You don’t know what you got till it’s gone

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Sat, Mar 29, 2008, 8:37 pm  //  g.h.kirsch

It's time for straight answers to critical questions relative to converting a large portion of the watershed from forestry to a park. If you're on the fence, mull this over.

By way of background, Pete Kremen, Dan and Lisa McShane and Mitch Friedman have for some time been working on a plan that would convey back certain lands that Whatcom County earlier transferred to state management for the county's benefit. During the past election campaign the plan was proposed to ask the state to return a little more than 8,000 acres to county management. Of this, some 3,000 acres is considered suitable for the future harvest of timber.

This request is only allowed under the very narrow condition, that the county will use the lands as a park.

The proponents recommend the transfer, and change in use, in large part to protect Lake Whatcom from the impacts of forestry (though this is not a legitimate reason for the state to transfer them to county management). But they also believe that this recreation area will be a significant addition to our existing park system, bring great enjoyment to those members of the community who enjoy hiking, kayaking and camping, and will attract other recreationists, increasing tourism in Whatcom County.

Critics of the plan have expressed concern that the cost to the county is disproportionate to the benefits for the lake; and assuming that public funds for lake protection are limited, a park is not the highest priority use of those funds.

There is concern that the impacts from increased recreation in the watershed, and related development, will be as great or greater than present forestry uses.

And there is a fear that creation of a park in the commercial forest zone could lead to rezoning of the area, and adjacent lands, that would in the long run be detrimental to the forest industry and lead to other developments with substantial negative impact to the watershed and on the reservoir.


While there are many factors to be considered in estimating how much revenue will be lost to the county and beneficiaries of these trust lands, what the capital costs of developing the park, its trails and other facilities will be, and how much ongoing expense will result to manage the land and the associated recreational facilities, it appears that the park could mean nearly a million dollar a year negative change in cash flow to the county.

Admittedly, this may eventually be offset by increased revenues from tourism and increased tax revenues as land uses change from forestry to other uses as a result of creating the park.

If we are to look at the proposal as an investment in the preservation of water quality in the lake, and given that development, with its associated impacts, has been identified as the primary cause of the reservoir's deterioration, would you choose to spend a million a year to remove the impact of less than 50 acres of forestry each year, or use the money to acquire development rights in the watershed?

There is some debate whether future forest practices, regulated henceforth under the recent Landscape Plan, will have the same level of impact that private landowners created for the lake and the watershed. Some feel that the impact of the prospective timber harvesting under current DNR management will be minor. A change in managers today will not remove any potential landslide risks created before the Landscape Plan was implemented. Creation of new risks is substantially reduced because of implementation of the plan.

In weighing the impact of forestry on the lake, it is not appropriate to compare it to no activity. When these lands become a park, there will be related traffic in the watershed transporting park users, as well as the impacts in the park itself from increased human and animal use of the area. It is not clear how the county will respond to public demand for access to the park, but the more recreational use that is allowed the more inappropriate the use is under current zoning.

There is likewise a phenomenon in real estate that lands near parks and similar amenities increase in value. This increase in value reflects increased demand. The fact is, more people will desire to live nearby in the watershed, and our development industry will seek to satisfy that demand. This will in turn drive up the cost of the development rights we need to acquire to protect the reservoir.

What will the net reduction in impacts on the lake, if any, be? Is it worth the price in dollars or the risk in loss of protection afforded by current zoning?

Should we make these lands more desirable for development, or postpone consideration of the park plan until we have removed the possibility of ongoing residential development in the watershed?


There is a great deal of discussion based on the assertion that the Department of Natural Resources is a poor manager of these lands and that turning control over to Whatcom County will mean better management.

When one examines the history of Whatcom County's management elsewhere within the watershed and other unincorporated areas, it is not particularly clear we would be better off. The county has tended to be reluctant to stand in the way of development. Some would say they are active proponents of it, interpreting our codes and plans to facilitate private interests at the publics expense.

