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Looking to the Next 100 Years on Samish Island

For thousands of years the Coast Salish people approached Samish Island through a wide slough that connected two bays and was surrounded by tidal marsh. The slough was named S7amésh Seqelích (Coming Out of a Bay) by the Samish Indian Nation. In the 1930’s Skagit County put fill across the last quarter mile of marsh and slough to construct a new road near the Alice Bay (east) shoreline. A farmer diked his land to the west on Padilla Bay. And since then, Samish Island has been connected to the mainland by an isthmus.

Conservation on Samish Island

For the past 25 years Skagit Land Trust (the Trust) has been working to conserve the land and waters at the entrance to Samish Island. We began with private landowners donating conservation easements on forested uplands. We purchased the Samish Flower Farm in 2019 and the Samish Island Entrance Property in 2021, which together form the Samish Island Conservation Area. In December, the Trust bought 28 adjacent acres. This spring, the Trust hopes to buy another 45 acres which will bring the conserved lands at the entrance of Samish Island to 170 acres.

Thanks to a potential partner and future funding opportunities, the Trust only needs to raise another $105,000 for these recent acquisitions. Because of generous donors, $65,000 of that has already been donated. We are only $40,000 away from reaching our goal that will support the purchase, conservation and stewardship of these expansive properties on the approach to Samish Island. Our generous members are the reason we can stretch to purchases properties like these that will benefit all generations of people and wildlife, forever.

If you are interested in seeing these new acquisition, please join us for a tour on March 18th at 10am.

Left to right: Salt Marsh on Samish Bay; A multitude of wildlife use the property for feeding and shelter. Bald eagles, great blue herons, and migrating Brandt ducks are a few of the many species that use this land.

The two new property additions feature nearly a mile of shoreline on Padilla and Alice Bays. The tidelands outside the dikes include some salt marsh on Alice Bay. This gives us a glimpse of the habitat, now rare, that once made up most of the approach to the Island. The land that was created between the dikes has been farmed with various crops and grasses and is terrific bird habitat. It also serves as the only overland access to Samish Island.

The dynamic nature of this isthmus environment was on full view during king tides coupled with low barometric pressure in December. The dike on the Alice Bay side of the new property overtopped, flooding the county road to the island which now lies below sea level, and severely eroding the dike, putting it at risk of breaching. This dike, running alongside the road, is not in a dike district and lies on private land. Repairs on it had historically been done by the county to protect the road, however they said they could no longer take on a flood control role.

Due to the extreme situation, Skagit Land Trust stepped in to arrange and pay for the emergency repairs on the area at risk of breaching. In other areas of overtopping, volunteers sandbagged low spots. We are grateful for the help of local contractors- led by Arnie Svendsen Trucking Inc, Island residents, our members and volunteers including Steve Hopley who took a leadership role, and Dike District 5.

Samish Bay Dike Repair
King tides showed the age of the private dike. Trust staff met with community partners to begin talks on solutions to the aged dike.

The event served as a reminder that the marine environment is powerful. Climate change will also increasingly impact infrastructure. Ongoing protection of a public road built on land that has settled over the decades and is now below sea level, is beyond the Trust’s role. Those who live, work on, and visit Samish Island likely don’t want to revert to the days when people timed their travel by the tide levels. Thus, the Alice Bay dike, constructed to protect a road built almost 100 years ago, will need a good deal of further attention from all stakeholders working together to find solutions for the next 100 years. Recent, productive conversations with partners, the County, and the community make us hopeful this can happen.

Conservation ownership of these lands provides significant benefit to the community. Skagit Land Trust has extinguished development rights behind these dikes. Skagit Land Trust’s growing conservation work on Samish Island has only been possible with the help of Trust members and volunteers, along with support from numerous partners including Coast Salish tribes such as the Samish Indian Nation, former landowners such as the Squires and Murphy families, conservation easement landowners, The Conservation Fund, other nonprofits, as well as local, state, and federal grant partners. Support from this extended community has played an important part in the conservation journey of the entrance to Samish Island. That journey is entering a new phase.

Working with the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (PBNERR), the Trust is excited to explore potential marine habitat restoration of the site’s historic tidal inlet and salt marsh habitat. PBNERR is committed to being a long-term partner in this project and is pursuing funding to acquire some of these newly protected lands from the Trust in the future. PBNERR will continue to collaborate with Skagit Land Trust in ongoing evaluation of habitat restoration. Together, we will work with the County and other stakeholders on opportunities for reducing the vulnerability of the road and dike systems. Through such partnerships, the Trust aims to achieve a sustainable vision for all who rely on, or treasure, this beautiful land. We hope to share more information about these efforts later this year.

Only $40,000 to go to protect more
of the Samish Island Entrance!

Help protect and steward the beautiful approach to Samish Island. Please consider making a special gift today. You can send a check or make a gift online - note that your gift is for Samish Island.

Join us for a tour of the property during the dates listed below. Come see what you helping to conserve for all generations of people and wildlife. RSVP online today.

March 18th at 10am

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