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WDFW Closes Fir Island Birding Area While Restoring Skagit Bay tidal Marsh

OLYMPIA – Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has closed public access to the Fir Island Farms Reserve, where work has begun to restore 131 acres of tidal marsh in the Skagit River Delta.

Trucks and heavy equipment are scheduled to begin work next week in the second year of a two-year project to replace the existing mile-long dike with one designed to improve habitat for fish and wildlife, said Belinda Rotton, Skagit Wildlife Area manager.

Rotton said the popular birding area, purchased by the department as a snow-goose reserve in 1995, will be closed for construction through Oct. 15 of this year.

"We apologize for the summer closures, but bird-watching and heavy equipment just don't mix," Rotton said. "We plan to re-open the reserve by the time the snow geese return in October."

The snow-goose reserve, part of WDFW's 16,700 acre Skagit Wildlife Area, is located on the south end of Fir Island, about three miles from Conway.

Jenna Friebel, WDFW restoration project manager said the department's primary goals this summer are to complete the finishing touches on the new set-back dike and remove the old dike, restoring natural tidal action and marshlands that serve as rearing areas for juvenile salmon and other fish and wildlife species.

"Besides benefitting native salmon populations, the project includes design features to help protect nearby agricultural lands against flooding and preserve snow goose forage areas," she said.

The project also includes some improvements to the viewing area for the thousands of birders who visit the preserve to view snow geese, shorebirds and other waterfowl each year. There will be improved path surfaces for ADA access, benches and interpretive signage, Friebel said.

Friebel said completion of the $17.7 million project follows six years of planning, coordination, and development that involved discussions with area landowners and drainage officials as well as state, federal, tribal and local agencies. Federal agencies provided 15 percent of the project costs.


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