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Willowmoor Projects Location Map.jpg

 It is a gift to the senses and an emotional awakening to be able to study a landscape over time. In the repetition of visits, one finds comfort in the common and awe in the extraordinary. Change at this estuary is not only captured within seasons, but by the ever-changing nature of a tidally influenced space. On any given visit to zis a ba, there is both order and chaos as seen through countless events being played out simultaneously.

-Cindy Easterson, Project Manager


Coastal estuaries are found in the transition zone between land and sea where fresh water mixes with salt water to create unique spaces; strongly influenced by tidal action this merging of land, river and sea form a dynamic natural complex where fish, birds and animals of all sorts gather to feed, find refuge, grow to adulthood and stage migration. Coastal estuarine wetland ecosystems are increasingly threatened from the human impacts of development and recreation as well as climate change.

The zis a ba project, which supports the restoration of riverine and tidal process to nearly 100 acres (40.5 ha) of diked former tidal marsh, is part of the Stillaguamish Tribe’s efforts to restore functioning ecosystems that will support expanded treaty fishing and hunting opportunities. The site is named “zis a ba” for a highly respected Stillaguamish tribal chief who led the tribe in the 1800s.

zis a ba is located on the Old Mainstem of the Stillaguamish River, at the bifurcation of South and West Passes and across from the City of Stanwood. Immediately to the south is Port Susan Bay, and to the north is Skagit Bay, both located in the Whidbey Basin of the Puget Sound estuarine system.

The project will assist the threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead as well as provide nursery habitat for Dungeness crabs and other fish, waterfowl, and wildlife. Key project elements include a new setback dike to protect agricultural lands and other infrastructure; seven dike breaches to connect new dendritic tidal channels, and the creation of mudflat, intertidal, and high salt marsh habitat.

The avian monitoring at the zis a ba site has been specifically developed to establish a baseline understanding about shorebirds, waterfowl, secretive marsh birds, and landbirds at the site and will work to coordinate local efforts to broadly understand avian response to estuarine restoration.

This project addresses the following objectives:

  • Collect comprehensive area count data using 9 observation points for the assessment of site-specific effects on birds at the zis a ba estuary restoration site

  • Work with collaborators and across landscapes to better understand the effects of restoration treatments on birds within the North Puget Sound

  • Utilize specifically trained citizen scientists to augment capacity and make it possible for the Stillaguamish Tribe to conduct this work

  • Continue working relationships with stakeholders, which may include Audubon, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Glacial Heritage Preserve, and other groups monitoring specific sites for birds across the area.

  • When possible, help elevate the discussion about the value of restoration treatment to birds.

Understanding Avian Response to Estuarine Restoration at zis a ba

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