The State Lands Restoration and Enhancement category provides funding to two state agencies to help repair damaged plant and animal habitat. These grants focus on resource preservation and protection of public lands. Projects in this category help bring important natural areas and resources back to their original functions by improving the self sustaining and ecological functionality of sites.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife used this grant to enhance riparian and nearshore habitat at three worksites on the Skagit Wildlife Area: Wiley Slough, Skagit Bay Shoreline and Skagit River (Debay Slough). No work was done at the original Leque Island location because of legal issues and Debay Slough was chosen as an alternate worksite. For the riparian sites, crews removed invasive species such as blackberry and reed canarygrass on 7.5 acres at Wiley Slough (South Fork of the Skagit River) and 15 acres at Debay Slough (Skagit River) over the course of several seasons. Native vegetation was then planted across the acreage and included: Hardhack, Pacific willow, red twig dogwood, ninebark twinberry, serviceberry, Hawthorne, Scouler’s willow, Sitka willow, mock orange, vine maple, Cascara, western red cedar, oceanspray, sword fern, salal, crabapple, big leaf maple, black cottonwood, Nootka rose, Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, tall Oregon grape, western hazel and red flowering currant. The planting were frequently checked and invasives controlled to improve their survival. Several challenges were encountered during the riparian enhancement element of the project. First, the proposed, original planting at Leque Island had to be cancelled because of legal issues, unrelated to this project. In addition, another proposed planting site near Wiley Slough, which was an active agricultural field, was pulled to avoid becoming a contentious issue with the farming community. This limited the amount of acreage we could potentially plant. A site a Debay Slough was accepted as an alternative and planting commenced. However, a change in the private ownership of an adjacent parcel at Debay created an access problem for one of the fields and the inability to follow-up with invasive management for a year. As a result of these challenges, the total acreage planted (22.5 acres) was a little more than half of the 40 acre target. The estuarine plant removal element of the project was very successful. Over the course of the project, crews covered over 500 acres of shoreline for two seasons and removed 7.5 acres of Spartina anglica and dug 1,544 plants on the Skagit Bay Shoreline worksite. The native marsh made it challenging for crew members to find individual Spartina plants and required them to be very thorough. The area was once a monoculture of 100s of acres of Spartina, but because of this project and preceding eradication efforts, the site transitioned to a diverse native marsh. Additional Spartina eradication efforts will continue to improve habitat and protect our investment. In addition, to Spartina the crew also treated a small amount of purple loosestrife and reed canarygrass in the project area. WDFW used the grant to plan for and acquire a permit to allow the control of invasive cattail. WDFW treated over 37 acres of cattail in 2014, but did not use the RCO funding for this field work. The enhancement work that occurred as part of the RCO grant is part of larger efforts to enhance habitat on the Skagit Wildlife Area and throughout the lower watershed. As part of the 2015 field season, WDFW has already started revisiting the project sites and ensuring their integrity. The improvements to estuarine shoreline and freshwater riparian habitats will benefit at-risk salmon species, migratory waterfowl, and other animals, as well as providing recreational opportunities for the public.