Skagit Land Trust Programs
Skagit Land Trust acquires land for protection through purchase or gifts of land and by assisting landowners and other conservation groups and agencies to protect land. The conservation easement is a popular option as it allows the land to remain in private ownership while restricting certain future uses to protect the land’s wildlife and conservation values. Other options include land donation or land sales. Some of the Trust's most successful projects have protected habitat areas across private ownership boundaries, helping residents, ranchers, farmers, and businesses to join a wider protection network.
The stewardship program is focused on the long-term care of all conservation lands and easements. Each Trust-owned property has dedicated Land Steward volunteers who commit to regular site visits, report on conditions, and help coordinate volunteer-led projects. Annual monitoring visits to easement properties provide an opportunity to review stewardship goals with landowners. Ongoing stewardship needs vary by site and can involve restoration projects such as native plantings and invasive species removal or providing public access via trails or wildlife viewing stations.
Conservation lands offer varied outdoor learning experiences for children and adults. Educational tours and volunteer events are organized in partnership with community groups such as the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Kids Program, Girl Scouts, and the Puget Sound Anglers Association. Interpretive signs designed by naturalists are located at publically accessible properties and share information on the area’s natural features such as the elk of Hurn Field, forage fish of Fidalgo Bay, and wildflowers of Guemes Mountain.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Since 1992, the amount of land and habitat protected by Skagit Land Trust has grown to over 6,400 acres, including 30 miles of shoreline. The Trust is currently working on a dozen new projects under the guidance of a Conservation Strategy that helps protect the best, most at-risk lands first. Current projects include safeguarding the largest remaining natural wetland in western Skagit County, creating trail connections to link people with public lands, and continuing to protect critical shoreline for salmon and other wildlife.
One of our most recent successes was the 2012 purchase of an expansive wetland area through a successful community fundraising effort and in partnership with Ducks Unlimited and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The now 350-acre Barney Lake Conservation Area protects critical open water,
wetland and working resource lands just to the east of growing Mt.
Vernon, WA. Only about 10 percent of this type of low elevation natural freshwater wetland — once common in the Puget Sound region — remains. Barney Lake is the largest of its kind in the county. Over-wintering populations of waterfowl, including Canadian
snow geese and Trumpeter swans, find refuge at the lake. It was at Barney Lake that the once endangered Trumpeter swans first re-established their wintering habitat in the lower 48. The
Nookachamps Creek bordering the eastern edge of the property provides salmon habitat and the open fields and uplands demonstrate the ability
of working resource lands to co-exist with nesting and forage areas for
Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons.
Planning for the Future
Skagit Land Trust has grown steadily to become a respected grassroots organization with strong local support and is recognized as an innovative leader in conservation. The seven staff, 15 board members and nearly 100 active volunteers are joined by 1,000 member households and businesses to protect the most important and beloved land and landscapes in the county. As land stewards of critically important natural areas, an ongoing need for the Trust is to ensure sufficient funding to steward our protected areas and maintain our conservation programs into the future.