MT. VERNON -- A June 12 public meeting has been scheduled here to discuss
a proposal by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to create game
reserves for snow geese and trumpeter swans on agency-owned land in Skagit County.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Skagit County Courthouse, 205 W.
Kincaid. Wildlife experts will attend to talk about the proposal, which is expected to be
voted on this summer by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Under the proposal, 218 acres on Fir Island would be set aside during the winter
months to grow crops to feed migrating snow geese, which flock to the Skagit Valley
each winter from Siberia. An estimated 45,000 snow geese each year winter in the
valley. The acreage was managed as a private hunting club prior to its purchase by
WDFW, and has ben closed to waterfowl hunting since that time.
The proposal also calls for about 200 acres on Debay's Slough to be used to
grow winter food crops for trumpeter swans. The swans, which migrate to Skagit County
each winter from Alaska. Prior to its purchase for trumpeter swans, the area was not
open for public hunting, so the current proposal will not result in a loss of hunting
The Skagit Valley is one of the most popular resting and feeding places in the
Pacific Flyway for migratory waterfowl. Each winter, large numbers of birders and
hunters from across Washington state and elsewhere travel to the county to view and
hunt the birds.
Wildlife biologist Mike Davison said the acreage where the reserves would be
located is owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The properties were
purchased with a combination of private and public funds specifically targeted for
waterfowl conservation projects, including establishment of reserves.
Davison said the department leases lands to farmers to grow various crops
during months when the land is not being used as a winter sanctuary for the geese and
swans. "The idea is to use the acreage for reserve purposes during those months
when it would typically lie dormant," he said.
In addition to the Fir Island and Debay's Slough acreage, the Department of Fish
and Wildlife in recent years has purchased other land in Skagit County for use during
the winter months as waterfowl habitat and hunting areas. These lands have been
planted by area farmers under contract from the Washington State Duck Stamp
Program. In this program, barley is left for wintering waterfowl.