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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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Skagit Land Trust signs letter supporting the Outstanding Resource Waters designation of the Cascade River

Click here to see the letter signed by Trust Excecutive Director, Molly Doran

Click here to add your public comments by September 27th.

Skagit Shoreline Management Program

Skagit Land Trust's comment letter is attached here

May 2023 Comment Letter

Nooksack elk herd

In April 2023 the WA State Fish and Wildlife Commission held a meeting regarding the North Cascade elk (commonly referred to as the Nooksack elk herd). Speakers from the Public gave testimony. The comments and presentation give a wide perspective of elk in the Skagit.

From the beginning to 1:42:00 are landowners, conservation groups, and community members giving public comments on elk.

From 3:37:00 to 4: 41:00 is a presentation by the tribal and WDFW Co-Managers. They are presenting to the WDFW Commissioners.

Skagit Land Trust believes that elk and other native wildlife have the right to live within their full range, including on the floor of the Skagit Valley. Their range is shown in the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW’s) North Cascade Elk Herd Management Plan. We appreciate the tribal and state wildlife co-managers and biologists who have worked hard to find thoughtful pathways to sustain a thriving elk population in the Skagit Valley, while continuing to work on collaborative solutions so that wildlife and people can co-exist. As conservation landowners, our lands are part of the herd's territory.

Ecology Public Input Requested on the Skagit County Shoreline Master Program (SMP) Update

You may submit your comments through May 18th to the Dept of Ecology by emailing

Please indicate it is Skagit County's SMP

We believe the following are important to fix in Skagit County's Shoreline Master Program (SMP):

  • There is an almost complete omission of Sea Level Rise and Climate Change in the SMP.
  • The SMP would allow timber cutting and temporary access logging roads within the shoreline zone and not make them subject to review. This is against state law.
  • The SMP would allow a reduction in a shoreline buffer with only an Administrative Variance (no hearing). Any proposed reduction in shoreline buffers greater than 25% (the current requirement) should require a hearing review.
  • Boulders would be considered "soft armor" in some situations. This is inconsistent with Best Available Science.
  • Critical areas like eelgrass, kelp, forage fish spawning are subject to "mitigation actions" rather than preventing impacts.

Skagit County sits squarely in an area affected by climate-driven impacts. A 2022 study by Coastal Geologic Services and Washington Sea Grant indicates that Skagit County is one of the locations most vulnerable to sea level rise, and other climate impacts like storm surges, in all of Puget Sound. And it has started. On lands we conserve we are seeing dikes that have stood for 100 years overtopping, buffers between shorelines and development being eroded by storm surges, and debris on our shorelines from structures falling off eroded banks. Given the community and natural and biological resources that will continue to be impacted, it is striking that there is a near complete omission of attention to climate change in relation to sea level rise, erosion and flooding in Skagit's updated Shoreline Master Program (SMP). In addition, it will take a vast amount of resources in the future to fix the consequences of under-informed decisions today.

It would not only be wise - but cost-effective- to start including climate change impacts and sea-level rise considerations in public and private infrastructure projects. Since this SMP is the shoreline guidance for the people of Skagit County for the next eight years or more, it is inevitable that if this is not taken into account, there will be development projects approved that later are flooded or are subject to extreme erosion. It is inevitable there will be damage to the environment because there was inadequate guidance in this plan.

These Impacts Include:

  • Increased use of hard armoring to protect development on failing or flooding shorelines; Hard armoring is not fish and wildlife friendly and depletes essential sands and gravels needed to replenish our beaches and tidelands which protect our shorelines and are critical wildlife habitat.
  • More septic systems, asphalt, and concrete, in areas that will be prone to flooding.
  • More development on bluffs and banks that are prone to erosion. This ultimately can lead to water and shoreline pollution when they fail.

These impacts can be greatly reduced or avoided by including planning for climate change and sea-level rise in Skagit's Shoreline Master Program NOW. Planning takes time.

