NCWAS is currently involved in several processes with potentially significant impacts on the welfare of birds in our region. The following is a thumbnail sketch of a few of them.
Weyerhaeuser is potentially open to selling approximately 38,000 acres (over 100 separate tracts) of forest lands in the upper Wenatchee Valley, that it recently acquired from Longview Fiber. A coalition of interest groups, including Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, Nature Conservancy, Chelan County, and The Trust for Public Lands, has established a process to assess these lands for possible purchase for a variety of activities including recreation, fish and wildlife, birding, etc.
In November 2015, North Central Washington Audubon Society (NCWAS) established a task force to prioritize these lands from the perspective of landscape connectivity and native biodiversity with a particular focus on birds. We subsequently identified several high priority parcels and in June 2016 submitted our recommendations to Chelan Douglas Land Trust for inclusion in the overall process. We remain actively involved and are waiting for developments from the project team regarding potential lands acquisition negotiations with Weyerhaeuser.
Visit http://www.cdlandtrust.org/upper_wenatchee_community_lands_plan for a more detailed discussion of this effort, including a map of the lands involved.
Rock Island Ponds lie within the boundaries of the city of Rock Island a few miles south of East Wenatchee. The area, formerly a large natural gravel deposit along the Columbia River has been mined for several decades; continuing to this day as a large gravel mining operation by Central Washington Concrete (CWC). One consequence of the mining activities is that the area now hosts a series of small lakes and ponds offering fish and wildlife habitats and the potential for development of various compatible recreational activities. However, studies in recent years of water quality and fish populations in the ponds indicate a number of serious problems needing resolution if the potential future values are to be realized and maximized.
Our Proposal for the Future of Rock Island Ponds [Read our proposal here.]
CWC will be completing its mining operations on the site over the next several years and consideration is now being given to the future of the ponds. NCWAS is spearheading a proposal to establish a steering committee or advisory working group that would coordinate with the City of Rock Island and CWC in hopes of making the most of this opportunity going forward. To that end, we’ve met with CWC, Rock Island’s mayor, and the City Council to begin piecing together a process for moving ahead with our proposal.
Also in support of the proposal, we’ve begun plans for a multi-year bird survey to identify specific species and numbers currently using the ponds and to determine seasonal bird activity there. The survey team will be composed of local Rock Island residents and NCWAS members.
Icicle Creek, a tributary to the Wenatchee River near Leavenworth, faces the consequences of past over-allocation of water rights to various users. The unfortunate fact is that the creek is simply unable to maintain adequate summer instream flows while supplying current and future demands on its water.
To address this, the Icicle Creek Water Management Strategy (IS) was devised over the last several years by Chelan County Department of Natural Resources in coordination with the various water rights holders and other stakeholders, including many environmental and recreational interests. The goal is to better manage the creek’s water supplies to provide for current and future demands, while also seeking to avert potential legal challenges.
NCWAS supports many of the Strategy’s suggested actions including improving domestic conservation and irrigation efficiencies, creation of a voluntary Icicle water market to increase agricultural reliability, enhancing water quality and conservation at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, and habitat protection and improvement.
We’re concerned however, about a major component of the IS which seeks to enhance the ability to take water from seven lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. They were dammed decades ago and have been tapped since then as part of system of managing agricultural and domestic demands on the creek’s water. However, rather than seeking to further harness these lakes, and thereby the Icicle drainage as a whole, shouldn’t we instead recognize its natural limits and adjust our activities to them? In the long run we feel this would be better for the natural landscapes and habitats that support our area’s birds and wildlife and associated recreational opportunities. We believe this approach is preferable, and if followed will better sustain our region’s livability and economy over the long-term.
