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Conserving 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.

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May 2019 - Joint Letter to BC GOVOpposing Development in Skagit Headwaters

Joint Letter PDF

May 2019 - Skagit Land Trust's Letter Regarding the Marblemount Quarry (Proposed Kiewit Infrastructure Quarry Operation Near Marblemount)

To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you for extending the public comment period on the Marblemount quarry operation proposed by Kiewit Infrastructure Company.

Skagit Land Trust is writing to request that Skagit County make a threshold Determination of Significance on this project and require a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to more fully evaluate impacts the Marblemount quarry might have on:

· Water and air quality in the Upper Skagit area;

· Wildlife including the numerous threatened and endangered species whose life cycles, primary food stocks, prey species and foraging areas would be influenced by the project implementation and associated activities;

· Local communities and associated tourism, recreation, conservation and resource economies;

· National, state and locally designated areas of significance including Skagit and Illabot

Creek’s Wild and Scenic River Corridors; North Cascades National Park and adjacent Recreation Areas; U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service Wilderness Areas; and the North Cascades Scenic Byway.

Skagit Land Trust is a non-profit organization with over 1500 family and business members. We conserve wildlife habitat, wetlands, agricultural and forest lands, scenic open space and shorelines for the benefit of our community and as a legacy for future generations. We are a major landowner in the Upper Skagit area. Numerous conservation values on land we own or on which we hold permanent protection agreements in partnership with private landowners, could be impacted by the quarry expansion proposal.

Our request that a full Environmental Impact Statement be done rests on these concerns:

· We have spent millions of dollars conserving and stewarding properties in the Upper Skagit for the benefit of current and future generations of people and wildlife. It is our deepest responsibility to our members and the larger community to ensure the perpetual protection of these lands’ natural and community values. Therefore, it is imperative that we have a clear picture of the impact this proposal would have on our lands and their conservation values.

· The Upper Skagit is a key focus area for Skagit Land Trust because of its rich biodiversity. As part of the North Cascades Ecoregion, it contains one of the largest expanses of wilderness in the Lower 48 states. This area is significant habitat for threatened and endangered species including the recently reintroduced Pacific fisher, marbled murrelet, Canada lynx, northern spotted owl, North American wolverine, Oregon spotted frog, and gray wolf. The submitted proposal was extremely weak on addressing impacts to listed species’ primary food stocks, prey species and foraging areas in all areas that would be influenced by the project. It did not thoroughly address impacts from the project activities and implementation such as increased noise and light levels on wildlife, ecosystem disruption, impact to wildlife of increased human activity on site and via road use; and loss or degradation of wildlife corridors. An EIS should look at potential disturbance to listed species and/or their avoidance of areas, not only at the project site but in nearby locations that could be impacted by noise, dust, etc. and along the transport route which trucks carrying the quarried rock would follow.

· The Skagit Watershed is critical for the recovery of salmon and species such as Southern Resident Killer Whales that rely on salmon as a primary food source. The majority of endangered Northern Puget Sound Chinook come from the Skagit River watershed with Illabot Creek being of noted importance. Federal, state, and local governments, private citizens, and organizations have invested tens of millions of dollars to reverse the decline in salmon populations. Without a thorough EIS being undertaken, we are concerned about potential impacts to salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, and other salmonids that use the mainstem of the Skagit River and off-channel habitats downstream and adjacent to the proposed quarry. The submitted SEPA assessment did not adequately address real, short and long-term impacts for a project of this scope and scale. The area of potential effect should include impacts to downstream floodplains and channels receiving water and runoff from the project area, associated water courses, and transportation routes.

· Many community members, businesses and organizations rely on recreation, tourism and conservation activities in this area. The full impact to local communities must be studied. Hwy 20 east of Sedro-Woolley is not simply a transport route. It is the North Cascades Highway - a state designated Scenic and Recreational Highway. It is often referred to as “the Most Beautiful Mountain Highway in Washington”. The Rockport Loop, which passes by the proposed quarry, is a popular part of the Mountain Loop Highway. Degrading tourism and recreation opportunities at this Gateway to the North Cascades is not an acceptable trade-off for the cited additions to the local economy which the quarry would represent. The impacts to communities and to tourists who come to this area must be fully studied. Lights, noise, traffic, and air quality could all negatively impact the unique attributes of this part of the Skagit Valley

Finally, 100 years, the potential duration of this project, is an extremely long time. There is no methodology we know of that can adequately assess impacts to the environment, or on local communities and people, for anywhere near a century. The 100-year permit request makes all conclusions of the SEPA weak as it is hard to understand long-term and cumulative impacts from this proposal. We ask that a realistic permitting timeframe be studied. Please require rigorous Environmental Impact Statement assessments of the cumulative adverse impacts over the life of the project on: water and air quality; wildlife; local communities and their associated economies; and on national, state and locally designated areas of significance.

Thank you for this opportunity to share our concerns.