Below is a map from the 2022 Washington Sea Grant and Coastal Geologic Services study which shows how extreme Skagit County's vulnerability is to sea-level rise and other climate impacts. Planning now is not just the smart thing to do, it is critical for the future of our communities and the incredible shoreline environments we must conserve for future generations.

Docket Proposals for 2023 Amendments to the Skagit County Comprehensive Plan. Available for Comment

Written and Email Comment Deadline & Instructions:

Comments due by April 27, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.

Electronic comments must be sent via email to:

Include the proposal name (“Skagit County’s 2023 Docket of Proposed Policy, Code, and Map Amendments”) in the subject line. Include your comments in the body of your email message rather than as attachments.

Link to staff recommendations:

2023 Planning Docket

Skagit Land Trust is taking the following positions:

NO to Fully Contained Communities. FCC's lead to sprawl and environmental damage

  • AGAINST: LR20-04 Fully Contained Community Proposal to amend the Comprehensive Plan to allow for consideration of fully contained communities.
  • AGAINST: LR22-02 Fully Contained Communities to amend the Countywide Planning Policies and Skagit County development regulations to establish a process for consideration and approval of a new fully contained community, consistent with RCW 36.70A.350.
  • Read Right Growth, Right Place letter that many organizations, including Skagit Land Trust are signers on : Right Growth, Right Place comment letter on FCC's

SUPPORT More Review Prior to Drilling a Well in a Seawater Intrusion Area

  • SUPPORT C23-1 : Seawater Intrusion Area Well Drilling Requirements would amend the critical areas ordinance to require applicants to submit an application and supporting materials for review by the Planning Department prior to drilling a well in a seawater intrusion area with a sole source aquifer. This would include a site plan with location, depth, and land elevation of the proposed well, and the depth and chloride levels of surrounding wells and a drilling plan. Sea water intrusion is a problem on Guemes Island as new wells can have an impact on neighbors and the aquifer. This proposal is a step in the right direction.


Click here to read the Trust's comment letter on the proposed ordinance denying permit applications for offsite compensatory mitigation projects on Skagit County Agricultural-Natural Resource Lands.

Skagit County’s 2022 Docket of Proposed Policy, Code, and Map Amendments - LR22-02

Skagit Land Trust believes the county should deny the latest Fully Contained Communities (FCC) proposal from Skagit Partners (LR22-02). The Commissioners have stated in a resolution that the County will not continue processing LR20-04 (a mirror proposed amendment to Skagit County’s Comprehensive Plan to allow FCCs), unless the GMA Steering Committee concurs that FCC’s should be considered in Skagit County.

Prior to a Growth Management Act Steering Committee (GMASC) discussion of FCCs, docketing or even deferring another FCC amendment proposal from a private developer causes confusion and unnecessary anxiety among the public. If the Commissioners do not think they can deny LR22-02 for process or legal reasons, we urge you to consolidate the two outstanding FCC proposals into one deferred proposal in order to reduce confusion and anxiety.

The public has shown strong and widespread opposition to the idea of Fully Contained Communities, as have the cities through their multiple votes against FCCs at the GMA Steering Committee and their recent resolutions and letters opposing the County’s consideration of LR20-04. The cities also indicate they have adequate capacity to handle projected urban population growth and have adopted new comprehensive plan policies and codes to increase residential densities and expand options for affordable housing. A docketed or deferred proposal from Skagit Partners is not necessary for the GMA Steering Committee to consider the policy issues surrounding Fully Contained Communities as part of the 2025 comprehensive plan update process. As members of the GMASC, the County Commissioners can simply request that those issues be discussed at the appropriate time.

Skagit Land Trust believes FCCs are not needed and, if allowed, will promote sprawl, degrade the environment and natural resource lands, and increase traffic congestion and government service costs. We urge the county to deny LR22-02 and terminate LR20-04.

