….I spend a good deal of my time in the community forestlands. It was what attracted my family to Anacortes and it is what keeps me living here. I don’t think that makes me unique in this community. I walk the trails and I save my pennies to set aside acres through the conservation easement program. I’d like to think that setting aside acres really protects the habitat and wildlife of the forestland but I’m being naive. The Forestlands are affected by what happens beyond her borders much the same as my yard is affected by what happens in my neighbor’s yard.
Phase III of the Fir Crest Development proposes to become neighbors to the Mitten Pond area of the Forestlands directly adjacent to it. I strongly feel that even as good neighbors, Mitten Pond area will suffer irreparable damage from this development. Even though one of the main arteries of the Forestland trails passes through here, the Mitten Pond area has remained an unspoiled, serene, unassuming part of the woods. This area supports a healthy ecosystem that sustains a tremendous diversity of plants and wildlife. Walking down trail #10 you are shaded from the morning light and the sounds of traffic by a steep slope with large rock outcroppings overgrown with native fern, red cedar and big leafed maple. You can quickly realize on the ever--soggy trail, the value of the steep slope in bringing a supply of fresh naturally flowing water into this ecosystem. Only in one short stretch does the trail glance against the pond keeping the real “work” of the pond protected. I invite you to take an hour and experience this area. There is wildlife activity year round.
In the busy summertime, the reclusive wood duck finds a safe haven here, as do even the shyest warblers and flycatchers. Migratory waterfowl rest from their travels on the pond, undisturbed by mountain bikers and hikers who buzz along the trail. Dense concentrations of whirligig beetles scoot around the surface of the water. There is evidence of River Otter in the area. Beaver have been working on enlarging the pond area out to the west—soon the pond won’t be a mitten any more. By night, owls hunt and by day they find shelter. In the winter Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp Shinned swoop through on their hunt. Songbirds of all types migrate through, many spending all summer season in the dense growth here. The outfall of the pond is an important wildlife corridor that goes all the way to Burrows Bay.
Why is this area so appealing? The seclusion of the dense growth and the pond habitat draw all the creatures in and sustain them. This is a wild area, dependant on its natural wetlands. Nearly ½ of all the plants listed on the Plant Survey of Mitten Pond done in 2000 are dependant on the wetlands.
An article in the Science section of yesterday’s New York Times reports on the phenomenon of forest edges. Natural forest edges provide a gradual barrier between ecosystems. An artificial edge, cut by man, is abrupt, allowing infiltration of nonforest species very deep into the woods, along with the environmental effects, such as increased wind and sunlight which all drastically restructure the habitat irreparably. This NYT article is referring to flatland, here, we have a compound problem of an artificial edge disturbance and a slope which causes a disturbance of the vital watershed.
The Friends of the ACFL have proposed an option to protect this vital watershed. I support the use of quarry revenue for the purchase of this area.
There are few guarantees in life but of one thing I can assure you---if the proposed Phase III development is allowed to proceed it will dramatically alter the Mitten Pond habitat. No amount of hindsight and no amount of Conservation Easement money will be able to change that.
I urge you to give this area special consideration and to ask yourselves this question:
In times to come what will really determine the value of our unique area?
The number and density of our housing developments or how well we have cared for our true lasting treasures.
I believe that the Forestland is just such a treasure.