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Wildlife land donated to trust

“This is not for the people,” Gene Zema said. “It’s for the wildlife.”

Zema was standing on the 40 acres of wildlife-rich land near Crockett Lake he and his wife Janet are donating to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust.

The donated property adds directly on to the 355 acres of “critical habitat” that the Land Trust recently secured $850,000 in federal funding to attempt to acquire from willing sellers.

Crockett Lake, a shallow lake and series of marshes, provides exceptional habitat for migratory birds. Thousands of birds rely on the lake as an important migration staging area.

“I feel the land should never be developed,” said Janet Zema, “It’s too rich a habitat for the plants and birds that almost disappeared on the island.”

The donation includes four lots next to Engle and Fort Casey roads, appraised at $510,000.

In January, Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had awarded $1.7 million in grants for two projects in Island County, including Crockett Lake and Port Susan Bay.

Pat Powell, executive director Whidbey Camano Land Trust, said, “The Crockett Lake and Port Susan Bay projects will help conserve two wetland systems that are among the most important in the Puget Sound region and enjoyed by so many who live and visit Whidbey and Camano Islands.”

Both of these areas are considered top priorities in the Land Trust’s long-term land protection plan.

This property, once formally acquired, will become part of Fort Casey State Park and will be designated as a natural area, where “appropriate public uses are allowed provided they do not disturb wildlife,” said Powell, adding that “the public should be very grateful to Gene and Janet Zema for their desire to preserve this exceptional area.”

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