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Whatcom Wildlife Area Management Plan

Category: Habitat - Wildlife Area Management

Date Published: November 2006

Number of Pages: 94

Author(s): Shana Winegeart, Donna Gleisner and Tom Reed



The Whatcom Wildlife Area was established in the 1940¡¦s as a major wintering waterfowl area. The first purchase, consisting of 1,500 acres of farmland, was acquired to preserve waterfowl habitat and provide opportunities for waterfowl hunting, fishing, and public recreation. To restore these lands the Department dammed Terrell Creek, creating the shallow 500-acre Lake Terrell. Later, funds acquired from the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation allowed purchase of the 140-acre Pine and Cedar Lake unit in 1969, and the 360-acre Tenant Lake unit in 1974. Both are cooperatively managed with the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department to conserve outdoor public recreation opportunities and protect critical wetlands for fish and wildlife. In 1991 the Department purchased 588 acres on Lummi Island to preserve a peregrine falcon nesting site. An additional 112 acres were bought on Lummi Island in 1997. The most recent acquisition is the 627-acre Nooksack unit, purchased in phases between 2001 and 2005 using grants and cooperative multi-agency funding. This unit was purchased to reconnect wetland channels and restore salmon rearing habitat. A significant restoration effort was completed in 2007.

The Whatcom Wildlife Area contains two leased properties. The Intalco Aluminum Corporation unit was first leased in 1970 and contains 1,000 acres of industrial property, located one mile south of the Lake Terrell headquarters. The British Petroleum Oil Company unit is also approximately 1,000 acres, and was first leased in 1990. It is located four miles north of the Lake Terrell headquarters. Both properties are leased by the Department for public hunting, fishing and related recreational activities. Lands managed as part of the Whatcom Wildlife Area currently total 5,327 acres.

Primary management concerns and public issues identified in the Whatcom Wildlife Area Management Plan are:

  • Manage conflicting and/or overcrowded recreational uses
  • Maintain and improve nesting and wintering habitat for waterfowl
  • Protect, restore and enhance wetland and riparian habitats
  • Control noxious weeds and other undesirable vegetation.
  • Provide outdoor recreation opportunities for a broad audience
  • Address litter, vandalism and enforcement issues

The Whatcom Wildlife Area provides 280,000 visitor days of recreation each year, including hunting, fishing, dog walking, bird watching, boating, and interpretive tours. Increased nonconsumptive uses have required new regulations to address user conflicts, such as on-leash vs. offleash dog areas, and hiking vs. hunting on public lands.

A total 180 acres of cereal grains are planted annually on the Wildlife Area. A lessee plants 100 acres of corn on the Nooksack unit, leaving 10 acres standing for wildlife, then plants approximately 30% of the harvested field back to a winter cover crop. Wildlife area staff plant 60- 70 acres of barley at the Lake Terrell unit, and British Petroleum plants 20 acres of barley using State Duck Stamp funds on leased industrial lands.

Numerous sportsmen and volunteers participate annually to release 5,000 pheasants, maintain 42 hunting/viewing blinds, and maintain a public archery range.

Duck Stamp funds are sought to implement habitat enhancement projects that can improve waterfowl nesting and rearing. One water control structure was installed in 2007 on an Intalco parcel to store rainwater later into summer. Another is planned for 2008.

Wildlife Area staff monitored and/or controlled noxious weeds on 1,300 acres using mechanical, biological, cultural and chemical methods. Staff controlled, or coordinated with the WDFW weed crew in the control of, yellow flag iris, purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, and scotch broom. Sprayed annual weeds on 180 acres of agricultural land, and mowed to control reed canarygrass and encroaching alders.

Activities planned for 2008

  1. Plant a minimum 180 acres of cereal grains for wintering waterfowl.
  2. Monitor and/or control weeds on 1,000 acres.
  3. Work with Watershed staff to increase summer flows in Terrell Creek without negative impacts to Lake Terrell.
  4. Continue 20-site photo point monitoring of Nooksack restoration and coordinate planting maintenance with NRCS.
  5. Monitor success of Lake Terrell island plantings ¡V replant if necessary.
  6. Maintain 1 mile of fence on Lake Terrell unit to protect reserve from trespass.
  7. Pursue opportunities to create wheelchair-only hunting site on the Nooksack unit.
  8. Release 5,000 pheasants with the assistance of 30-40 volunteers.
  9. Coordinate with WA Waterfowl Association to maintain 42 hunting blinds and 4 boat launches at Lake Terrell, Tennant Lake, Nooksack and Intalco units.
  10. Coordinate with sportsmen to maintain Intalco archery range.
  11. Survey dog-walkers once per month throughout the year to establish numbers/ impacts of dogs on the wildlife area.
  12. Post signs establishing on-leash and off-leash dog areas.
  13. Survey for Townsend¡¦s big-eared bats in Marietta barn prior to fall demolition.
  14. Post regulations and boundaries on Lummi Island units.
  15. Coordinate with Ducks Unlimited to install a water control structure at Intalco.
  16. Coordinate with British Petroleum to open newly acquired land to public hunting.
  17. Create maps detailing wildlife area boundaries and features such as dog areas, blinds, archery range etc.
  18. Apply for grants to meet various strategies as needed.
  19. Coordinate with other land managing agencies.
  20. Create an action plan detailing efforts to cooperatively manage fish, wildlife, and habitats affected by the Lake Terrell dam.

Suggested Citation:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2006. Whatcom Wildlife Area Management Plan. Wildlife Management Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 86 pp.