What we learned by studying this paper is alarming, and we suggest that readers open and read this piece of work as soon possible. It was principally funded by the Washington State Department of Ecology, and continues to be eagerly facilitated by a cast of contributors with striking eco-activist intentions that will profoundly affect private property rights if this proceeds silently, as so much bad policy does.
The gist of the entire work is that the "natural capital" of all resource lands and watersheds throughout Whatcom County - in its entirety - should be managed "for our wellbeing now and in the future."
Who should do all this managing, and how do they propose to oversee OUR private land, OUR property? Through an over-arching resource exchange system -- a master "marketplace" through which citizens should cheerfully and voluntarily "trade the benefits generated from their actions in exchange for regulatory relief, permits, or payments in kind." Read that two or three times and consider where this would take us.
The fundamental issue, as WE see it, is that the proponents of this masterplan presume that privately held property is a public resource. The rhetoric that "agriculture is a resource" has been introduced and repeated so long, and so often, that few people stop to question it. But we think folks should.
To what extent does the categorization of privately owned land as a "resource" -- farms (agriculture), forest, mineral, water, recreation, environmental, vistas etc. (tangibly, or as “values”) - entitle (a) government and (b) non-government organizations authority to regulate and manage the use of land and property by private owners?
Early in the report, we found the question, "What might be traded in a marketplace in Whatcom County?" The report answers by saying that the three components are water banking, an ecosystem services credit trading element, and the purchase and transfer of development densities. "Watershed management" appears the broad brush that paints the entire county into one mega-watershed. Then this says the markeplace should also address "managing urban and built development wisely."
So, clearly the "NRM (natural resources management) Working Group" isn't simply talking about the "conservation" of agricultural land - the golden goal of 100,000 acres of private farmland. Whatever figleaf "Farm Friends" and others have been using by camping with (ag) conservation folks, the density transfers, carbon trades and credits, and other "elements" extend way beyond that. The intent is to wheel and deal private "resource" allocations among cities, between cities and unincorporated areas, between everyplace and UGA's, and even tie-in to truly public property like DNR land, parks, and more. Their imagination seems unlimited where it comes to wheeling and dealing both land use and tangible rights (like water rights), everywhere.
When you open the report, you'll recognize that most of the members of the "NRM Working Group" are not "farmers." Most are city-folk, including Futurewise and Farm Friends, planning staff from City of Bellingham and some of the small cities, County PDS (planning & development services) - plus all those academics, consultants, and state agency bureaucrats. Look at the participant list and you'll see that this powerhouse is not now - and could never be -- directly accountable to us, the people. That's very, very serious in itself.
Because it's impossible for us to explain all the elaborate "techniques" and "concepts" in one short post -- we suggest, again, please crack this document open and start reading through it very carefully yourself.
When you do, note a few things about the "external reviewers" who contributed to this report:
- American Farmland Trust -- says "WA" but this is a chapter of a huge national non-profit, with a main office in Washington D.C.
- Washington Water Trust -- this is a Seattle-based non-profit
Also know, WE discovered that another $250,000 has already been granted to continue this project in 2012, thanks to Washington Ecology.
So this is far from over -- it's really just beginning. The proponents have already revealed that they fancy the the new Ruckelshaus Bill, which would cinch much of this plan financially and procedurally. WE can only hope that County Council will grasp the immense risk of that, and opt-out.
We have every reason to believe that this "resource market place" group has everyone's private property - the whole county -- squarely in their sights. So, please, Watch Out Whatcom!