The Gristle

The Pearl Surrounding the Oyster Dome

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

THE PEARL SURROUNDING THE OYSTER DOME: At a well-attended meeting in Mount Vernon last week, the healthy future of Blanchard Mountain began to take shape.

A proposed trust land swap would preserve the core of Blanchard State Forest trust lands—lands owned by the public and managed by the state Department of Natural Resources—by placing those acres in permanent conservation status while opening other lands in Skagit County to commercial forestry. If approved and completed,  the proposed trust land swap will exchange up to 860 acres that form the nucleus of the ecological and recreational pearl that is Blanchard Mountain with other land parcels in the county of equal value, so that state trust land timber revenue can continue to provide public services in Skagit and help fund schools statewide.

The two-part proposal would change the legal status of the Blanchard core of state forest trust lands for conservation, then use $10 million in state funding to acquire new loggable trust lands in Skagit County.

About 70 people attended the meeting, and the overwhelming majority of the comments were very favorable for the exchange and the continued conservation of Blanchard forest land, according to Bob Winslow, DNR’s manager for the trust land transfer project.

“The inter-trust exchange will position state trust land parcels for a future transfer into a natural area inside the ‘core’ area of Blanchard State Forest,” Winslow explained in his briefing. “If transferred, the land would be managed for recreation, natural resource conservation area, wildlife habitat, or open space uses.”

The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for logging state trust lands in order to provide revenue to various state and local beneficiaries, but the mandate to produce revenues is inreasingly in collision with preserving the ecological function of forests. We need healthy mature forests; and we need money for schools.

The transfer is a last step in a long journey.

“The story starts a century ago, when Blanchard was privately owned and logged,” relates Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. “When the owner was delinquent in paying taxes, the clear-cut land reverted to Skagit County. Taxes on forest land were higher then, so this was common enough that counties ended up with tens of thousands of acres that they had no capacity to reforest and manage. The legislature gave these lands to the state to manage in trust for the counties and junior taxing districts. By the 1990s, the trees were big enough that the DNR proposed timber sales. But by then Blanchard had become a haven for hiking, horse riding, mountain biking and others who loved the mountain—not to mention habitat for birds and wildlife. A showdown ensued.”

In 2006, conservation groups and activists helped craft the Blanchard Forest Strategy agreement, identifying a 1,600-acre core zone that would be protected for recreation and environmental qualities and would no longer be logged for state trust lands beneficiaries. The idea of a land swap—preserving Blanchard’s core while opening new lands for timber harvests—was a novel one, and garnered the provisional support of the timber industry; however, to implement the Strategy DNR needed to purchase replacement timberlands to offset those in the core zone.

In 2008, the agency adopted a management plan for the state forest on Blanchard Mountain, designating the most stunning part of this recreation area as the core—the Samish Overlook, Oyster Dome, and backcountry camping areas at Lily and Lizard lakes. That core includes 15 miles of trails and gets about 100,000 visitors each year. The core and surrounding state forest lands total about 4,800 acres in a rare unbroken greenbelt that connects the Salish Sea to the foothills of the Cascades.

There the matter stood for a decade while the state’s bruised finances recovered from recession and the Legislature remained paralyzed by political gridlock.

In 2018, the last portion of the funding package was finally approved in a capital budget. Ten million dollars of that package can now go to the purchase and transfer of trust lands in Skagit County that provide revenues to schools—called common school trusts—and reassign those as trust lands that provide timber revenue to county and local taxing districts—called forest trusts.

Winslow said in providing the $10 million in the capital budget, the state Legislature recognized that the Blanchard core is better suited for conservation and recreation than for timber harvest.

“After the land transfers take place, DNR will administer the Blanchard core for conservation and recreation as outlined in the Blanchard Strategy Agreement,” Conservation Northwest noted in a press release. The Bellingham-based organization has played a central role in the long journey to preserve the best of Blanchard Mountain.

The solution could serve as a model for other transfers around the state intended to preserve environmentally or culturally important resource lands while allowing other public lands to continue to generate revenues for schools and other taxing districts.

“This collaborative agreement withstood so much unforeseeable challenge. Through it all the stakeholders held to their commitments and our elected champions remained supportive,” Friedman said. “We found the sweet spot that allowed outdoor recreationists, conservation groups, school trusts, elected leaders and the DNR to walk away happy.”

Every pearl starts with but a grain of sand and a little agitation as catalyst.