Add Your Voice to the Conversation!

public comments must be received by must be received by May 26 at 4:30 pm.

Email comments to the Skagit County Planning are preferred and must be sent to with the proposal name (“Skagit County’s 2022 Docket of Proposed Policy, Code, and Map Amendments”) in the subject line.

Include your comments in the body of your email message rather than as attachments.

Visit the Right Growth, Right Place website for more information -

Incorporating Sea Level Rise into Skagit County’s Comprehensive SMP Update

Seven local conservation organizations, representing thousands of Skagit Valley residents submitted a comment letter emphasizing the urgent need to address the existing and impending risks that climate change, and particularly sea level rise, pose to our community’s infrastructure, safety, and the environment.

Please click here to read the letter.

SLT Comment Letter on Skagit County's Shoreline Master Program

Both Skagit County and the City of Anacortes have proposed updated Shoreline Management Programs which will guide the use and development of our local shorelines for the next eight years. Preserving the ecological processes and attributes we need to live sustainably, while using shorelines appropriately and protecting life and property, are major goals of Shoreline Management Programs.

Skagit County is accepting comments on their draft proposal until 4:30 p.m. March 1, 2022 and will hold an online public hearing at 10:30 a.m. that day on Zoom. Anacortes is accepting comments on their 8-year review until 5 p.m. March 9, 2022.

We live in a shoreline rich county- which means everyone has a stake in how our shorelines are used, now and in the future. We know our shoreline environments are changing with a changing climate. Skagit Land Trust submitted comments encouraging local governments to plan for these changes now.

We encourage you to explore Shoreline Master Program drafts for your area and weigh in on what you think. Caring for local shorelines is everyone’s responsibility.

Related Links

Skagit Valley Herald - Skagit County, Anacortes accepting comments on Shoreline Master Programs

Washington State Department of Ecology Shoreline Management Act

Fully Contained Communities (FCCs) Update January 14, 2022

Skagit County Commissioners to Consider Resolution on FCCs on Jan 20, 2022: Resolution Clarifying Board's Intent Regarding LR20-04.pdf w WH signature.pdf

Mount Vernon's resolution expressing concern and opposition to the potential authorization or support of fully contained communities by or within Skagit County

The Framework Agreement, By Kirk Johnson, Skagit Scoop

Fully Contained Communities (FCCs) Proposal Concerns and Suggestions

Skagit Land Trust has concerns both with the potential impacts of Fully Contained Communities on our natural landscape and with the highly unusual process by which Skagit Partners is seeking to enlist the County Commissioners’ help in achieving its goal.

Skagit Partners has proposed amendments to the county to allow Fully Contained Communities in a manner that bypasses the legally established regional planning process in Skagit County.

Impacts of FCCs

  • By dispersing growth into the rural landscape, Fully Contained Communities are fundamentally inconsistent with the principles of land conservation and natural resource-based land uses.
  • Skagit Land Trust supports policies that encourage Skagit’s vibrant resource-based economy and its unique thriving urban centers, not policies that drain cities of their tax base and place unfunded demands on the County’s rural infrastructure.
  • The spillover impacts from a new fully contained community at Butler Hill or elsewhere in the county on natural resource lands, open space areas and wildlife habitat would be extremely detrimental.
  • This type of urban sprawl would also be extremely costly to existing governments, service providers and taxpayers. It would create significant new traffic burdens on county roads, state highways and Interstate Five.
  • As an example, the King County and Snohomish County comprehensive plans prohibit new Fully Contained Communities because of their negative experiences with existing FCCs.
  • The Puget Sound Regional Council’s Vision 2050 document also discourages new FCCs: “MPP-DP-34: Avoid new fully contained communities outside of the designated urban growth area because of their potential to create sprawl and undermine state and regional growth management goals.”
  • Our members, and Skagit County residents in general, do not want a future characterized by leapfrogging urban sprawl in the form of erroneously named “fully contained communities.”
  • Instead, we strongly support the growth framework already adopted through the Countywide Planning Policies and county and city/town comprehensive plans – where 80% or more of new residential growth goes to existing cities and towns.

