Washington Island Sportsman’s Club Backs Pilot Island Petition

The Washington Island Sportsman’s Club is urging Door County residents to support an online petition related to the future use of Pilot Island.

The petition drive is a follow-up to a two-hour public meeting the club arranged in October on Washington Island with representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which now manages Pilot Island as part of the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The club wants the USFWS to restore the 3.5-acre island off the tip of the Door peninsula as it existed decades ago and no longer use it as a nesting area for cormorants and other migratory birds. The U.S. Coast Guard turned Pilot Island over to the USFWS in 2007, and it is now off limits to the public as a nesting area that the USFWS manages.

USFWS figures estimate that the island’s cormorant population peaked at 5,330 nests in 2009, compared to 3,756 nests during the most recent count in 2021.

The petition, which is available at, is being used to register objections to Pilot Island’s current use and ask the USFWS to “take these immediate actions” to save the island:

  • Remove the cormorants.
  • Preserve and restore the lighthouse keeper’s building to its original state.
  • Reconstruct the fog-signal building to its original state.
  • Remove the cormorant guano; replace it with fertile soil, flora and trees; and return the land to its original state.
  • Build a dock and boat channel so visitors can safely access the island.

Rip Koken of the Washington Island Sportsman’s Club said that people who sign the online petition with their first and last names can also include comments that will be forwarded to the USFWS, which has taken the position to use Pilot Island as a nesting area to stabilize the cormorant population after the birds were endangered decades ago.

Koken said the petition also has fields for entering an email address and phone number, which signers are encouraged, but not required, to do.

Given the historical value of Pilot Island, which the club has characterized as having turned into a “smelly, polluted eyesore” because of the number of migratory birds nesting there annually, Koken said he would like to see it restored for the public to enjoy.

He said efforts to hold another meeting with USFWS staff have so far been unsuccessful, and the club has contacted the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher about restoring Pilot Island.   

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