The Skagit River system is the second largest in the Northwest (with its main tributaries the Sauk, Suiattle and Cascade), and one of the largest in the United States. The Skagit is renowned for its bald eagles, runs of salmon and steelhead, whitewater and scenic beauty. The wintering population of eagles along the Skagit and its tributaries is one of the largest in the continuous forty-eight states. Each winter hundreds of eagles congregate on the riverbanks to feed on spawned-out salmon. The Skagit is also one of few remaining rivers in the lower 48 states that contain all five salmon species.
The quality of fish habitat in the Skagit has deteriorated since 1978 when it was designated the nation's largest National Wild and Scenic River system. As a stream that flows through private land, it is going the way of other Puget Sound rivers: logged, developed, polluted and cut off from the public. Western Rivers Conservancy took the lead in urging the Forest Service to begin an aggressive restoration program along the Skagit. Land acquisition has become an important part of that program.
Since 1990, Western Rivers Conservancy has protected more than 2,300 acres along the Skagit, working with a number of private landowners and corporations to assemble sensitive Skagit riverlands for significant protection. Nine different sites totaling 650 acres have been purchased from Crown Pacific. These acquisitions conserved important roosting sites for Skagit River eagles. WRC purchased another 1,660 acres on four islands: Ross Island, purchased from Kimberly Clark Company (formerly Scott Paper Company); Lyman Islands, purchased from Simpson Timber Company; and Van Horn Island and Roost, purchased from Simpson Timber Company and a private landowner. The islands - created by meandering braids of the Skagit and its backwater sloughs - include vital spawning and rearing habitat for Skagit River salmon and steelhead.