by assisting landowners and other conservation groups and agencies to protect land. The Conservation Easement is a popular choice as it allows the land to remain in private ownership while restricting certain future uses to protect the land’s wildlife and conservation values. Other choices include land donation or land sales.
Some of the Trust's most successful projects have protected habitat areas across private ownership boundaries, helping residents, ranchers, farmers, and businesses to join a wider protection network. Our expertise and reputation for partnership building, creative solutions and efficient, nimble land protection uniquely positions Skagit Land Trust at a critical time in Skagit County’s history.