Skagit Audubon
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Watching birds, protecting habitat, connecting with nature

Conservation Notes

Conservation Notes - November 2021

  1. Audubon Virtual Advocacy Day

For the second year, Audubon Washington will hold a virtual advocacy day. This December 7th Audubon members from around the state will meet virtually with their state senators and representatives to discuss Audubon’s priorities for the 2022 legislative session. The session begins January 10th. There will be training in preparation for the December 7th event. To participate, register at Audubon in Washington Advocacy Day 2021 | Audubon Washington  (https://act.audubon.org/a/advocacy2021?emci=49f51c2e-ff1b-ec11-981f-0050f271a1a2&emdi=5b7c5fca-ff1b-ec11-981f-0050f271a1a2&ceid=154334). You will meet with each legislator as a group with fellow constituents from your legislative district. There is also need for volunteers to be the lead for their district.

  1. Carbon Capture Foundation

This small, family-run foundation based in Longview, Washington, is dedicated to helping landowners address the climate crisis by planting trees to sequester carbon https://www.thecarboncapturefoundation.org). The foundation contacted Skagit Audubon last month offering to provide free, bare-root trees for this purpose. With help from Washington Native Plant Society and referencing National Audubon’s database of northwestern trees that provide habitat for birds, the foundation has produced a list of available tree species it will provide at no cost to landowners. If you own property where you could plant trees to hold keep carbon out of the atmosphere and would like to receive trees at no cost from the Carbon Capture Foundation, please contact Tim Manns (conservation@skagitaudubon.org). National Audubon research identifies climate change as the single greatest threat to birds, and this is a way landowners can readily help.

 

  1. Skagit County Shoreline Master Program

The Planning Commission continues to wend its way through edits to the draft comprehensive update and required periodic review of Skagit County’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) based on public comments and staff input. The SMP is the plan required by Washington’s Shoreline Management Plan whose update in Skagit County is years overdue. The present plan dates from 1976. The process of updating the SMP stalled in 2016 and now, having been taken up again last year, nears completion. Skagit Audubon joined other organizations and individuals in requesting that the update, among other things, address sea level rise and better protect shorelines against armoring. Although planning for the effects of sea level rise is not yet required by the Department of Ecology (DOE) under its responsibility for implementing the Shoreline Management Act, reality dictates that Skagit County can either plan for sea level rise now or wait until the crisis is upon us and deal with it then. The county’s Planning Commission appears to be opting for the latter, consistent with an apparent goal of ensuring the plan has as few teeth as possible. Planning & Development Services has many projects demanding its attention, so there is perhaps a workload factor in doing more than the minimum required by DOE, but grants are available from the department to help counties plan for the sea level rise which is coming with climate change. In his “Looking Ahead to 2022” remarks at the Planning Commission’s October 26 meeting, Planning Director Hal Hart mentioned that the state legislature would again address climate change in its upcoming session and that there would likely be a focus on, yes, sea level rise. Look for addressing this important issue to become a legislated requirement in Shoreline Master Program updates.

As soon as November, the Skagit County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to take public comments on the draft Shoreline Master Program. The draft must then meet the approval of the Department of Ecology, which will hold its own public comment period.

 

  1. Potential for allowing Fully Contained Communities in Skagit County

This issue which appeared in the last two monthly issues of Conservation Notes is reappearing this month because of the very serious threat FCCs pose to Skagit County and its ability to support the present variety and quantity of birdlife. The Skagit Audubon board voted to add the chapter’s name to the list of organizations supporting the Right Growth Right Place campaign opposing changing the county’s planning policies to allow these large housing developments at urban density in rural areas. The campaign website (https://rightgrowthrightplace.org) describes ways to help, from circulating a petition asking the County Commissioners to reject the request to allow such developments to donating to cover expenses and provide for legal representation in a possible appeal to the Growth Management Hearings Board. Even if a decision by the county commissioners to allow FCCs were successfully appealed before the Board, a loophole in the Growth Management Act could allow huge housing developments anyway. Articles by Futurewise explain this “vesting” loophole: www.futurewise.org/home. For more information about how you can help with the campaign to stop FCCs, contact conservation@skagitaudubon.org.