Sincerely

Molly Doran

Executive Director, Skagit Land Trust

2019 - Skagit Land Trust Leads Effort for a Critical Area Ordinance to Protect Heron Nest Sites

Skagit Land Trust has proposed an update to Skagit County’s Critical Areas Ordinance to protect Great Blue Herons – an iconic local species with a unique presence in the county. Recently, heron nesting areas have shown signs of stress and disturbance with the loss of coastal nesting habitat. SLT is concerned that without articulated, clearer protections, this charismatic and much loved bird could face an uncertain future in the County.

Skagit Land Trust recommends the County be informed by the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) Management Recommendations for Great Blue Herons and take into account conditions unique to Skagit County as it considers strengthening its Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) protections for this species.

Skagit Land Trust's Proposal Can be found here Heronry CAO proposal

Talking Points for Public Comments on Skagit Land Trust Heron Proposal

Please describe in your own words why Great Blue Herons are important to you and why you want to see them protected in Skagit County. It is fine to simply say you want the Commissioners to adopt SLT’s recommendations. However, if you would like to write a more in-depth comment, we have provided message points below.

  • If Skagit County wants to protect its Great Blue Herons as it continues to grow and develop, it must strengthen its Critical Areas Ordinance to protect their breeding and nesting areas.
  • Skagit Land Trust has submitted a proposal to the County to strengthen the Comprehensive Plan and Critical Areas Ordinance to provide greater protection for Great Blue Heron breeding and nesting areas.
  • The proposal is based on the WDFW’s Great Blue Heron Management Recommendations which provide specific guidelines for protecting heronries. WDFW recommends that local land use planning should protect existing Great Blue Heron colonies using colony-specific management plans that consider colony size, location, relative isolation, and degree of habituation to human disturbance.
  • The proposal would apply to Skagit County’s three known heron breeding and nesting areas with 20 or more nests, and any heronries of this size that may be established in the future.
  • The proposal seeks to protect the forests within which nest trees are located from encroaching development, while establishing buffers to protect herons from disturbing activities through the breeding and nesting season.
  • Skagit Land Trust’s proposal will help to ensure that Great Blue Herons remain a part of the Skagit County landscape for years to come. I encourage the Board of County Commissioners to docket (approve) the proposal for further consideration.
  • Skagit County’s nutrient rich eel grass beds and mature coastal forests provide ideal habitat for Great Blue Herons to breed and raise their young.
  • With well over 700 nests, the March Point heronry is the largest on the Salish Sea and is one of the largest on the entire west coast of the United States!
  • The second largest, and the oldest heronry in Skagit County, on Samish Island, was abandoned partway through the nesting season in 2017. Although we do not know the exact cause of the abandonment, we know that heronries are vulnerable to disturbance.
  • During the breeding and nesting season, Great Blue Herons are very sensitive to human activities they are not accustomed to. They are known to have abandoned nesting sites in response to the intensification of nearby activities, noises, and lights.

Want more background on Skagit Land Trust's work with Great Blue herons and proposed recommendations? Watch Molly Doran's presentation to the Commissioners.

Washington Association of Land Trusts and Skagit Land Trust Endorse the Protect Washington Act, I-1631

I-1631, also known as the Protect Washington Act, will be on the ballot in Washington State on November 6th. The initiative would enact a carbon emissions fee on large carbon emitters. Revenue from the fee would go into three funds: (1) a fund for air quality and energy programs and projects, (2) a fund for water quality and forest health projects, and (3) a fund for community-related investments.

The Washington Association of Land Trust's (WALT) position entitled “Principles for Carbon Sequestration & Climate Adaptation Investments” states the need for more Washington State funding and initiatives to conserve, restore and improve: management of forests; water storage on agricultural and terrestrial lands; flood and climate mitigation; and to mitigate for the impacts of sea level rise.

WALT, of which Skagit Land Trust is a member, has endorsed Washington Initiative 1631. WALT believes I-1631 will help meet the need for increased funding for climate sequestration and adaptation. 25% of the funds generated from placing a fee on carbon emissions will be spent to “…increase the resiliency of the state’s waters and forests to the impacts of climate change… This include investments in protecting estuaries, fisheries, marine shorelines, reducing flood risks, and increasing sustainable water supplies. There will also be investments for improving forest health and resilience to wildfires and insect infestation.”

Skagit Land Trust’s science-based Conservation Strategy states four elements that serve as a framework for identifying and selecting the most important land conservation projects to work on locally that will help ensure a sustainable environment for people and wildlife. These four elements are:

  • Land - Native forests, working forests, wildlife and native plant species habitat, open space, landscapes and connectivity;
  • Saltwater - Shorelines/estuaries/tidelands/bluffs/beaches and marine life habitats;
  • Freshwater - Watersheds, wetlands and lakes, rivers, streams, and floodplains;
  • Nature for People - Beloved places, access, places close to home, places and lands that sustain our lives

Because I-1631 would make significant investments in healthy forests, marine habitats, and sustainable water supplies, in keeping with SLT’s Conservation Strategy goals, Skagit Land Trust has endorsed the Protect Washington Act, I-1631.