Alan Doyle
Past Columns
A Change in Climate

April 24, 2019

The Raucous Caucus

April 17, 2019

Dragged

April 10, 2019

Edge City

April 3, 2019

Fixing the Fix

March 27, 2019

Halfway Houses

March 20, 2019

New Directions

March 13, 2019

Fire and Ice

March 6, 2019

The Big Short

February 27, 2019

Marina Lacuna

February 20, 2019

New Bites at the Apple

February 13, 2019

Coal Folds

February 6, 2019

Refocusing the Narrative

January 29, 2019

Old Town, Old Story

January 23, 2019

Ranker Unanchored

January 16, 2019

‘Alternative Methods’

January 9, 2019

Top Stories, 2018

January 2, 2019

Et Tu, #MeToo

December 26, 2018

Turn That Corner

December 19, 2018

Events
Today
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

10:00am|Skagit Valley

Bellingham Beer Week

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

10:00am

Robin Hood, a Musical

7:00pm|Sedro-Woolley High School

Eurydice

7:00pm|Squalicum High School,

Unstable By Design

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Spring Book Sale

10:00am|Deming Library

Chanticleer Authors Conference

12:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Valley Writers

1:00pm|South Whatcom Library

SPA Talk with Bradley James Lockhart

2:30pm|St. Paul's Academy

Linuxfest Northwest

3:00pm|Settlemyer Hall

Peace Vigil

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

First Friday Art Walk

5:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Poetry Party

5:00pm|Upper Skagit Library

Building Dreams Dinner and Auction

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Raise the Roof Auction and Trashion Show

5:30pm|Depot Market Square

North Cascades Community Orchestra

7:30pm|Central Lutheran Church

The Coronation of Poppea

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall, Anacortes-Westminster Presbyterian Church

Genre Legends, Hot Dogs

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

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Tomorrow
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

10:00am|Skagit Valley

Bellingham Beer Week

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

10:00am

Robin Hood, a Musical

7:00pm|Sedro-Woolley High School

Eurydice

7:00pm|Squalicum High School,

Unstable By Design

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Chanticleer Authors Conference

12:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Linuxfest Northwest

3:00pm|Settlemyer Hall

Genre Legends, Hot Dogs

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall, Anacortes-Westminster Presbyterian Church

The Coronation of Poppea

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #154

Dealer Demo Day

9:00am|Fanatik Bike Co.

Everson Garden Club Plant Sale

9:00am|Everson Elementary School

Have a Heart Family Fun Run

9:00am|Edgewater Park

Anacortes Vintage by the Sea

9:00am|Anacortes Port Transit Event Center

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association

Independent Bookstore Day

9:00am|Village Books

Rise Against Hunger

9:00am| St. Luke's Community Health Education Center

Seedlings, Starts and Garden Goodies Swap and Giveaway

10:00am|Van Zandt Community Hall

Backyard Habitat Native Flora Fair

10:00am|Fairhaven Village Green

WoodFest

10:00am|Sedro-Woolley High School

Contemplative Brush and Japanese Washi Papers

10:00am|Blaine Harbor Center

Local Author/Illustrator Open House

10:00am|South Whatcom Library

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Dia de los niños/Dia de los libros

10:00am|Lynden Library

We Are Skookum Scavenger Hunt

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Dakota Art Store Anniversary Art Expo

10:00am|Dakota Art Store

Vaisakhi Festival

11:00am|Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Tomato Growing Tips and Tricks

11:00am|Joe's Gardens

Getting Your Hand Dirty

11:00am|North Fork Library

The Greatest Sideshow in Sedro-Woolley

12:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Learn to Grow Fruit Trees

1:30pm|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Little Farm Homegrown

2:00pm|Everson Library

Garage Wine Company Tasting

2:00pm|Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Sudden Valley Jazz Series

3:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Interwoven Lives

4:00pm|Village Books

FiberFest

4:00pm|Maple Hall

April Brews Day

6:30pm|Depot Market Square

Guemes Island gets lit

6:30pm

Contra Dance with Heliotrope

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Poetry Duo

7:00pm|Village Books

Swing Into Spring

7:00pm|Pioneer Pavilion Community Center

Bellingham Community Band's Appalachian Spring

7:00pm|Syre Center

Jennifer Scott, Rene Worst, and Bill Coon

7:30pm|Jansen Art Center

Skagit Valley Chorale's American Journeys

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Artrageous

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

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Sunday
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

10:00am|Skagit Valley

Bellingham Beer Week

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

10:00am

Eurydice

7:00pm|Squalicum High School,

Chanticleer Authors Conference

12:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Linuxfest Northwest

3:00pm|Settlemyer Hall

Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall, Anacortes-Westminster Presbyterian Church

The Coronation of Poppea

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

WoodFest

10:00am|Sedro-Woolley High School

We Are Skookum Scavenger Hunt

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Contemplative Brush and Japanese Washi Papers

10:00am|Blaine Harbor Center

FiberFest

4:00pm|Maple Hall

Skagit Valley Chorale's American Journeys

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Rabbit Ride

8:30am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Brews Brunch

9:00am|Boundary Bay Brewery

Parkscriptions Day

9:30am|Throughout Whatcom County

Great Lego Build-Off

10:00am|Pioneer Pavilion Community Center

Dirty Dan Harris Festival

10:00am|Historic Fairhaven

Mitzvah Day Used Book Sale

10:30am|Congregation Beth Israel

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Easter Brunch at Semiahmoo Resort

11:00am|Semiahmoo Resort

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Coffee with Local Artists

12:30pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Books by the Bay Book Festival

1:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Allegro Strings Benefit

3:00pm|Greene's Corner

Sanford-Hill Piano Series

3:00pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

Art of Jazz

4:00pm|Church House

Sinful Sunday

8:30pm|Wild Buffalo

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