In furtherance of this goal, in May 2016 NCWAS cosigned, along with 39 other environmental and recreational organizations, an Icicle SEPA Scoping Comments letter detailing our concerns. Among the many issues addressed, it suggests development of additional alternatives that would protect the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, pursuit of relinquishment of expired water rights, and enhancement of water conservation to accomplish the Strategy’s goals while avoiding enhanced engineering of the lakes. The letter was submitted to the Chelan Department of Natural Resources during the official comment period for inclusion in the record. We continue to follow this issue closely and remain involved.
Colockum Wildlife Area Advisory Committee
These are separate Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) processes we are involved with. WDFW manages extensive areas of land with high wildlife values lying within NCWAS’s boundaries. Being involved allows us to bring some influence to bear on policy while keeping abreast of issues on WDFW lands central to our mission. To this point, we recently submitted comments to the update process for the Sinlahekin and Scotch Creek Management Plans.
The Stemilt-Squilchuck area is situated in the foothills of the Cascades southwest of Wenatchee. Several years ago there was a proposal to sell approximately 2,500 acres there for development of a resort. To head this off, a coalition of entities including The Trust for Public Land, Chelan County, and the Stemilt Partnership (composed of a mix of interests such as local agriculture, wildlife, recreation, and conservation) stepped up to devise a plan that would protect the area for the wide range of natural values it offers.
The main goal of this process has essentially been achieved – consensus was reached on a long-range plan which is now being implemented. NCWAS was fully engaged in the first phase of this process, the overarching purpose of which was to generate a plan (and philosophy) of land use in the Stemilt region, which includes Wenatchee Heights and Squilchuck. The main agreement calls for development (houses, etc.) to be concentrated in the lowest portions of the basins, allowing cost-effective connections to utilities and preventing the blossoming of ranchettes in the upper basins. Meanwhile, the upper portions of the basins are largely to be reserved for mixed agriculture and recreation plus maintenance of migration corridors for wildlife (especially elk). NCWAS remains engaged in the second phase (implementation) of the process which is now underway.
Visit http://www.tpl.org/our-work/land-and-water/stemilt-squilchuck-community-vision for a more extensive overview.
We’ve been involved with this effort for several years and are happy to report that the plan for bringing substantial water back into the area’s wetlands is moving forward. The Chelan Public Utilities District is managing the project and is currently working on several difficult technical issues relating to sources for the new water. One source is drainage from #1 Canyon and the other from North Wenatchee. In both cases there are pollution concerns including heavy metals content that need to be resolved. Also involved are private property right-of-way issues. So obtaining the water needed to make the project work is not as easy as might have been originally thought. Getting water from the Columbia River is not an option. The most recent estimate is that it may take 2-3 years to work through all this. The upside is that the various issues are being addressed and the project will likely get done. We continue to follow progress.
The expectation is that, when this project is complete, the area’s value to birds and other wildlife will be significantly enhanced.
Recent Developments in the Bird Collisions ProgramAmerican Bird Conservancy, in cooperation with the U.S. Green Building Council and Bird-safe Glass Foundation, has enabled architects, designers, developers, and building owners pursuing LEED green building certification to earn credit for incorporating design strategies that reduce bird collisions. See www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports for more details.
New Publication Provides Comprehensive Solutions to Halt Massive Bird Kills From Building Collisions
As part of a program to reduce the massive and growing number of bird deaths resulting from building collisions in the United States, ABC has produced a new, national publication, American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Friendly Building Designs. Download a pdf of the guide at www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/BirdFriendlyBuildingDesign.pdf.
National Audubon Society has identified global warming and associated climate change as the primary threat to birds. Given this, Audubon Washington and NCWAS are actively working to address Washington State’s contributions to the problem. Most recently, both organizations endorsed I-732, which appeared on the ballot last November. Among other things, it would have implemented a carbon tax in Washington. If the measure had passed, it would have been the first of its kind in the country. It unfortunately failed by a margin of 41% in favor to 59% opposed, but the battle continues and we continue to pursue options for reigning in carbon pollution in Washington going forward.
Questions or comments regarding any of these issues, or our conservation work in general – Please contact Mark Johnston at email@example.com.