News

This Mountain Was Saved

Blanchard Forest agreement 
nears completion

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

“Blanchard!” Sen. Kevin Ranker wrote me last week.

“We just passed the capital budget, and the Harriet Spanel Forest is permanently protected,” the Orcas Island Democrat explained.

The state senator who formerly held Ranker’s position would have been pleased for future of the forest that bears her name and that overlooks the islands and delta and fertile farmlands of the district she represented—a sweeping panorama visible from the Oyster Dome.

Blanchard Mountain was a success story that teetered at the brink of failure—the choicest forests and vistas spared from the ravages of logging by a canny forestry plan that made available more total acres for harvests. The agreement was a potential win-win-win for environmentalists, naturalists and forest agribusiness, and what the plan needed most was the remainder of funding necessary to acquire the land from the state Department of Natural Resources. But those funds were held up in an impasse over the state’s approved but stalled $4.5 billion capital budget.

Without those funds, the clock would run out and those choicest lands would be logged. The timber industry had been patient for many long years.

The capital budget passed last week included $10 million for the Trust Land Transfer Program, the mechanism that will be used to protect the Blanchard core. A bill sponsored by Ranker would rename the forest for one of Blanchard’s greatest champions in the Legislature.

“I’m thankful we finally have a capital budget in place” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. Franz is head of DNR, which manages state land for a variety of trusts—including school districts—which need to be made financially whole in the transfer of these lands.

“Now we can continue our work to fulfill the state’s promise to Skagit County to protect Blanchard Mountain,” Franz said. “With its green mountain top and sweeping views of Puget Sound, Blanchard Mountain exemplifies everything that makes Washington’s landscapes so iconic.

“I’m happy the legislature has given us the tools to preserve this place for the thousands who visit it every year and to keep Skagit County forests working to make our communities stronger,” the commissioner of public lands said.

Located just south of the Whatcom County line, Blanchard Mountain has about 100,000 visitors a year. At the southern end of the Chuckanut Range its slopes are a favorite destination for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Its windswept summit is sought by paragliders and hang gliders.

About a decade ago, conservation groups who sought to save the mature forests along trails and the summit hit upon an idea that would form the Blanchard Forest Strategy—a plan to make more total forest resource lands available for harvests in a compromise that would save the most prized 1,600-acre core for naturalists and recreationalists. In the process, the strategy would fulfill DNR’s operational mandate to provide revenue through timber sales to Skagit County, Burlington-Edison schools and other smaller taxing districts

To offset revenue, other land in Skagit County needed to be acquired for timber harvest recently valued at $14.2 million.

The Legislature had set aside $6.5 million of the total needed. The remaining $7.7 million to save the core from being logged was held up in the capital budget by Republicans who sought leverage on the issue of rural wells and water rights. Republicans’ narrow hold on the issue collapsed after a special election last November.

“It’s now safe to say that the Blanchard Mountain core is safe, with the protection it deserves,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, an organization that played a central role in conceiving and shepherding the Blanchard Forest Strategy.

“It’s worth noting there’s a few hurdles left,” Friedman cautioned. “The bond bill to fund the capital must pass. And a modest fix is required to make sure Burlington-Edison school district gets its trust funds.” An inter-trust land swap completes the transfer.

“But it is all doable enough,” Friedman said.

Completed, the strategy may form a vital proving ground for other sorts of land transfers that attempt to balance the ecological function of mature forests with the economics of timber harvests. But for now: There’s Blanchard.

“The recession and other challenges meant it required a dozen years of sustained effort by a broad community of Blanchard lovers and a diverse stakeholders, including timber and Skagit County, who stood by their commitments,” Friedman said. “The legislators of the 40th battled for us throughout. It’s the legacy that the late Senator Harriet Spanel deserves.”

Smoking Crow
More News...
Blue Wall
Washington asks to be released from coastal drilling plan

Washington state steps up resistance to a plan that would permit offshore drilling in coastal waters.

Governor Jay Inslee this week formally requested the Trump administration remove Washington from plans to open the state’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. The plan, championed…

more »
Net Pens 101
New report condemns farmed fish escape

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific underrepresented the scope of an Atlantic salmon net-pen spill at its Cypress Island farm last August and misled the public and regulators about the cause, according to a new report released by state investigators.

The investigation found that Cooke misrepresented…

more »
‘It Is Time’
Iris Carías joins the Mount Vernon City Council

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos or community.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

She won by just 52 votes out of more than 5,200 cast for her position in…

more »
Events
Today
Bellingham Cocktail Week

5:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

A Murder is Announced

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Interurban Trail

Painting at the Library

10:00am|Blaine Library

Valley Writers

1:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Backcountry Horsemen's Fundraiser Auction

5:30pm|Everson Auction Barn

Beauty and the Beast

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Bellingham Youth Jazz Band

7:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

The Queen of Rock

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre, Lincoln Theatre

Cupid's Arrow, Backyard Brawl

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Village Books
Tomorrow
Bellingham Cocktail Week

5:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

A Murder is Announced

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

The Queen of Rock

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre, Lincoln Theatre

Beauty and the Beast

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Cupid's Arrow, Backyard Brawl

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Children's Literature Conference

8:00am|Western Washington University

Ferndale Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Winter Celebration of Hellebores

9:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Small Farm Expo

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Bonsai for Beginners

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Smelt Run

10:00am|La Conner Middle School

Garden Design

10:00am|Blaine Library

Nooksack River Writing Group

10:00am|Village Books

Fiberfest

10:00am|La Conner Middle/High School

An expo for everyone

12:00pm

Tax Help

12:30pm|First Congregational Church

Raising Pigs

1:30pm|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Naturally Speaking Panel Discussion

2:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hal

The art of weaving

2:00pm

Birding for Kids

2:30pm|Skagit Valley

Songs of Protest & Social Justice

3:00pm|North Fork Library

Song of Fire Book Launch

3:30pm|Upper Skagit Library

Bourbon Street Bingeaux

5:30pm|Boys & Girls Club

Contra Dance with Northern Contraband

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Oceans of Hope with Celtic Nights

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Serial Killers

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Bayshore Symphony

7:30pm|St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Central Lutheran Church

Village Books Celtic Nights
Sunday
Bellingham Cocktail Week

5:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

A Murder is Announced

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Beauty and the Beast

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Winter Celebration of Hellebores

9:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Birding for Kids

2:30pm|Skagit Valley

Bayshore Symphony

7:30pm|St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Central Lutheran Church

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

1:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Audubon at the Museum

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

Birding for Kids

2:30pm|Skagit Valley

Sunday at 3 Young Artist Concert

3:00pm|Jansen Art Center

Divinely Flawed

4:00pm|Village Books

Lenny White Trio

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Take Me to Church

8:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

see our complete calendar »

Trove Web Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Celtic Nights