Submitted by San Juan Islands Conservation District
Over 30 landowners, community members and key stakeholders gathered at the Westsound Community Hall on Nov. 14 to express their support for the restoration of stream corridors throughout the Crow Valley and Westsound watershed on Orcas Island. The enthusiastic response signals a growing recognition of the urgent need to revitalize the fish and wildlife habitat after decades of degradation to these important ecosystems.
Despite common misconceptions, San Juan waterways, including the Crow Valley/Westsound watershed, have a history of hosting salmonid species, including salmon and trout. Salmonid presence has recently been observed in Garrison Creek on San Juan Island and Cascade Creek on Orcas Island, underscoring the importance of ecosystem restoration.
The Crow Valley watershed, an area where streams and rainwater collect to funnel to the Salish Sea, is under threat due to increased presence of agriculture, development, invasive plants, and various forms of pollution.
The large attendance at the Community Meeting was an indicator that restoring Crow Valley’s watershed is a top priority for Westsound residents. Attendees came full of ideas, historical context, and a palpable determination to improve the health of this watershed.
Spearheading this restoration initiative is Laura Pitts, Project Manager with the San Juan Islands Conservation District. She said of the Community Meeting, “We are immensely encouraged by the support and participation of community members. This collective enthusiasm invigorates plans for stream restoration throughout the Crow Valley watershed to become reality over the next five to ten years”.
The Conservation District is a non-regulatory Washington state special purpose district formed in 1947 with the mission to conserve and protect the natural resources of the San Juan Islands. The district provides private landowners with free technical assistance, funding opportunities, and implementation support to improve natural resources on their land. The district works with landowners on a voluntary basis, coming up with creative solutions when faced with multiple competing land-use priorities.
Restoration projects in this watershed are expected to begin in 2024 and will include best management practices such as tree and shrub plantings to shade waterways, removal of invasive, non-native species known to decrease plant diversity, installation of large woody debris to improve floodplain connectivity, and fish passage improvements.
Funding for these practices has increased state-wide in an effort to improve water quality and restore fish and wildlife habitat, with a focus on salmon.
The Conservation District encourages landowners to reach out if they live near streams that would benefit from restoration throughout San Juan County.
For more information and to learn about other conservation efforts going on in the San Juan Islands, visit the San Juan Islands Conservation District website at sanjuanislandscd.org. To schedule a site visit or receive technical assistance in stream restoration, please reach out to Project Manager Laura Pitts at Laura@sjicd.org.