Swantastic News!

August 29, 2019

Once again you, our generous supporters, have come to the rescue, answering the desperate call of dying Tundra Swans and other waterfowl. The result of our collective efforts will be phenomenal!

Canyon Marsh, on the lower Coeur d’Alene River Basin, is an essential, exceptional feeding and resting ground for majestic Tundra Swans and throngs of migrating waterfowl. Imagine the relief that this lush habitat, with its mosaic of different water elevations and plant species, represents to a flock of weary swans. They must rest and refuel before resuming their long, arduous journey toward their arctic breeding grounds.

Unfortunately, the bottom of the river and adjacent floodplains are laden with huge quantities of heavy metals that have been spilled into the river upstream. A century ago these Canyon Marsh wetlands were ditched, drained, and sometimes received a toxic kiss of heavy metals—such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and zinc—from mining in the Silver Valley.

Swans on Canyon Marsh

Because of their long necks and their preference for feeding in deep muds, hungry Tundra Swans are uniquely suited for ingesting large amounts of these metals along with the food that they so desperately need. As a result, every year during spring migration hundreds of swans die along the Coeur d’Alene River as they consume these legacy mine wastes. Other waterfowl and creatures higher on the food chain are also poisoned.

Thanks to you, a Conservancy supporter, we are able to save these beautiful swans.

We celebrate the fact that on August 14, 2019 Doug Walker and Jamie Hass, veterinarians and outdoors enthusiasts, dedicated their 162 acres of land to wildlife by signing a conservation agreement with INLC. In 2004 the couple bought their land and moved to Canyon Marsh, where they watched the spring migrations of waterfowl and songbirds. Although it now produces oats and hay, the Walker-Hass property will soon be devoted to wetland restoration and wildlife habitat. In the words of Doug Walker, “Having run cattle and farmed this property for years, I feel like the best future for this land is as restored wetlands for waterfowl and other critters. It is my hope that this project becomes one that protects and enhances what I love about life in north Idaho.”

Canyon Marsh

Thousands of motorists can see Canyon Marsh each day. Imagine you’re on Idaho’s I-90, heading east over Fourth of July Pass. As you crest the pass and descend into the canyon, you’ll see Fourth of July Creek gathering strength. It fills Canyon Marsh, going through the Walker-Hass property, and on into the Coeur d’Alene River. While riding her bike on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, an INLC volunteer has personally seen numerous Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, loons, ducks, Osprey, deer, and moose in Canyon Marsh, as the paved trail took her along the river through myriad wildflowers such as lupine, arrowleaf balsamroot, and Indian paintbrush.

The Walker conservation agreement is part of the Canyon Marsh project, and the larger Restoration Partnership. INLC is partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Ducks Unlimited, additional state and federal agencies, and private landowners. Other members of the partnership will remove the toxic waste and restore the wetlands. Tim Kiser, a scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is in charge of the Coeur d’Alene River Basin restoration effort. Before remediation and restoration can begin, however, INLC must ensure that the land is forever protected from development and future degradation, with a conservation agreement.

At the heart of the project is willing landowners. One of them, a tough-skinned Idahoan, commented, with tears in his eyes, that he’s participating in this program “‘cuz I don’t want to see another swan die on my land.”

You, INLC’s supporters, make this and future river corridor restoration projects possible. This is conservation work at its finest—a partnership between private landowners, government and tribal agencies, and a regional nonprofit. The collaborative effort benefits the wildlife who rely for their survival on these lands, and enriches the people who pass through the area.

The conservation and cleanup of this inestimable habitat will inspire, educate, and comfort the thousands of human users who, every year, recreate along the trail by bike and foot, and along the waterway by boat. Following the Walker-Hass example, their neighbors also intend to dedicate their properties to habitat conservation and restoration so that much of Canyon Marsh can again teem with wildlife, safely feeding in the marshlands.

Watch for future updates on the restoration! And be sure to see a description of this and many other projects in the “Where We Work” portion of INLC’s website.

Swans on Canyon Marsh on a foggy day in spring