Skagit Wildlife Area

The Skagit Wildlife Area is comprised of 16 units, from bald eagle habitat near Marblemount to Leque Island near Stanwood.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife is seeking public input on a potential restoration project at the Skagit Wildlife Area Island Unit.

The unit — accessible only by boat — covers about 268 acres on two islands in a tidally influenced reach of the South Fork Skagit River.

Comments on the draft alternatives of the project will be taken through Dec. 16 at wdfw.wa.gov. Fish & Wildlife will also hold an online open house from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 2.

The project was one of several topics discussed at a Fish & Wildlife online open house Nov. 12.

North Puget Sound Regional Director Brendan Brokes said during the open house that options being considered for the project included taking no action to restoring the entire 268-acre site.

Fish & Wildlife is considering the project in response to changes at the site and issues including aging tide gates and dikes, anticipated sea level rise and shifting habitat needs.

In picking an alternative, Fish & Wildlife will take into account state requirements and policies, fish and wildlife needs, community values, and input from the Island Unit Advisory Group, tribes and the public.

The Skagit Chinook Recovery Plan identifies estuarine habitat as the highest priority for recovering salmon in the area. Estuary restoration would benefit chinook salmon and shorebirds and could also benefit Southern Resident orcas and recreational fishing opportunities.

Dikes and tide gates on the site allow for the production of winter waterfowl forage, making the Island Unit a popular destination for waterfowl hunting.

Fish & Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind said during the open house these efforts are a big focus for the department.

“We are generally known as the hunting and fishing agency and we want to continue seeing that,” he said. “We also want to get better known as a conservation agency because that’s the key to all this.

“Unless we have healthy habitat, connected habitat, resilient habitat, we aren’t going to be able to provide those (hunting and fishing) opportunities.”

— Reporter Vince Richardson: 360-416-2181, vrichardson@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter:@goskagit, Facebook.com/VinceReports/

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