Arial photograph of recent clear cuts in the Donut Hole. Photograph Source: Seattle Times

Donut Hole: Threats to the Skagit Loom North of the Boarder

Since time immemorial, the Skagit River has been a life-giving watershed for countless organisms that live in and along the banks of its milky-blue waters. The river’s name derives from the Indigenous people of Upper and Lower Skagit territories who have traveled up and down these waterways, sustaining themselves physically and spiritually on its bountiful salmon runs for generations.

Today, the Skagit remains the largest and most biologically important watershed in the Puget Sound region. The river continues to support runs of all five native salmon species as well as Steelhead (Oncorhynchus. m. irideus), Coastal Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii)and endangered Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus). The healthy fish populations attract one of the largest wintering Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) migrations in the Lower 48 with 600-800 birds finding roost along the river annually. The Skagit is also a year-round home to beavers, waterfowl and countless other creatures that find homes, food and water along its banks.

In addition to wildlife, the Skagit River supports recreational and commercial boating and fishing, irrigation for agriculture, and nearly 20 percent of Seattle’s low-carbon energy from Ross, Diablo, and Gorge Dams. With so many diverse, and at times competing, stakeholders it is not a stretch to say the the Skagit River watershed is the lifeblood of our region. In 1978, the United States Congress recognized the river’s importance by designating it one of the Nation’s first Wild and Scenic Rivers. However, a lapse in conservation of this watershed north of the U.S. boarder in Canada could threaten the integrity of our watershed for generations to come.

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