WILLAPA BAY — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is inviting public comment through Feb. 12 on 10 proposals this year and next to acquire land for fish and wildlife habitat and public recreation, including 733 acres near Willapa Bay.
The Willapa acreage is in three places: on the south fork of the Palix River near Bay Center, along Stuart Slough near South Bend, and close to the mouth of North River on the bay’s north shore.
WDFW photos show the parcels are marshy riparian land with a hypothetical potential for agricultural or shellfish-industry use. The lands are threatened by future shoreline development and rising sea level from climate change, WDFW said.
Under state ownership, it will be designated for species protection and recreation, including big game and waterfowl hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing. Species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including green sturgeon, eulachon and coastal cutthroat use this habitat, which is also a part of a major resting area for migrating birds.
“This project will protect an assemblage of high quality wetlands, estuarine, salt marsh, riparian and upland buffers,” WDFW said, and “will continue WDFW’s acquisition emphasis throughout Willapa Bay. This area provides internationally significant feeding habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. ... Eelgrass beds in the area are valuable habitat particularly for eelgrass-dependent birds.”
These and other proposed acquisitions are detailed at wdfw.wa.gov/lands/acquisitions.
Written comments on the proposed acquisitions may be submitted via email to Lands@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Lauri Vigue, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
The review process is designed to solicit public input on the proposals before the department seeks funding sources later this year, said Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW land conservation and restoration section manager.
“We want to give people the opportunity to comment on these proposed acquisitions before moving forward,” Wilkerson said.
After reviewing public comments, WDFW will seek potential funding for the current proposals from state and federal grants administered by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and the North American Wetland Conservation Act.
The department employs several strategies, including land acquisitions, to meet its mandate of protecting fish and wildlife, while also providing sustainable recreational and commercial opportunities, Wilkerson said. WDFW works with private landowners and coordinates with other state, federal and local governments to ensure their lands also are managed to benefit fish and wildlife and maximize recreational opportunities.
“Land acquisition helps preserve our state’s critical habitat and species for the future,” Wilkerson said.
WDFW currently owns or manages about one million acres in 33 wildlife areas, along with 700 public water-access sites. Those properties provide habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching opportunities that contribute significantly to maintaining the state’s open spaces and economy each year.