Letter to the editor: Wildlife concerns with tree removal at Point Edwards

Save Our Marsh sent the following letter to the Point Edwards Homeowners Association and requested that it also be published as a letter to the editor

To: Point Edwards Homeowners Association

We urge you to revisit your Landscape Management Plan with an eye towards the adverse as well as beneficial aspects of vegetation management on wildlife in the area. We appreciate the desire to maintain views of the beautiful environs around Point Edwards, and only ask that your landscape planning take into account and “balance” the value of trees for life history needs of wildlife (as well as human health) with property owner desires for open views.

The vegetated strip on the hillside below the condos is part of the Willow Creek wildlife corridor, and the timing, numbers, and species of trees removed and replanted should take this into account. Removing patches of mature trees all at one time is likely to adversely affect the wildlife that utilize those trees and affiliated habitat.  Great blue herons used to nest in areas of dense alder trees between the marsh and the Point Edwards property, and herons have been observed in recent years carrying nesting material over the marsh (though no active nests have yet been documented). Bushtits and other birds commonly use alder trees for their nests.  Deer fawns and coyote pups have also been observed in the wildlife corridor.

As you know, with WSDOT terminating their plan to relocate the ferry terminal below Point Edwards, the Save Our Marsh group has urged the city and State to designate the old Unocal property as a wildlife reserve (or sanctuary) with a tidal channel across it to bring back salmon and restore the estuary. Thus, vegetation management on the hillside above the old Unocal property will be important for and affect wildlife restoration.

We ask that the Point Edwards Homeowners Association consider incorporating the “Certified Wildlife Habitat” criteria established by the National Wildlife Federation (see: www.nwf.org/certify ) into your Landscape Management Plan, and obtain wildlife habitat certification and post signs of such on your property.  We’d also suggest the association consult a wildlife ecologist in making necessary revisions to the Landscape Management Plan.

We did note that the SEPA checklist that you sent to the City of Edmonds does not adequately address wildlife in the area, nor the potential adverse effects of tree removal on wildlife. Further, the SEPA checklist does not acknowledge the wildlife value and usage of the stormwater detention pond on your property. Even though it is a manmade pond, it has become a valuable asset to wildlife and any tree removal near the pond can adversely affect that wildlife.

Bill Anderson, a local wildlife enthusiast and photographer who recently passed away, documented 28 different bird species from 2013 to 2016 in the “Point Edwards Walkway, Condos, Unocal” area. The following bird species that Bill has documented at Point Edwards should be addressed in the SEPA document:  Canada goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern shoveler, Redhead, Ring-necked duck, California quail, Great blue heron, Green heron, Bald eagle, Cooper’s hawk, Sharp-shinned hawk, Rufous hummingbird, Anna’s hummingbird, Northern flicker, Steller’s jay, American crow, Violet-green swallow, Barn swallow, Bushtit, Bewick’s wren, Ruby-crowned kinglet, American robin, Cedar waxwing, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed junco, Red-winged blackbird, and American goldfinch.  Deer (adults and fawn), coyotes (adults and pups) and racoons have also been observed at Pt Edwards and should be addressed in the SEPA document.

Thank you for your consideration of our request to modify your Landscape Management Plan to “balance” wildlife needs and the value of mature trees to human health and well being with your goal to maintain views.

Marjorie Fields
on behalf of Save Our Marsh

  1. As a homeowner at Point Edwards, I share your concerns and plan to contact Save our Marsh. I walk the pathway above the hillside often and have seen many of the birds Marjorie wrote about, along with interesting creatures in the retention pond and sometimes, a deer family.

  2. I could not agree more and think about the changes since the 1980’s. It is one of the true joys of living in the Edmonds area that we have trees and wildlife including lots of bird species. It was a sad day when Triad had trees removed to build initially. The fine they paid did not bring back the trees and underlying growth. We all need birds and animals including robins, flickers, eagles, chipmunks, deer, coyotes etc. A view will just be through the trees but the environment for all will be better.

