Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Rick Larsen (WA-02) introduced legislation to designate Illabot Creek in Skagit County as a Wild and Scenic River. The legislation will protect the free-flowing character of Illabot Creek, an important habitat for threatened wild Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout and other wildlife, while maintaining recreational opportunities such as hunting and fishing.
"Protecting the Illabot Creek is an important step toward preserving what makes Washington state so unique," said Senator Patty Murray. "Washingtonians take great pride in our state's tremendous natural resources and wildlife, and I applaud the volunteers who have worked tirelessly to protect the creek for future generations. I'm proud to join with Senator Cantwell and Representatives DelBene and Larsen to introduce this important legislation."
"I'm proud to partner with Senator Murray, Congresswoman DelBene, and Congressman Larsen to protect this important wildlife habitat and incredible site for outdoor recreation," said Senator Maria Cantwell. "Illabot Creek is a key Skagit River tributary and is home to salmon and bald eagles, two iconic species in the Pacific Northwest. This bill will help protect Illabot Creek's fish and wildlife habitat while ensuring it remains a great place for fishing and hunting for generations to come."
"Illabot Creek is a beautiful stretch of critical habitat that deserves to be protected," said Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. "Designating the Illabot as a Wild and Scenic River ensures the preservation of significant wild lands that are home to several threatened species. It also guarantees that people will continue to enjoy this area for hunting, fishing and other recreation for generations."
"Illabot Creek is a beautiful part of our community and an integral part of the Skagit Valley ecosystem," said Congressman Rick Larsen. "By preserving this habitat we are ensuring that Skagit County residents and visitors will be able to continue hunting, fishing and hiking in the region. When we support vital salmon spawning waters like this, we protect the fishing industry jobs that depend on healthy fish populations. I was proud to have passed this bill in the House last year and I look forward to working with Rep. DelBene and Sens. Murray and Cantwell to get this bill signed into law."
Illabot Creek flows for 14.3 miles through Skagit County, starting at Snow King Mountain 7,500 feet up in the Cascades and tumbling down to join the Skagit River at 500 feet above sea level. Illabot Creek provides crucial spawning habitat for wild Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout, all threatened species, and is home to numerous other species including bald eagles that roost along the creek.
The Skagit River watershed supports one of the largest concentrations of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Because of the abundance of salmon and the high quality of habitat, Illabot Creek is the center of foraging activity and supports two communal night roosts. One roost area is within the existing Skagit Wild and Scenic River corridor. The second is within the proposed Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic River designation. This abundance of bald eagles is a major attraction in Skagit County, and supports tourist activity, including the Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival.
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers of outstanding value in a free-flowing condition for future generations. The Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic River Act will prohibit dams and other water projects that impair the free-flowing nature of the river and establish a protected corridor extending one-quarter mile from the ordinary high-water mark on both sides of the river. Designating Illabot Creek as a National Wild and Scenic River will complement other local habitat protection and salmon and trout recovery efforts that are underway in the Skagit basin.
According to The Nature Conservancy, Illabot Creek and the surrounding area are home to the following species: Chinook salmon, Chum salmon, Coho salmon, Pink salmon, Sockeye salmon, Steelhead trout, Bull trout, Cutthroat trout, Marten, Roosevelt elk, Western toad, Bald eagle, Band-tailed pigeon, Blue grouse, Kestrel, Marbled murrelet, Northern spotted owl, Olive-sided flycatcher, Osprey, Pacific slope flycatcher, Peregrine falcon, Rufous hummingbird, Townsend's warbler, Western wood peewee, and the Willow flycatcher.