Illabot Creek, Washington
Over the past two years, with The Nature Conservancy and other partners, American Rivers has been working to ensure that Illabot Creek remains wild and free-flowing forever. In March of this year, Illabot Creek moved an important step closer to permanent protection, when Representative Rick Larsen (WA-2nd) introduced the legislation, H.R. 1593, to designate 13 miles of Illabot Creek as a Wild and Scenic River. Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have sponsored a companion bill, S. 635, in the Senate and the Obama Administration expressed support for both bills during hearings in July. In September, the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved the legislation and it passed in the House in October. American Rivers will be working throughout this Congress to ensure that the bill becomes law and Illabot Creek receives the long-term protection it so richly deserves.
Illabot Creek is so important because it is a key tributary of the Skagit River and a very special haven for two of the Northwest’s beloved icons – salmon and eagles. The creek provides exceptional spawning and rearing habitat for summer and fall chinook, coho, and pink salmon. Illabot is also home to native steelhead and one of the largest populations of bull trout in the Skagit watershed. Due to the large number of salmon and the high quality old-growth forest habitat in the Illabot Creek corridor, it supports one of the largest wintering bald eagle populations in the lower 48 and two communal night roosts.
Given the important fish and wildlife resources in the Illabot Creek watershed, it has long been the focus of voluntary land protection efforts. Through these efforts, the vast majority of the stream corridor, including the entire area proposed for Wild and Scenic River designation, has been brought into public ownership.
However, in the past, there have been several hydropower projects proposed on Illabot Creek that represented a serious risk to its thriving fish and wildlife populations, and these projects could come back again. Wild and Scenic designation of Illabot Creek would permanently protect its free-flowing character, water quality, and outstanding fish and wildlife values. Designation would also complement salmon recovery efforts in the Skagit basin and help protect the many investments that have been made to conserve the lands adjacent to Illabot Creek, and help to ensure that Illabot Creek continues to be a source of cold, clean water to Puget Sound.
The U.S. Forest Service recommended Illabot Creek to Congress for Wild and Scenic designation in 1990 because of its outstanding fish and wildlife values. Many other interested parties also support this legislation, including the Skagit County Commissioners, Western Washington Agriculture Association, Fidalgo Fly Fishers, Seattle City Light, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and many conservation and recreational fishing and paddling groups.
- Map of Illabot Creek and Skagit River
- Illabot Creek Factsheet
- Press Release: Murray and Larsen Introduce Bill to Keep Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic
- Press Release: House Committee Approves Legislation to Keep Skagit County’s Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic
- House Passes Legislation to Designate Illabot Creek as Washington State’s newest Wild and Scenic River