OLYMPIA Hunters are advised that a portion of the Skagit Wildlife Area in northwest Washington will be closed to hunting through Oct. 3 due to ongoing work on a major estuary-restoration project at the mouth of the Skagit River.
The 175-acre Headquarters Unit of the wildlife area is scheduled to open to hunters and other members of the public Oct. 4, when the first phase of the project is scheduled for completion.
Meanwhile, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has made alternative plans to accommodate hunters looking forward to upcoming bird-hunting seasons.
We had hoped to have the entire area open in time for the general pheasant-hunting season, but we ran into some delays in construction, said John Garrett, manager of the Skagit Wildlife Area for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). We do, however, have a plan to accommodate upcoming hunts.
Because the Headquarters Unit will be closed during the statewide youth hunt Sept. 20-21, WDFW will release pheasants at the Samish and Leque Island units of the wildlife area, Garrett said. To participate, hunters must be 15 years old or younger and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age who is not hunting.
Pheasants will also be released at those sites during the senior hunt, scheduled Sept. 22-26 for hunters 65 and older, and the first week of the general pheasant-hunting season that begins Sept 27.
Starting Oct. 4, pheasant hunting will resume on the Skagit Headquarters Unit. Throughout the general season, pheasants will be released Friday, Saturday and Tuesday evenings each week.
Duck hunting will also be available during the youth hunt, Sept. 20-21. The best duck hunting opportunities during the youth hunt will be from a boat in the intertidal areas on Skagit Bay, Garrett said.
The boat launch at the Headquarters Unit will be closed through Oct. 3, but the boat launch at the Skagit County Park under the east end of the bridge in Conway will be open, Garrett said. Walk-in access to the intertidal areas will be available at the North Fork, Jensen, Big Ditch and Davis Slough access areas.
The Wiley Slough project, as the estuary-restoration project is known, is designed to reclaim 160 acres of estuarine salmon habitat that was diked and drained to create farmland in 1962. The federal salmon recovery plan for Puget Sound identifies the project as an important step toward restoring chinook stocks in the Skagit River.
Partners in the project include WDFW, the Skagit River System Cooperative, Seattle City Light and the Skagit Watershed Council, with funding from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
WDFW owns and manages the entire 16,708-acre Skagit Wildlife Area to preserve habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as outdoor recreation.