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Barney Lake Expansion

This spring the Barney Lake Conservation Area grew to 371 acres, thanks to a partnership with two families who understand the importance of protecting this rare wildlife sanctuary for all generations. Linda & Beau Loughlin and Cathy & Walter Pfahl have lived at their homes on the north side of Barney Lake since the 1970’s. For a long time they have thought about how to protect the wetland portions of their property that become part of the lake each winter.

“Barney Lake is one of the most beautiful and unique spots in Skagit County, which is
blessed with so many beautiful areas. We feel that it would be almost a crime against
humanity, and certainly against Mother Earth, to do anything but take the best possible
care of this incredibly special place,” said Cathy Pfahl, one of the property owners. “We hope
that one day Skagit Land Trust will become the steward for the entire Barney Lake area.”

Since the beginning of the Trust in 1992, Barney Lake has been an area the Trust has worked
to conserve. The wildlife habitat found at Barney Lake provides important side channels
for salmon and other fish, as well as feeding, roosting, and nesting habitat for Trumpeter
swans, bald eagles, great blue herons, and migrating waterfowl. This area is so special, the
Trust’s first employee, Martha Bray, was hired just to focus on reaching out to landowners
around the lake about ways to protect their critical wildlife habitat.

“Working with Skagit Land Trust has been a 40 year relationship of education and
mentoring over time,” said Linda and Beau Loughlin. “John Munn, a local naturalist,
educated us about this unique parcel of land, and over a period of several more
years introduced us to Keith Wiggers and Martha Bray from Skagit Land Trust.”

When funding became available in 2019 from Washington State’s Salmon Recovery
Funding Board (SRFB) to protect salmon habitat at Barney Lake, Jane Zillig one of
the Trust’s Conservation Project Managers, reached out to the Pfahls and Loughlins
to see if they would be interested in selling the wetland portions of their properties
to the Trust, while retaining their homesite. This creative solution of selling a
portion of land that connects to existing Trust conservation land has been a winwin for both homeowners and local conservation efforts.

“For 30 years, landowners like the Loughlins and Pfahls, along with trust members, and important public agency partners like SRFB and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, have come together to ensure that Barney Lake’s wildlife habitat and clean water will be there for future generations.” said Conservation Director Michael Kirshenbaum. “The unwavering commitment of both the Loughlin and Pfahl families to work with the Trust to protect more of Barney Lake exemplifies how individuals can come together to make a difference.

The waves of tall grass that fill Barney Lake during the summer can leave you wondering where the lake went. As a seasonal lake, Barney fills each fall, playing a vital role in absorbing flood waters from the Skagit and Nookachamps. As development expands towards the edges of Barney Lake, protection of this natural area has become even more important for the health of wildlife and people. The floods in November 2021 brought the waters of the Skagit River right to the edge of College Way. The Barney Lake Conservation Area was able to hold enormous amounts of flood waters, lessening neighborhood flooding.

“Barney Lake is such a wonderful wildlife spectacle. And it’s so unique because it’s on the edge of Mount Vernon,” said Molly Doran, Executive Director of the Trust. “In the next 30 years we’re really trying to figure out how we can maintain this pristine wildlife sanctuary as the city grows around it. We want to find opportunities for the community to strengthen their connection to the land so that they can help protect this special place and the wildlife that rely on it.”

In the year ahead, Skagit Land Trust will continue to work with landowners around Barney Lake and in the Nookachamps on ways they can partner with the Trust to protect this rare wetland and wildlife sanctuary.

“Our children, who had the privilege of growing up here, are delighted and grateful that we have sold this acreage to Skagit Land Trust,” said both the Loughlin and Pfahls. “They are deeply passionate, as we are, to preserve Barney Lake for Salmon Recovery, aquatic health, and habitat protection. We want others to be able to enjoy this multi-faceted wetland as we have but under the care and on-going stewardship of Skagit Land Trust.”

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