SKAGIT COUNTY—Working farms in Skagit County could receive much-needed Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant funding if the state Legislature approves the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition’s request for $100 million from the capital construction budget during the upcoming legislative session.
Four Skagit County farms could be saved from pressure to develop if the Legislature approves the Coalition’s capital budget allocation. The farms are: Firdell Farm ($205,000), Harmony Dairy Farm ($205,000), Nelson Farm ($93,187) and Knutzen Farm ($132,000). Pressure to convert farmland is increasing dramatically as the county’s population grows. The population is expected to increase by 46 percent between 2000 and 2020.
“Investing in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program is the kind of legacy-based decision making that the public wants to see from state government,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-40. “Washingtonians value our great Pacific Northwest outdoors – our parks, our streams, our forests and farmlands. We want to keep our outdoors accessible and beautiful for future generations, and keeping our commitment to the WWRP is one of the best ways we can ensure that this happens.”
Last year, the Program provided a $319,455 grant to Smith Farm, 267 acres of farmland on Fir Island farmed for more than 100 years.
Firdell Farm, located on 157 acres, maintains a combination of cropland, pasture, and livestock. A farmstead barn listed on the state Heritage Barn Register sits on the site. Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant funding would purchase three development rights to the property.
Harmony Farm, visible from Highway 20, is a 277-acre, multi-generational farm, and one of the largest dairy operations in Skagit County. The farm includes feed crop production, dairy infrastructure and pasture. Eighty acres have already been protected through a conservation easement. Grant funding for this project would purchase three development rights and place an easement in perpetuity on the remaining 197 acres. Because the farm is located about a third of a mile from sewer service lines and an Urban Growth Area, it is important to preserve the entire farm acreage to ensure the property remains unified and available for farming.
Harmony Farm’s owner has partnered with a private company to use an anaerobic digester to reduce the amount of cattle bedding, more effectively manage dairy waste, and produce renewable energy.
Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant funding could also save 62.5-acre portion of the Nelson Farm, located within the lower Skagit Watershed, by securing development rights and placing a conservation easement on the property in perpetuity. The Nelsons have been farming in Skagit County for several generations. They have placed hundreds of acres in conservation easements, extinguishing numerous development rights.
The Knutzen Farm is located on 140 acres within the Padilla/BayView Watershed. The farm abuts Joe Leary Slough, which is part of a major agricultural drainage system. Because the farm abuts an Urban Growth Area, the Knutzens hope to protect about 100 acres from future development into the farmlands. Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program funding would purchase two development rights and place a conservation easement on the property.
Knutzen Farm alternates crops with livestock pasture to preserve and promote productive soils. The protected portion of the property provides feeding, foraging, resting, and overwintering habitat for many types of ducks, tundra and trumpeter swans, and snow geese. This farm, if not protected, could become the site of new homes with fabulous views of Mount Baker.
To speak with a farm grant applicant, please contact Erica Doctor, at Erica@WildlifeRecreation.org, or Tom Bugert, at Tom@WildlifeRecreation.org.
Contact: Erica Doctor, 206-748-0082, Erica@WildlifeRecreation.org
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is a non-profit citizens group founded in 1989 by Govs. Dan Evans and Mike Lowry. In 1990, the Coalition convinced the Legislature to create the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program to provide a source of grant funding to protect parks, wildlife and fish habitat, forest lands, working farms, and open space areas across the state. Today, the Coalition includes more than 270 businesses and environmental, recreational, and community groups in Washington. Since 1990, the Program has provided more than $615 million for more than 1,000 neighborhood and state parks, ball fields, trails, beaches, farms and wildlife habitat areas. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at www.WildlifeRecreation.org.