Aerial photos, 7.31.18

Elger Bay Estuary, seen from the air on July 31, 2018, is an important tidal wetland for fish and wildlife on Camano Island. In 2018, Fran Burnside donated 38 acres of estuary wetlands in July to Whidbey Camano Land Trust to ensure its permanent protection.

The Elger Bay estuary will forever be a safe haven for salmon and other wildlife.

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust recently bought 20 additional acres of the pristine tidal estuary on Camano Island, expanding the 38-acre Elger Bay Estuary Preserve to 58 acres.

“It’s one of the few intact estuaries in our county that salmon already use,” said Ryan Elting, Whidbey Camano Land Trust conservation director.

Late last year, the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, as part of its $26 million awarded to projects throughout the state to help bring salmon back from the brink of extinction, gave the Land Trust $225,000 to help buy the land.

“This involved nine landowners,” Elting said. “I was not sure it was going to happen.”

After months of negotiations, the deal closed in October. However, the general public won’t really notice any changes.

“There’s really nothing to see there right now and no public access right now,” Elting said.

Future plans include building a small wildlife viewing platform and continuing to work with neighboring landowners to possibly expand the preserve, he said.

“There are some critical areas, some wetland questions, we have to determine first to see if it's feasible to have a wildlife viewing area,” Elting said. “But that’s our hope.”

The project’s main goal is wildlife preservation, he said.

“We’re protecting it so that it stays natural,” Elting said. “It will be nothing like Barnum Point. This will be a very passive-use place.”

The preserve started in July 2018 when Fran Burnside and relatives, on behalf of the Gough/Richmond family, donated 38 acres of tidal wetlands to the Land Trust.

“My family loved that property for 75-plus years, and we’re more than happy to share it,” Burnside said in a 2018 interview. “It is a refuge for wildlife. As time goes by and places become more populated, it becomes more important to have open space and to preserve those areas.”

Burnside said the site is home to a host of wildlife, including short-tailed weasels, skunks, eagles and other birds.

The sloughs piercing the property also provide protection for salmon. Boosting the struggling Chinook salmon population and, in turn, the endangered Southern Resident orcas that rely on Chinook as a food source, is a regionwide goal by environmental groups.

"We hope this helps meet salmon recovery targets," Elting said.

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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