Okanogan Highlands Alliance - Lost Lake Project

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While the Lost Lake parcels sustain diverse plant and animal populations, both the wetland and adjacent forestland are in need of restoration measures. The forestland was aggressively harvested in 1992. OHA has begun assessing the conditions and developing a management plan with the goal of maintaining and enhancing forest health, habitat and diversity while reducing weeds and fire danger. The wetland supports a wide variety of life, but is not yet fenced to keep livestock out. When cattle eat and trample wetland plants, the native animal populations are also affected through loss of reproductive and foraging habitats. OHA plans to install fencing to protect the wetland and its valuable diversity of species.


Community involvement is also needed to protect the nesting waterbird populations. Of particular interest is the Common Loon (Gavia immer), a rare breeder in Washington and a sensitive species ranked as imperiled in the state. More Common Loon chicks have been produced on record at Lost Lake than any other lake in Washington. While Lost Lake has historically been a successful nesting place for Common Loons, the loon population is in jeopardy. Beginning in the 1980’s, lifelong area resident Roy Visser began observing nesting loons and recording their behavior. For fifteen years, Ginger Gumm and Daniel Poleschook, Jr. of the Loon Lake Loon Association (LLLA), with the help of Patti Baumgardner from the USFS, have conducted a study of Eastern WA loons, which has confirmed lead toxicosis as a cause of loon death at Lost Lake and as the cause of 39% of all loon deaths in WA State. According to the LLLA, loons most commonly take in lead by ingesting fish on an active or broken fishing line. Additionally, when loons scoop up pebbles from the bottom of the lake to help grind their food, they can swallow lead fishing sinkers. Terns, geese, dabbling ducks, swans, mergansers as well as small mammals can also be poisoned, and the lead moves through the food chain, affecting eagles and other predators. A bird with lead poisoning cannot keep balance, breathe or fly properly, adequately eat or care for young, and often dies within two to three weeks. Just one lead sinker is enough to kill a loon.

In December, 2010, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved restrictions on the use of lead fishing tackle at 13 lakes with nesting common loons, including Lost Lake. Please help spread the word that lead-free tackle must now be used at Lost Lake, and help others understand how important this is to wildlife. Lead is also toxic to humans; a piece of lead as small as a grain of sand is enough to poison a child (Centers for Disease Control, 1991).

 LL Loons collage1


Another Lost Lake waterbird of note is the Black Tern, a Category 2 candidate for listing under the endangered species act, and a bird-at-risk on the Washington Gap Analysis list. According to the Seattle Audubon Society (2008), Black Tern numbers have "decreased since the 1960s due in part to the destruction or degradation of much of their breeding... habitat." You may see these black and silver birds swooping to pluck food from the surface of Lost Lake or foraging in flight as they seize flying insects from the air. In order to nest, the Black Tern needs habitat with extensive cover vegetation as well as open water. Like the loon, the small and graceful tern nests on floating debris or near the water, making the Lost Lake non-combustible motor rule a key factor for successful nesting for both species.

 LL collage2


The recently reestablished beaver population in the Lost Lake wetland improves wetland function. Significant increases in the water storage capacity of the wetland caused by beaver activity will not only benefit the hydrology of the wetland and the nesting waterbird and plant populations, but will provide additional water for late season flows into the Myers Creek subwatershed.

Below: New beaver dams, built during the summer of 2010, hold water back

LL Beaver Activity 2010

In Closing

The Lost Lake wetland is also home to a wide variety of plant species, which are key to water filtration and biological productivity. Plentiful vegetation and shallow water provide diverse habitats for fish and wildlife. Okanogan Highlands Alliance plans to protect, restore and preserve the diverse plant and animal populations of Lost Lake, and to provide educational and volunteer opportunities for local community members who wish to learn more and become involved. Please stay posted for more information about these opportunities.

LL Collage 3

What Can You Do?

If you enjoy fishing, you can use fishing weights made from non-poisonous materials such as bismuth, steel, clay, rock, ceramic and tungsten-nickel alloy. Non-lead jigs and other tackle are also available.

You can find these supplies locally in hardware and sporting goods stores. If you don’t see non-lead tackle, ask for it so the store managers know you care. Many people love to see loons and eagles while they fish. Please pass this information along to others.


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