Category: Wildlife Area Management
Published: February 24, 2021
The Island Unit is located on two diked islands in a tidally-influenced reach of the South Fork Skagit River. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has owned and managed the Island Unit since the 1950s to produce crops for over-wintering waterfowl. The site is sometimes referred to as the "farmed island" and is used primarily by waterfowl hunters.
WDFW assessed land management alternatives to determine how best to respond to emerging issues including aging infrastructure on the site, anticipated sea level rise, and changing habitat needs. The Island Unit is a priority area to restore habitat for salmon because it was historically a tidally-influenced estuarine area that provided critical rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon. The Skagit Chinook Recovery Plan 1 identifies estuarine habitat as the highest priority for recovering salmon in the area.
WDFW conducted an alternatives analysis, which is a planning process used to evaluate a range of choices relative to a set of identified criteria, to assess four possible conceptual designs (“alternatives”). The alternatives ranged from no restoration to restoration of the entire site. This effort was a high-level analysis using landscapescale assessment tools and existing data. Criteria were intended to capture the primary considerations WDFW needs to consider when comparing alternatives, and they include WDFW policies, agreements and obligations, costs and funding, fish and wildlife needs, community values and climate change resilience. Criteria were applied to the alternatives using data (where available) as well as qualitative information and best professional judgement of WDFW staff. Technical memos were developed to inform the alternatives analysis and can be found in the appendices of this document.
A project Advisory Group and the public provided input during the process. The Advisory Group was formed to provide input at multiple points during the analysis, and members included stakeholder, tribal and governmental representatives. A 30-day public comment period, virtual meeting and online comment tools provided multiple means for the public to provide input.
The preferred alternative is Alternative 4, which involves restoration of the entire 270-acre site to estuary. This alternative has the clearest path to implementation, provides the greatest benefits to ESA-listed species, and received the highest rating across a broad range of criteria.
Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.