[Tweeters] King County rarities (not)

Scuderi, Michael R CIV USARMY CENWS (USA) Michael.R.Scuderi at usace.army.mil
Mon May 17 09:13:26 PDT 2021

Kelly is right. The debate on the value of shorebird habitat goes back at least to the Auburn Downs Racetrack wetland mitigation in the mid-1990s. At that point Dr. Tom Hruby from Department of Ecology was developing the percussor to the current Washington State Wetland rating system. There were four major functions being assessed, Water Quality, Hydrologic functions, Fish habitat, and wildlife habitat. At that time, for wildlife habitat, there was a dichotomy between wetland models which ranked forested wetlands which favored riparian species (Bob Zeigler did a lot of work on this), and open water wetlands which supported waterfowl and shorebirds. At the time most people were not noticing the decline in freshwater wetlands, and were more worried about reestablishment of the forested wetlands that once predominated the Puget Sound lowlands (for a fun look at what was here check out Dawson and Bowles, 1909). To my chagrin, the forested wetland people won out, these wetlands get higher credit in mitigation formulas used then and now. That is in my opinion why we are seeing the drive towards more forested wetlands.

A second factor is the buffer zone. One of the criteria used in the current Washington state wetland model is interspersion. A typical marsh with open water, mudflat, and then a rush/reed fringe gets a lower score than if you have a forested buffer around it (more interspersion).

Finally, if you create a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Priority Habitat, you get a higher score. Forested wetlands are a priority habitat. Freshwater emergent habitat is not a priority habitat. Of course WDFW could be petitioned to make freshwater shorebird habitat a priority habitat.

So basically, the books are stacked against wetlands that contain shorebird habitat. In addition, there are more maintenance costs in keeping up open water and mudflats, either through maintaining high water levels, eliminating reed canary grass, and removing encroaching willows and other water loving woody vegetation.

This is a project that local Audubons and WOS might consider taking on to protect disappearing shorebird habitat. The M Street marsh in Auburn could be a good example to consider for shorebird/waterfowl habitat, though surveyors were out there recently (which is usually not a good thing).

Mike Scuderi
Cotinga777 at yahoo.com
Kent, WA

-----Original Message-----
From: mcallisters4 at comcast.net <mcallisters4 at comcast.net>
Sent: Saturday, May 15, 2021 6:17 PM
To: 'TWEETERS tweeters' <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Tweeters] King County rarities (not)

During the debate about wetland "restoration" and mitigation credits for the work at the Montlake Fill I weighed in agreeing with Dennis and the idea that the "highest and best" habitat value for this location was early successional wetland habitat that would be more likely to attract and provide basic support for species that have a difficult time finding suitable habitat elsewhere, like shorebirds. The primary wetland regulators in Washington, the Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, establish how much credit given for creating different kinds of wetland conditions. A typical late successional type with a strong willow or shrub component gets the most credits, I believe.

It would cost less to forego the planting of willows, Spiraea, and other woody plants, and, perhaps, the compensation could be a commitment to periodically set back succession to maintain open muddy shorelines and shallows.

Kelly McAllister
Formerly WSDOT, Olympia

-----Original Message-----
From: Tweeters <tweeters-bounces at mailman11.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of Dennis Paulson
Sent: Saturday, May 15, 2021 6:03 PM
To: pan <panmail at mailfence.com>
Cc: TWEETERS tweeters <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Tweeters] King County rarities (not)

Alan, you made a good point here in your last sentence. I don’t know why people plant willows around wetlands like this, thereby fairly quickly destroying their value as shorebird habitat. It’s been done at Montlake Fill, it’s been done at Magnuson Park, and I know it’s been done at other constructed wetlands. Willows and cottonwoods come in soon enough on their own, and my recommendation has always been to actively manage for shorebirds—clear out the woody vegetation that invariably becomes established at such places and not only ruins it for shorebirds and some other wetland species but even eliminates the views that birders cherished before the trees blocked them.

We have lots of trees in this area but not lots of open meadows and wetlands. What is not liked about the latter scarce habitats?

I don’t know why the various agencies have this bias, and it would be good to bring out in the open and discuss in the environmental community. There seems to be no trace of an environmental master plan for the region.

Dennis Paulson

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