[Tweeters] Wylie Slough - update ...

Wayne Weber contopus at telus.net
Thu Apr 14 23:06:15 PDT 2022

Jim and Tweeters,

As someone with a strong background in plant ecology (as well as
ornithology), I can assure readers that any assertion that cattails are not
native to the Skagit estuary is ridiculous. A comparison with the Fraser
estuary in BC (a much bigger river, to be sure) would be instructive. The
Fraser has 3 main mouths-- the North Arm, the main arm, and Canoe Pass
(which discharges between Westham Island and Brunswick Point). Many hundreds
of acres in the upper intertidal zone, between the 3 mouths and for a fair
distance to the north and south, are covered with a dense stand of
vegetation dominated by cattails, and have been as long as anyone can

Cattails (Typha latifolia) are mainly a freshwater marsh plant, although
they also grow well in brackish estuaries with large amounts of freshwater
inflow, such as the Fraser and Skagit estuaries. They cannot survive where
high salinities prevail all the time, although they can withstand great
variation in salinity.

Cattail stands are also highly productive from a biological point of view--
for birds and other critters. Estuarine cattail stands provide excellent
habitat for Red-winged Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, Virginia Rails, American
Bitterns, Common Yellowthroats, Northern Harriers, and other species.
Wherever there are openings in the plant cover, they also provide good
feeding areas for shorebirds and dabbling ducks.

I am not sure what kind of habitat WDFW would like to create, or what kind
would be more productive than cattail marsh. It should be noted that the
Skagit Wildlife Area was created mainly for the protection and production of
wildlife, not fish. However, the widespread breaching of dikes in western
Washington and elsewhere, and reflooding with salt or brackish water, was
forced by fishery interests, with no concern whatsoever for effects on
wildlife. They thought it would increase the survival of juvenile salmon.
Perhaps there should have been more consultation between fishery and
wildlife biologists and plant ecologists beforehand, in order to determine
what kind of habitat would eventually result from this gigantic experiment.
It seems to be evolving in directions that many of us did not expect. It
remains to be seen whether the expansion of intertidal areas will in fact
result in improved salmonid survival, or whether the whole experiment will
go down in history as a failure. However, from a wildlife point of view, it
seems to me there are much worse things than cattail stands that could have
resulted, and I am wondering what the wildlife managers would like to see

Wayne C. Weber, Ph.D.
Delta, BC, Canada
contopus at telus.net

-----Original Message-----
From: Tweeters [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman11.u.washington.edu] On
Behalf Of jimbetz at jimbetz.com
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2022 9:06 PM
To: tweeters at u.washington.edu
Subject: [Tweeters] Wylie Slough - update ...

Hi all,

I actually got to talk to some of the people at WDFW today. The
bottom line (my interpretation) is that they are trying to eliminate
the "non-native" cattails in order to produce a "healthier" environment.
The cattails had taken over and had converted the Wylie wetlands into
a 'mono-environment' (very little vegetation other than cattails).
After additional probing he finally seemed to admit that the cattails
aren't so much 'exotics' with respect to the PNW ... they just aren't
natural (historically verifiable) as being present in the Skagit delta.
Some (most?) of that history has been provided by the tribes in the

(Jim's message truncated for brevity)

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