    1. I just want to add that other than the herons, ducks I have all of the others birds, raccoons all the time, possum, deer lately, coyotes owls. All of them. In 5 corners. This is why we too don’t want our trees cut down and the area stuffed with multiple houses on lots.
      I agree with the article Marjorie wrote…I support all of you in these comments.
      But remember all we have are the trees…no mountains, no sound views and no beaches. So please don’t take ours either. If you ruin Edmonds from 9th and North to 99. Eventually all of Edmonds will be ruined.

  3. As a lifelong resident of Edmonds I was deeply disheartened when the property was clearcut to build the condos in the first place. Gone was the rookery that was home to so many of our protected bird species. Megan is correct that the fine the contractor paid could not come close to repairing the damage that was done. The wildlife is returning, but we need to protect what is left of the habitat, and enhance the area to attract more species. Any landscape plan that is designed to enhance views over the protection of wildlife habitat should not be permitted by the City. Unfortunately, I’m afraid our local officials do not have the backbone to stand up to developers and homeowners who are only in it for themselves. It’s up to us to put pressure on our neighbors to do the right thing.

  4. Marjorie, I want to commend you on your beautifully written and carefully documented response to tree removal at Point Edwards. I hope that the board will seriously consider their actions because we all enjoy not only the views, but also the wildlife in our fair town. I am reminded daily of our interconnectedness with nature and our call to act responsibly and walk softly.

  5. Marjie,
    Thank you for such a well-prepared message stating the need for a well-considered approach to landscaping activities and choices for the critical habitat needs of the Point Edwards site. It has a chance to make up for the decimation leveled on the area when the land was initially cleared for construction. We can be heartened by the return of some of the native habitat and hope the Homeowners Association will keep preservation of habitat in mind as they work to design “frames” for their views.

  6. Thank you, Marjorie, for this explanation of what is happening in this area. I particularly appreciate your putting out some practical solutions.

  7. I live in Point Edwards and I resent the statement that this work is being done to “frame our views”. Stabilizing and maintaining the slope and ensuring that runoff into the marsh continues to be is clean are high priorities, indeed environmental factors were paramount during the discussions. Part of the plan is to remove non-native flora and replace them with native species. I am quite at a loss to understand how people can think that this will damage native wildlife, apart from during the short period of adjustment. How many of you are simply reacting negatively to any kind of change without actually reading the proposal and impact statement?

    1. Robyn – before you “resent the statements”, you need to check your facts. ALL of the trees proposed for removal are NATIVE species (red alders, cottonwoods) that great blue herons and other native wildlife have nested in for millennia. The Association is proposing to replace NATIVE trees with introduced plants. Those native trees have held the hillside intact for years and there is no scientific basis to say the introduced plants will do better for the hillside or the wildlife.

      Also, “before YOU react negatively” to people asking the Association to revisit the landscape plan to think beyond “views”, please read your Association’s permit application. Hopefully, you and other Pt Edwards homeowners will join in asking your association to ‘balance’ the desire for open views with the needs of wildlife and preserving what’s left of our natural environment.

  8. Thank you everyone for your comments to preserve the natural beauty, plants, and wildlife at Point Edwards.
    2 years ago. A large parcel of land next to my home was cleared to build 4 homes. They removed 30+ trees, all very old. There were at least 7 evergreens over 50′ tall, plus multiple alders, maples, plum trees, cherry trees, cottonwoods, and countless very large shrubbery. The most heartbreaking result of this was the huge disruption of the wildlife that lived there. The poor birds who were nesting were frantic, no doubt because their nests, eggs, and babies were destroyed. The squirrels and raccoons were lost as their habit was taken away. The eagles used the tall trees to rest, along with their young every spring and summer.
    The most upsetting was that I was told repeatedly by the city planning office that they would not allow the builder to remove all the trees and vegetation. They actually told me to call the police if I saw them taking down the trees. Ha! The builder leveled the land. So irresponsible.
    My plea to Point Edwards is please be aware of the consequences of your actions before it’s too late.
    Sometimes, it’s best to leave well enough alone.

