Whatcom County’s Executive and the Parks Department have never bothered to fake objectivity. Git ‘er done, baby. Most of county council has been partnering and kabbitzing and slicing up the pie since last summer, aglow and intent on ending productive forestry on this 8,844 acres of land to create a massive park.
Is there any proof that DNR logging has done harm to the water in Lake Whatcom? Nope. Is there a commitment from Washington Ecology that "lake health" will change, or that its brief summer algae blooms will diminish if this land becomes "park"? Nope. But deliberate and panicky “save the water” claims sold a pack of true believers to think it will make a difference. Proponents have done everything in their power to stop DNR from harvesting timber - the public's "green" renewable resource. Despite common sense, snake oil salesmen have done very well.
The Parks Department's full-blown “vista version” park cost estimate was over $6 million for work that would drag out over twenty years. To make up for the sticker shock, Parks unveiled a revenue generation plan that (surprise!) would have government sell conservation easements by the acre or in big blocks in the lucrative mitigation marketplace. Hey - investors, check out Whatcom County, it's a gold mine! This growing ripoff financial industry likes to find environmentally healthy places to flip their paper - with middlemen getting rich by doing and producing absolutely nothing. Conservation easements can anchor "restoration" grant funds too, a rent-seeker sideline that keeps on giving.
At least four on council don't care that hard working people in cork boots and red suspenders will lose this great place to work, close to home. It's not their problem if logging families suffer, or the devastating affect it will have on struggling sawmills and the equipment, supply, and hardware trades.
While lawsuits pile up demanding that "rural character" must be preserved to keep land use just as it was when the Growth Management Act (GMA) passed, this aberration will be ignored despite its also saying, "Encourage the conservation of productive forest lands." This issue has been driven by anti-logger sentiment from the start.
Priorities? There are homeless people living under bridges and in cars, a serious lack of adequate mental health facilities, and inmates at the county jail sometimes sleep on the floors of overcrowded cells. But hey, the majority on this council likes parks, and they want to attract well-heeled hikers. Supposedly locals will put on their trekkers and hike between towns (the park will "connect communities" despite rain, snow and whatever). Yup, one line of bull followed another to establish "facts" that this huge park is essential to the community's health and quality of life. Yeah, right.
Truth or Dare - last blast.
"Backcountry preserve," what a joke. All this land is within spitting distance of the freeway, within 10 miles from I-5 and the mall. The hills are alive, with the sound of semi's...
We need another 8,844 acres of park? This county has more parkland per capita than any other county. This would bring the total acreage to 16,000 acres, in a county where only 11% of all land is owned privately. The "need" for parkland was never what this was about. What was it about?
The council people voting for this know the genesis of the idea:
Oct 11, 2011 - proponent Lisa McShane wrote: “It was at the 2003 tour where Jeff May, DNR logger, said to several of us: "if the people don't want logging here why don't you just reconvey the lands?"
Oct 13, 2011 - David Wallin, WWU Huxley (who provided supporting "return to nature" reports) wrote to Park Director McFarland and Conservation Northwest’s Mitch Friedman: “It seems that the reason this hasn't been done already on DNR lands is due to DNR's HCP. DNR has taken the position that they are unwilling to even consider wind power on any of their west-side lands. As I understand it, when the HCP was negotiated back in the 90s, they included lots of provisions to allow incidental environmental impacts from a variety of non-forestry related activities (gravel mining, cell phone towers, etc.) on DNR lands. Unfortunately, no one thought to include wind power generation as an allowable non-forestry related activity. DNR is concerned that if they try to re-open the HCP to modify it to now allow wind power, they could lose the entire HCP. However, as I understand it, after reconveyance, the HCP would no longer be an obstacle to considering wind power. Not sure if putting wind power on the land would compromise the reconveyance itself. Can we have wind power in a park? Apparently, we can have cell phone towers in a park so I don't see why we couldn't have wind power.”
Then Mitch Friedman from Conservation Northwest writes back in the same thread: “Very cool. Though we need to think through what it means to meet Hinkley's insistence that the HCP continue to apply to the reconveyed land. Maybe there's a way exempting the ridge tops?”
They don't care what harm it does to the timber and forestry people who have been the backbone of this county for a hundred years. One falsehood after another has been made to deny the human and economic impacts that parks and recreation can never make up for. This county will lose more of its diversity, skills and resilience. Thanks, council!
Local government is reaching a critical state of regulatory capture, and this action will make the situation worse. Small wonder special interests have been desperately leading the charge. With all their urgency we wonder, are a stack of grant applications and trail contracts already in the queue, waiting for the curtain to fall? Wait and see.