Updates on other issues Skagit Audubon is following

  1. Plan to develop the Big Bear Mine near Marblemount

See the two last months’ Conservation Notes for background on this issue. By filing public records requests the Skagit River Alliance, a local organization of concerned upriver residents and other Skagit County citizens, learned that Skagit County has already signed off on a key permit needed for what is being presented as a plan to mine only the loose material fallen off the cliff at the site of the Big Bear Mine. Years ago, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) indicated that a geotechnical study of the talus slope’s stability needed to be done to ensure a safe operation. DNR is unable to show that any such study was ever produced. The agency has also stated that there needs to be a plan to mitigate the effects of the asbestos present in the rock at the mine site. It is not clear at this point if or when these studies will be produced, who will review and approve them, or even whether DNR or Skagit County will be the lead on the environmental review (SEPA). Several state and local officials have been intervening with DNR to further permitting of the mine, bypassing any further involvement by Skagit County. It is important that the full process be followed for examining the potential impacts of this proposed mining operation to people, wildlife, and the environment, from the mine site itself and along the route the rock would travel to the Port of Bellingham. The county-issued1976 conditional use permit for taking loose material at ground level seems to be what Skagit County is deeming sufficient to cover the present very different plan to mine large jetty stone. It would be helpful to write the Skagit County Commissioners requesting that the county, rather than DNR, take the lead in reviewing the mining plan and the potential impacts of mining and transporting the rock.

Skagit County Commissioners:

Lisa Janicki                 ljanicki@co.skagit.wa.us

Ron Wesen                  ronw@co.skagit.wa.us

Peter Browning           pbrowning@co.skagit.wa.us

  1. March Point (Whitmarsh) dump clean-up

In 2016 and again in 2020 Skagit Audubon submitted comments to the Washington Department of Ecology regarding the clean-up of the March Point toxic waste dump, also known as the Whitmarsh dump. Located between the March Point heronry and Padilla Bay, this site for years received waste from the refineries, Skagit County, and other sources. In more recent years a sawmill operated where the dumping had taken place. It’s important to clean up this site but to do so in a way that does not jeopardize the largest heronry on the West Coast. If you’ve driven past the site on March Point Road in the last month, you probably noticed that the dump site has been cleared of vegetation. All this activity, taking place post-heron nesting, is in preparation for applying for required permits, particularly the JARPA application (Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application, covering required local, state, and federal permits). Wood Construction Company is preparing the required heronry management plan, which will be reviewed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A report from the volunteers who monitor heronry activity at March Point and elsewhere in the county will provide the USFWS with information on the areas that herons use nearby and the timing of the herons’ activities.

USFWS review of the heronry plan is expected to take eighteen months. The actual clean-up of the toxic waste site will take place in 2023 or later. During November, the clean-up contractor (Wood Construction Co.) will be drilling monitoring wells and removing the buildings from the site. The company will be required to protect and enhance the wetland which lies between the site and March Point Road and the shoreline following Army Corps regulations.

 

Community Science – Puget Sound Shorebird Count

The Puget Sound Shorebird Count will take place November 28th. For more information: https://www.ecoinst.org/conservation-programs/waterbird-conservation/puget-sound-shorebird-count/. If you are interested and available to help out with this survey, please reach out to Sarah Belles (sbelles@ecoinst.org) at Ecostudies Institute.

Issues needing action:   

One way for Audubon members to advocate for regional and national protection of birds and other wildlife and their habitat is to respond to action alerts from Washington Audubon and National Audubon. Sign up for Audubon Washington’s Action Network at https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/JGKjknsVTUKMSr4BoP2Nvw2. The National Audubon website (https://www.audubon.org) has abundant information on Audubon’s current conservation campaigns. Sign up there to receive national alerts. Also see the Audubon Washington blog for information about a variety of interesting and important issues: https://wa.audubon.org/landing/audublog.

For other issues Skagit Audubon tracked during the past year, some ongoing, see earlier issues of Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website: www. Skagitaudubon.org under the Conservation tab at the top of the page.

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Skagit Audubon Society holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month except for the months of July and August. We meet at 7:00 pm at Padilla Bay Interpretive Center(Google map), 10441 Bayview-Edison Rd. Mount Vernon. Meetings are open to all.

The board of directors meets at the same location at 7:00 pm on the first Tuesday of each month, except for the months of July and August.