Skagit Partners’ Process End Run

  • The proposed amendments are an attempted end run by Skagit Partners around the regional growth framework adopted by Skagit County and its city partners through updates in 2016 to their comprehensive plans.
  • The amendments also seek to circumvent the Growth Management Act Steering Committee, the body established by Skagit County and its municipal partners to address regional growth planning issues.
  • Following extensive public engagement, the 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update allocated all projected urban population growth to existing cities and towns. Fully Contained Communities were not contemplated or allowed.
  • Skagit Partners is unhappy with this framework and is asking for the Commissioners to change it unilaterally.
  • However, under the 2002 Framework Agreement and the Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70A.210), Skagit County does not have the authority to do so.
    - The county cannot by itself amend the Countywide Planning Policies and urban population allocations or designate new UGAs or Fully Contained Communities.
    - Nor can the county amend its comprehensive plan and development regulations in a manner inconsistent with the regionally adopted Countywide Planning Policies.
  • Any effort to do so it will be a waste of public time and resources and, when appealed, will be overturned.

Respect the Regional Planning Process

  • If the County Commissioners have concerns with growth patterns that have occurred since 2016, their best recourse is to take those up with the GMA Steering Committee.
  • Beginning in 2017, the Skagit Council of Governments started publishing a growth management monitoring report that shows whether the county as a whole and cities within the county are meeting their adopted growth targets.
  • If one or more jurisdictions are not meeting those targets, the Commissioners can propose amendments to the Countywide Planning Policies to address the situation.
  • This approach would respect the regional planning process established by the 2002 Framework Agreement and the growth plans adopted by the county and cities through the 2016 Update.
  • The logical time to do this reassessment would be through the next periodic update of comprehensive plans which is required by 2026.
  • If certain cities are not meeting their urban growth commitments and the rural area is seeing more than 20% of the new population growth, that warrants attention.
  • We do not want to see additional dispersed sprawl in rural Skagit County –and we are troubled by the lack of available and affordable housing in the county.
  • However, fully contained communities are not the best growth pattern for Skagit County
  • Instead, we urge the Commissioners to reject the Skagit Partners proposal and instead work with the cities to encourage and incentivize them to accommodate growth in existing UGAs through infill, redevelopment, annexation, and encouragement of multi-family development options.

Skagit Land Trust Comment Letter on Skagit Partners FCC Proposal (LR 20-04)

Click to view a PDF of the letter Skagit Land Trust Executive Director Molly Doran sent to comment on Skagit Partners FCC Proposal

Click here to view

Skagit Land Trust's letter to Skagit County Shoreline Master Program's Comprehensive Update and Periodic Review

Click to view a PDF of the letter Skagit Land Trust Board President, Mark Hitchcock, sent to comment on Skagit County Shoreline Master Program's Comprehensive Update and Periodic Review.

Click here to view

Public comment during recent Commissioners meeting

Members of Skagit Land Trust's Public Policy Committee spoke during the public comment section of the Skagit County Board of Commissioners meeting on August 25th. Click the link below to listen to their comments. To jump to this section of the meeting, click on link in Agenda under Section B, number 2.

Skagit County Board of Commissioners Meeting

Update on Skagit County’s Critical Area Ordinance for Heron-Nesting Sites

Skagit Land Trust has been working to ensure that Skagit County has science-based critical area standards that protect our local heronries. Skagit County Planning and Development Services staff proposed a critical area code amendment that would help ensure this happens. This recommendation called P-4 Great Blue Herons, was voted as “deny” by the Planning Commission. It is now in front of the Skagit County Commissioners who have asked for additional clarification. It is unknown when they will vote on whether to accept the Planning Commission recommendation of “deny”. Skagit Land Trust is working to ensure Commissioners have the most accurate, science-based information prior to making this decision.