October 2018 Blanchard Update

What a great celebration we had in the pouring rain on September 16th. Senator Kevin Ranker, DNR Lands Commisisoner Hilary Franz, Representaive Jeff Morris, BESD Board member Bill Wallace and Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki joined with 85 enthusiastic supporters to remember the journey and thank all involved. The effort to protect Blanchard's forests began over 15 years ago with grassroots advocacy. Harriet Spanel became a strong supporter in the legislature. Groups including Conservation Northwest, Friends of Blanchard Mountain and Skagit Land Trust were appointed to the Blanchard Strategies process to ensure the conservation message had a solid voice. We worked with divergent stakeholders to come to a collaborative solution that met a range of stakeholder needs. The Blanchard Strategies solution conserves the 1600-acre forested core of Blanchard Mountain and maintains a working forest around it.

Please be sure to thank those who went to bat for the over $15 million that has funded the solution. In this final stage, replacement lands are being purchased and DNR lands are being swapped so that Blanchard's core can be managed forever as a natural area, while the Blanchard working forest continues to produce revenue for the junior taxing districts. The purchase and swaps should be completed by the end of 2018.

PEOPLE TO THANK.

  • Thank the DNR staff (Hilary Franz and staff and Jean Fike and staff)
  • Commissioner Janicki- Skagit County Commissioners; commissioners@co.skagit.wa.us
  • Senator Ranker. Sen. Kevin <Kevin.Ranker@leg.wa.gov; he was essential to getting Blanchard funded through the legislature and spent several years trying
  • Rep Jeff Morris. eff <Jeff.Morris@leg.wa.gov; he was essential to getting Blanchard funded through (Rep Kris Lytton also very helpful, (360) 786-7800)
  • Chairman Steve Tharinger. steve.tharinger@leg.wa.gov; he was essential to getting the final $10M funded through Trust Land Transfer program - went out of his way to include it
  • Bill Wallace of the Burlington Edison School Board. Bill was formerly the regional director of DNR and began the Blanchard Strategies process. He has stuck with it, now representing the BESD.
  • These local reps supported Blanchard: Rep Norma Smith - norma.smith@leg.wa.gov; Rep David Hayes (10th) and Rep Beth Doglio.

July 2018 Blanchard Update

Time to Celebrate!

Thanks to hundreds of supporters who wrote or called their state legislators, when the Capital Budget was passed this year, $10 million was designated to finish protecting the1600-acre core of Blanchard Mountain ($6.5 million previously been provided for Blanchard).

The funds are provided through a WA State Deptartment of Natural Resources (DNR) program called Trust Land Transfer. DNR will determine the value of the forest protected on Blanchard, and then swap this value for replacement DNR properties elsewhere in the Skagit. While the Blanchard Core will be managed to achieve mature forest conditions and for recreation and wildlife habitat, the replacement lands will generate revenue for schools and other institutions. The Trust Land Transfer process will take place this year and next.

The forest will be named for one of its greatest advocates, Senator Harriet Spanel who passed away in 2016. With this huge funding hurdle passed, the Blanchard Core is well on its way to permanent protection. The Blanchard Forest Advisory Committee, of which Skagit Land Trust is a longtime member, wants to thank all involved. The Blanchard Committee will be hosting a party for the community to celebrate.

January 22, 2018 Blanchard Update

Blanchard Mountain Funded!

The Capital Budget Bill that was passed this week included $10M for the Trust Land Transfer program for the “Harriet Spanel Forest” which is Blanchard Mountain. This funding will enable the full protection of the 1600-acre forested “core” of Blanchard Mountain as outlined in the 2007 Blanchard Strategies Agreement. The funding is due in large part to the tremendous community support for protecting Blanchard. Over the past decade thousands of constituents reached out to their state representatives. Outreach was particularly important in the last two years as the Agreement’s deadline for funding was ending.

Trust Land Transfer is a mechanism that will allow the core forest lands on Blanchard to be transferred to conservation status, while replacing these lands with other working forest lands elsewhere in Skagit County that will benefit schools. The WA State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working with legislators to address some issues affecting junior taxing districts that currently receive a portion of their funding from the Blanchard land that will be protected (i.e. the Burlington Edison School District). DNR will also have to do an internal land exchange because DNR’s holdings in Skagit County don’t have enough of the specific classification of land to do the entire Trust Land Transfer. But all of this is a process DNR and the Blanchard Advisory committee are willing to work through. Skagit Land Trust will continue to serve on this committee. We are confident Blanchard will be protected now that the funding is available. Thank you to everyone – you did it! Please take a moment to thank your legislators and others involved for their work and support.

These are:
Bill Wallace of the Burlington Edison School Board
All of the 40th delegation (Ranker, Morris, Lytton)
Representative Steve Tharinger (Capital Budget Chair)
Skagit County Commissioner Janicki
Land Commissioner Hilary Franz and her staff

Recent news articles about Blanchard Mountain

‘Exultation and relief’ as state OKs money to protect this beloved forest and playground

Area projects to proceed with passage of state budget

Blanchard Mountain spared from logging