  9. We need and assessment, right now, of the bird and wildlife uses of the forest below the residential buildings. At least 3 large nests are easily visible in the currently-leafless native deciduous tree canopies. The nests are even visible from the boardwalk on the north side of the Marsh (from Harbor Square lookouts), using binoculars and cameras with telephoto lenses. Two nests look very much like Bald eagle nests. “Right now” means before the deciduous trees leaf out in mid-March, when it will be much difficult to view existing and new nests.
    Ironically, we are into the second year of an ongoing, decade-long, professional biweekly “Edmonds Marsh Avian Habitat Use Monitoring Study” sponsored by the Pilchuck Audubon Society and the Puget Sound Bird Observatory (see https://www.pilchuckaudubon.org/avian-habitat-use-monitoring-at-edmonds-marsh-project). This study includes the buffer zone and tree habitats below the condominiums. I would appreciate knowing if the PE HOA or the City is looking at that data as part of the permit evaluation. What a shame if that science is being ignored.

  10. How many of the people complaining about terrible Point Edwards remember, or even know, what used to be here? An oil tank farm. Rows and rows of enormous oil tanks across the hillside. Do you imagine that the owners cared about the environment? About poisoned soil or toxic substances leaching into the marsh, about native wildlife or invasive plant species? Once the tanks were gone do you know how much soil remediation had to be done, or what steps had to be taken to stabilize the hillside? Be glad that the residents of Point Edwards are willing to care for the wild land remaining. Please take the time to read the proposal and the environmental statement before you hit the “Hate” button.

    1. Robyn, I agree with you. I do not live at Pt Edwards, but have friends who do live in this beautiful community. I walk there from my downtown home quite often. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, well kept by a full-time landscaping professional staff. The daffodil’s and crocus are blooming this week. This is not a community who does not take the environment in to account for everything that they do. The lovely planned viewing areas on both tiers are such a great place to view all of Edmonds, and enjoy a seat or a glass of something should you plan ahead. The sidewalks are worthy of much jealousy to those of us who live in downtown Edmonds. If the homeowners in downtown Edmonds kept 1/2 of their homes and landscaping in as nice and tree-lined as PE, it would be a definite improvement. Not to mention the abundance of eagles who chose PE. We have people who comment in this very publication who have cars and motor homes parked in their “front yards”! The lighting, should you go in the evening is well done with a great ambiance. Then take into account what this community does for the church’s, food banks, commerce in Edmonds. These are not people who do not care about their community nor the environment. The submitted plan is very well thought out, and holds a long term commitment to keep the bank intact as well as give some better visual views and better trees in their planting, while protecting the wildlife. To just write off the request of this community is unwise, and unfair. I remember when the tanks were there, and many in this community fought with the developer when they were REMOVED! They deserve fairness.

      1. Yep Gonzalez, I have to agree. When we talk of “(taking) the environment in to (sic) account”, we need to think of planned viewing areas, decorative flowers, professional landscapers, sidewalks that make us jealous, and ambient lighting to drink under. Point Edwards has obviously nailed it.

        Thanks for bringing that message home to us, I just wish that Mother Nature could do half as good a job.

  11. Robyn,

    My guess is that everyone commenting knows exactly what was there before Point Edwards, and knows about the required remediation. I can understand the need to stabilize the slope, given that there was a landslide, a year or so after construction was completed, down the hillside that had been clear cut. What I don’t understand is why the Association believes that removal of native trees will help to stabilize the slope.

    I’m also not hearing the “hate” that you reference. What I’m hearing is a thoughtful and respectful appeal to the Association “to “balance” wildlife needs and the value of mature trees to human health and well being with your goal to maintain views”.

  12. Does anyone remember when the developer of these properties said these original trees were mistakenly removed and said it had nothing to do with views? Are these similar type trees growing back now or was the hill replanted with a taller species?

    1. Darrell, my recollection is that they were mistakenly cut down on a Sunday, when the contractors mistakenly went onto the slope that was not part of the development, and that all trees that had any potential of blocking a view (even to ground floor units) were mistakenly removed.

      I could be mistaken, but I have not seen any evidence of comprehensive replanting of similar/native trees to that location, although there does appear to be some natural seeding of some Douglas Firs/Western Hemlock-Spruce on the slope (and given the fact that Douglas Firs and Western Hemlock grow to well over 100′ when mature, I expect them to be mistakenly cut down at some future point as well …).

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