Below is our recent letter to the County Commissioners.

Our recent letter to Commissioners

Skagit Valley Herald Article - Herons' haven | Partners working to ensure March Point population flourishes


WDFW Comments On Skagit County CAO Amendment Regarding Great Blue Herons

Dump clean up adjacent to March Point Heronry

Skagit Land Trust owns and protects the March Point Heronry. The Trust community has stewarded this site for over 20 years. Now we need you to help us protect the heronry in a different way, by writing a comment to the Department of Ecology about the cleanup of the March Point Landfill. Comments are due by April 17th.

The Washington State Department of Ecology is coordinating the much needed cleanup of the March Point Landfill, also known as the Whitmarsh Dump. The landfill area is contaminated with measurable levels of many toxic substances from years of use as an unregulated public dump, a county landfill, and a sawmill.

The cleanup must be done. It is vital for the health of Padilla Bay and the surrounding environment. We want to recognize this is great step forward.

However, the March Point heronry is adjacent to the cleanup site. It is of utmost importance to the heronry, the largest in the Salish Sea and along the west coast of the U.S., that the cleanup activities not disrupt the herons during their breeding and nesting season.

Click on this link to get to the public comment page -

This link will take you to more information about the project from the Department of Ecology -

Click here for talking points we have developed that you can consider for inclusion in your comment. Make your comment as long or as short as you like, but please do it as soon as you can.

Click here to view Skagit Land Trust’s letter submitted to the Department of Ecology.

Skagit Land Trust's Elk Public Policy Principles

In 2001, Skagit Land Trust (the Trust) acquired Hurn Field, an iconic pasture along the Skagit River known as a prime spot to view elk. Working in cooperation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the Trust developed a wildlife viewing pullout along SR 20 at Hurn to view the elk. In subsequent years, the Trust has acquired more land with elk habitat, and has managed a number of properties between Sedro-Woolley and Rockport for the multiple benefits of agricultural use, open space, elk habitat, salmon habitat and wildlife viewing.

In 2013, the Trust was invited by WDFW to serve on the Elk Management Working Group – a gathering of stakeholders convened to advise WDFW on the update to the North Cascades Elk Herd Management Plan. The Trust served on the working group throughout its duration, and has subsequently participated in further stakeholder and community discussions about elk, when requested.

In 2019, the Trust was invited to provide testimony to the Washington State House’s Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Skagit Land Trust Elk Public Policy Principles

The North Cascades Elk Herd – History & Science

  • Elk are native to the Skagit Valley. After the herd’s population was depleted by over-hunting and changing land-use patterns, it has been augmented in past decades with translocated animals, but the elk are a natural part of the Skagit ecosystem.
  • The range of the North Cascades Elk Herd stretches from the Canadian border to Hwy. 2, as shown in the North Cascades Elk Herd Management Plan (WDFW, 2018).
  • Elk are important culturally to the Point Elliot treaty tribes and the Trust recognizes and respects the role of these tribes as co-managers, along with WDFW, of the North Cascades Elk Herd.
  • Elk are important to many residents of the Skagit, including many visitors and landowners who are drawn to the valley to see the elk and experience their role in the native ecosystem.

The Elk’s Range and the Valley Floor

  • Skagit Land Trust supports the right of the elk to their full range as shown in the 2018 Management Plan, from the Canadian border to Hwy 2, including in sustainable locations on the Skagit Valley floor. We encourage solutions and partnerships with landowners and businesses who employ wildlife friendly practices.
  • We are opposed to eliminating all elk from the valley floor as it is part of their natural range. There should be wildlife areas and corridors on the valley floor where elk can feed, and also travel from foothills-to-foothills and to the river and other water sources. These wildlife areas and corridors can be centered around elk-tolerant properties, such as those owned by Skagit Land Trust and wildlife supporters. These lands would provide key connectivity from the mountains to the river not just for elk, but other wildlife species as well.

