Maybe this item seems irrelevant, but WE think very little happens in the conservation world without some greater plan in mind.
A couple of readers dredged, and provided two U.S. Department of the Interior items plus substantial other documentation of BLM policies, conservation definitions, and more that made pretty interesting reading.
The first piece to see is this News Release dated June 17, 2011 that's directly tied to this resolution. It talks about 1,000 acres of federal lands in the San Juan Islands being added to a land inventory with this NCA classification (that the three don't have now), "to enhance conservation and recreation opportunities..." as a part of the President's "America's Great Oudoors" intiative. What enhancement these lands may receive, it doesn't actually say - or at what cost. But it promises lots of partnering and collaborating with communities, local agencies and other interested parties. And, catch this:
"Salazar said conservation of the islands complements President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a conservation ethic for the 21st century and to reconnect Americans, especially young people, to the natural world."
Gosh, thanks Mr. President! We, the people, already own the land. But you think the federal government needs to make it more meaningful, to reconnect us to it in a 21st century kinda way? Oh, brother.
A second Deptartment of the Interior/BLM Press Release published just a month later on July 19 moved on to describe Salazar's "push to build a bipartisan wilderness agenda." While the title of the second release may seem unrelated to the San Juan Island "natural conservation area" classifications, it is. Both "pushes" are part of the same overarching land conservation package that's headed to Washington DC. The July release and the referenced letter to Congress talk about how a coordinated plan must manage overall "inventories of public lands and their resource and other values..." Larsen, Cantwell and Murray have already stated support for this legislation, which will create new policies about biodiversity and other stewardship goals that BLM has been working on.
In the parlance of eco-speak, the term values can encompass virtually anything. The BLM talks about "making project-level decisions that could impair wilderness characteristics." Like values, characteristics can include anything from soup to nuts. And while there are guidelines for "wilderness," not all land has to meet the standard thresholds. WE dredged and discovered that there are miniscule parcels that have been classified as "wildlands." What's the smallest?
Pelican Island Wilderness, northern Florida (6 acres) (Note: Until recently the Rocks and Islands Wilderness in northern California was thought to be the smallest wilderness, however, recent Bureau of Land Management acreage measurements put it at 19 acres instead of 5 acres.)
So, obviously anything is possible. The Salazar letter asked something even more interesting:
"What appropriate management changes would ensure that federally-managed lands in the San Juan Islands are conserved for future generations and are a part of the larger regional fabric of protected lands and waters?"
Now they're talking about a fabric of protection. WE need to add that item to the buzzword list.
The warning is: Any group or organization on a zero-net, rewilding mission can inject any manner of "value," "characteristic," "fabric of protection" or other buzzword "into the process" -- through chit-chat, correspondence, grant applications, even promotional literature -- about any given place. That's a fact. Moved by the spirit of collaboration (another buzzword to watch for), Salazar is reaching out to such interests to "fill in the blanks," and we think that's exactly what may happen. In fact, it appears that this County resolution starts that ball rolling.
Among all the WHERAS statements in this county resolution - note that the resolution declares all three of these parcels as "ecologically important sites." Why? WE wish we knew who added that particular phrase to this resolution.
It says that Lummi Rocks and Carter Point (the Point is currently a lighthouse reserve on maps) are "in close proximity to" the DNR Lummi Island Natural Resource Conservation Area. Being near a place with "ecological values including important raptor habit" is all that's required to make another parcel "ecologically important"? Looks like it. You can build a real daisy-chain (fabric?) of ecological importance using criteria like that.
And as for Chuckanut Rock, according to this it should also be an "ecologically important site" - because this resolution says Chuckanut Bay is scenic, with already established conservation easements, and so forth. The daisy chain grows longer.
Line up the points on a map, and it doesn't take much geography skill to notice the long term risk of this resolution and these classifications. The line between the properties crosses east-west, across the waters at the mouth of Bellingham Bay. Could a "fabric of protection" present a problem to boaters and fishermen in the future? Expansive and collaborative programs like this, that invite special interests to the game, have been tightening up access to preserved and "conservation" land across the nation, bite by bite through efforts like this.
When people ask, "How did things ever get so far out of control?" The answer is, "By going along, that's how."
WE expect this to be blessed 7-0 in a heartbeat on August 9, just like the Alpine Legacy resolution was just a couple of weeks ago. It's a glowing temptation for legislators to "make this a better place." This is, after all, campaign season.