DNR Votes to Allow Reconveyance of 8,800 Acres to Whatcom County Parks

Tom_WestergreenLast week the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) met to make a determination to approve, or disapprove, Whatcom County’s request to Reconvey the 8,800 acres of Lake Whatcom Resources Lands back under the management of Whatcom County.  The DNR approved this action based largely upon the statements encapsulated here:

I am sorry to say that your vote on the Reconveyance did matter, even though you say it would have passed no matter how you voted.  It might have not passed today at the BNR Meeting in Olympia, but they said it passed our County Council by a Super Majority Vote.

So they felt they had to go along with the County Council wishes, even though some on the Board of Natural Resources had miss-giving’s about approving the Reconveyance.

Tom DeLuca, Director School of Environmental & Forestry Sciences, College of the Environment, University of Washington, Vice Chair of the Board of Natural Resources, questioned the whole ethics and voted NO.

The Honorable F. Lee Grose, Lewis County Commissioner, Chehalis, Washington Board Member of Natural Resources, questioned the whole ethics and then voted Yes only because a SUPER Majority of the Whatcom County Council voted for the Reconveyance.  (Commissioner Grose is on the Washington State County Council Board and felt he had to support our council’s vote, but he didn’t want to.)

They all will be watching The Whatcom County Council, Executive Jack Louws, Whatcom County Parks Department and Whatcom Land Trust to see that Washington State Law is followed on the Lake Whatcom Reconveyance!  They will not be the only ones watching.

All votes do count and have consequences, even if you are going along with the majority just to go along.

(These comments came from a Whatcom County Constituent who wrote to a Council Member, with regards to their vote and the consequence of that vote.)

This action has a lot of ramifications to Whatcom County, which we have itemized here:

  • Further destruction of sustainable, local commercial agricultural forestry in Whatcom County and Washington State.
  • A current asset for Whatcom County is now a financial liability to the County residents.
  • The loss of timber related and dependent businesses to the community, due to the further reduction of locally harvested timber.
  • The doubling of park land under Whatcom County from 7,600 acres to 16,400 acres
  • Currently a large percentage of the 7,600 acres of Whatcom County park land is not developed or maintained, because there’s no money budgeted to do so.
  • If Whatcom County Parks are budgeted to develop and maintain all of this park land, how much will that cost?
  • The loss of the potential to have developed a DNR Park Plan, which would have benefitted all low impact uses and the high probability to have developed an off-road park, which is sorely needed in Whatcom County.
  • The Whatcom County Park Staff and Sherriff’s Department is already understaffed to patrol and maintain public access areas in the County; the doubling of public park land will negatively effect existing Parks and local law enforcements ability to service the County.
  • The potential (likely) loss of low impact use for hunting, fishing, camping, walking, running and yes, even biking.
  • The high probability that this land will be placed under the management and benefit of Whatcom Land Trust, or some other Land Trust.
  • The potential for slides, forest fires and pest, or fungi infestation to this property, that becomes the financial responsibility of Whatcom County residents.
  • The loss of tax revenue in Whatcom County will be passed on to current property owners, the resulting in higher taxation of an already crushing tax that prevents the average citizen’s to own property, a primary factor to bring wealth and economic stability to a community.

Currently the Sierra Club has active lawsuits across the nation to prevent large tracts of wilderness, whether they are labeled a forest preserve or a forested park, for the protection of wildlife.  One of the activities that the Sierra Club is fighting hard against are Mountain Bike Parks.  Remember, the Mountain Bike Clubs were the chief organizers and cheering clubs, in attendance at the Whatcom County Council meetings, asking the Council to request the Reconveyance.  Those of us who opposed this Reconveyance warned that groups like the Sierra Club, will pursue the prevention of high public use in these areas, as they are doing in Oregon and Idaho now.  We believe that the Sierra Club, or some other enviro-group will stop, or limit severly, the County’s use of this property too.

Sierra Club signs onto lawsuit to stop Timberline MTB Park

bikePortland.org/…/sierraclub-signs-onto-lawsuit-to-stop-timberline-mtb-p

May 17, 2013 – Image from Timberline Mountain Bike Park brochure. In a statement about the lawsuit, Sierra Club Oregon Conservation Director Rhett

Sierra Club Joins Lawsuit Against Mountain Bike Park

www.adventure-journal.com/…/sierraclub-joins-lawsuit-against-mountain-…

May 22, 2013 – There appears to be no easy path to a planned mountain bike park at Timberline on Mt. Hood. This past week the Sierra Club joined a lawsuit

We really hope that we’re wrong, but actions are louder than words, so it is incumbent of groups like; Whatcom Land Trust, Conservation NW, Futurewise, Farm Friends, Sustainable Connections, Resources for a Sustainable Community and all other similar non-profit, environmental groups to pony up their volunteerism and actively work to see that this land becomes a Park that serves all the people of Whatcom County; including the hunters, fishers, loggers, and even the off-road vehicles who are just as much a part of this community as they are.

The Board Members at the July 2nd, 2013, Department of Natural Resources hearing, overwhelmingly expressed their reluctance to vote to approve this action (“Yes,” Councilmember Kremen…they were reluctant to vote “yes”), but because there was a super majority of approval from the Whatcom County Council (5 yeah: Weimer, Mann, Kershner, Kremen, Crawford vs. 2 nays: Knutzen and Brenner), so they felt that it was incumbent for them to vote to approve.   Having a County Council that reflects a balanced representation of the County citizen’s needs, is what is required in Whatcom County.  What Whatcom County does not need is another politician who votes for or against things, because that’s what the majority is doing.  Going along – to get along, is not what is needed in political leadership.  Principled actions that fully represent the full spectrum of your citizen’s is what is desired.  Bellingham, as the populace seat of the County will always have a louder voice than the less populated rural residents, or small cities, but we depend on our duly elected public servants to represent us, no matter what that outcome may be.

~ Kris Halterman, Karen Brown, Delaine Clizbe and Jack Petree

(The lawsuit that has been filed by Jack Petree and the Forest Groups, will not be abated by this decision.  So stay tuned for more public announcements on their efforts as they move forward.)

  July 2nd, 2013 Public Comments on the “Request to Reconvey 8800 acres of Lake Whatcom Watershed Land,” from management by the DNR to Whatcom County (approx. 20 minutes)

  July 2nd, 2013 Presentation by DNR and Whatcom County Parks Director, Mike McFarlane, for the Reconveyance of the Lake Whatcom Watershed properties, from management by the DNR to Whatcom County, discussion by the DNR Board and the vote. (approx. 35 minutes)

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