Managing Lands For Elk and Minimizing Elk / Human Conflict

  • The Trust will continue to provide refuge areas for elk. This will decrease pressure on other private lands in the valley and ensure adequate wildlife habitat as the valley develops. We will pursue partnerships with tribes and other organizations to enhance the agricultural quality, habitat and forage potential, of some lands in Trust ownership, partly in an effort to draw the animals to wildlife-friendly lands and away from areas of conflict.
  • Given Skagit County’s significant areas of public land, and the successful recovery of many wildlife species, managing the interaction between wildlife and people will be a never-ending part of living and working in Skagit.
  • The Trust recognizes there are issues with damage to agricultural crops, as well as road safety. The Trust farms a number of properties and knows from those who work our land, and from our neighbors, that there is loss and damage from elk.
  • To help elk and humans live together, we support collaborative solutions and resources provided by the co-managers and other entities to landowners to help prevent or mitigate damage from elk. These solutions include providing crop-damage compensation and assistance with fencing elk from working agricultural lands. We also support notifying new landowners that they will be living in an area of active wildlife habitat.
  • To assist with mitigating road safety issues and to help augment natural wildlife corridors, the Trust encourages the State to study and, if feasible, fund highway overpasses or other safe-crossing infrastructure along SR 20. There are similar solutions along I-90, and throughout the country that have shown real benefits for safety and wildlife habitat connectivity. The Trust will work with the state on siting structures on Trust land, if they provide optimal locations.
  • The Trust currently has a moratorium on elk hunting on our property. The Trust allows hunting for other species and fishing on many properties and is not against hunting. The Trust will reconsider the moratorium if there is a working consensus on respecting the right of elk to their full range, including at least parts of the valley floor, and it is clear that hunting elk on Trust property will not harm the goal of achieving the 2018 Management Plan’s population targets

Click here to download a PDF for the Trust's Public Policy Statement on Elk.

2020 - Skagit County Planning Commission Public Hearing - 1/21/2020

Skagit Land Trust Proposed Amendments - County Critical Areas Ordinance for Great Blue Heron Protections

Skagit County Planning Commission Public Hearing
January 21, 2020
6:00 p.m., Commissioners Hearing Room
1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon, WA

Skagit Land Trust (SLT) has proposed an update to Skagit County’s Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) to protect Great Blue Herons – an iconic local species with a unique presence in the County. SLT is concerned that without articulated, clearer protections included in the Skagit County CAO this charismatic and much-loved bird could face an uncertain future in the County. It is of great concern that the second largest and the oldest heronry in Skagit County, on Samish Island, was abandoned partway through the nesting season in 2017. Although the exact cause of the abandonment is not known for certain, we do know that heronries are vulnerable to many types of human disturbance.

Skagit Land Trust recommends the County adopt P-4, Skagit Land Trust’s proposed amendment. This amendment is informed by the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) Management Recommendations for Great Blue Herons and also considers conditions unique to Skagit County. Adopting this, will strengthen the Critical Areas Ordinance protections of Great Blue Herons.

2019 - Skagit Land Trust Presents to the Skagit Planning Commission

Skagit Land Trust presented to Skagit Planning Commission on Tuesday evening. Click the PDF link to view the presentation.

Great Blue Heron - County Presentation

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 ensure the current critical area code has enough details that WDFW buffers and mitigation measures are applied consistently near our heronries.
  • 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.

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.


  • Thank the DNR staff (Hilary Franz and staff and Jean Fike and staff)
  • Commissioner Janicki- Skagit County Commissioners;
  • Senator Ranker. Sen. Kevin <; he was essential to getting Blanchard funded through the legislature and spent several years trying
  • Rep Jeff Morris. eff <; he was essential to getting Blanchard funded through (Rep Kris Lytton also very helpful, (360) 786-7800)
  • Chairman Steve Tharinger.; 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 -; 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