ANACORTES — In about two hours Saturday morning, 80 volunteers planted more than 1,400 trees on a 3-acre strip of shoreline on March Point — one small piece of the effort to add habitat for salmon and the orca whales that depend on them for food.

The event, hosted by the Skagit Conservation District, was part of the second annual Orca Recovery Day.

“We want to be helpers,” 5-year-old Braelyn Howey of Anacortes said as she and mother Natalie Howey dug their shovels into the mud to make space for a seedling.

Young salmon migrating from rivers use the area, called a pocket estuary, as a safe place to grow and feed before reaching saltwater.

Volunteer Jim Johnson said the trees provide shade to help keep the water cool, filter pollutants, and the leaf debris feeds insects that are eaten by fish.

“There’s a tendency to overlook (pocket estuaries),” he said. “Cumulatively they can make a difference.”

Skagit Conservation District Manager Bill Blake said volunteers planted native tree species such as Sitka spruce, crabapple and shore pine.

He said as the trees grow the plan is to add woody debris to the shoreline to add more habitat.

“It’s trying to restore as much function here as would be here naturally,” he said.

The 120-foot-wide by 1,400-foot long strip of land is owned by Shell Puget Sound Refinery. Blake said the area serves as a buffer between refinery operations, farmland and the estuary, where freshwater meets saltwater.

The conservation district partnered with the refinery, the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group and Ducks Unlimited for the event.

“A day like this people can do something to help,” Blake said.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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