Similarly, it is not clear that the 3,000 acres that are anticipated will be removed from forestry won't still be logged under the county's management. Pete Kremen has told foresters and mill owners not to be concerned, local control won't affect their businesses. At the same time he tells members of the environmental community that logging will halt. Both statements can't be true.

Since the late 1990's there have been ongoing discussions between the county and interested parties with nearby forest holdings about long term rezones of these properties and other lands designated and zoned for commercial forestry.

The land under consideration for this new park is located between substantial amounts of privately owned forest land. Perhaps the most significant of these owners is Trillium and its related entities with substantial holdings and options on both sides of the proposed park.

So ask yourself, how much room do you want to give the likes of Pete Kremen and David Syre to operate in the watershed?


As long as these lands remain zoned for commercial forestry no development is possible. (although there has been an effort by the same interested parties to amend that zoning to allow one residence per 80 acres which, with clustering, could lead to new residential development in the commercial forestry zone) Everyone is aware of the pressure by the county and speculators in rural forest lands to use them for high end residential development and ignore the general protections in the zoning code to keep those RF lands part of our historic rural character and part of the land base supporting our forest industry.

There are things that could bring about a change in that protection. Obviously a change in the makeup of the county council could lead to rezones and then, year after year, step by step, acre by acre, conversion of the forest to low density development will proceed.

This would be more likely if landowners adjacent to the proposed park could argue that forestry was no longer a viable use of their land. Or if they wanted to change their zoning to allow development of resort communities near the park, around the lake, in the watershed, they could demand reclassification that would allow similar uses compatible with the newly allowed park in the commercial forest zone.

The reality of this possibility was underscored recently when Mitch Friedman proposed to open a discussion of the circumstances in which Trillium properties should be allowed to develop nearby.

The county is walking a thin line between its Comprehensive Plan, its current zoning regulations and its yet to be completed Parks Plan. How this proposed park will fit into this matrix has yet to be determined. On one hand the request to have these lands returned to county control rests on there becoming a park. On the other, the current zoning prohibits the land from being used as a park.

Hence the struggle to describe this creature to fit one definition of a park without fitting another. While we struggle to accomplish this, it is imperative that we avoid rezoning, or being challenged for not rezoning.

So ask yourself, when is a park not a park? How much fooling around will go on before we discover we aren't fooling anyone but are the one's being fooled?


Just as fragmentation of agricultural land threatens our farming industry, to an even larger extent, forestry requires large, contiguous tracts of lands buffered from nearby incompatible uses and fire hazards. Residential development, even a park, will place the industry under pressure. Should the industry falter or collapse, forest land owners, particularly those who are speculating on more lucrative uses for their lands, will want less restriction.

Such a downward spiral will be devastating to an industry that, properly managed and controlled, ultimately could be the best protection for the lake. Conservation of working lands, and the preservation of resource based industries, in this instance forest lands devoted to growing trees for long-term commercial lumber production, is a primary goal of growth management.

Just after passage of the GMA, in1991, in designating lands for long-term commercial timber production, certain factors were to be considered: (a) The proximity of the land to urban, suburban, and rural settlements; (b) surrounding parcel size and the compatibility and intensity of adjacent and nearby land uses; (c) long-term local economic conditions that affect the ability to manage for timber production; and (d) the availability of public facilities and services conducive to conversion of forest land to other uses.

It is hoped that the legislature's insights, that these considerations were critical to the preservation of the forest industry and conservation of the lands it relies on, would temper our enthusiasm for converting these previously designated resource lands to a park.

It is for good reason that parks are not a permitted use in the commercial forest zone. The attempt to find another descriptive by "park" proponents, such as forest preserve, is certainly evidence of the appropriateness of the prohibition. The county has rezoned such areas where they have created them in the past.

In 1994 the legislature found that it is in the public interest to identify and conserve productive natural resource lands that can be managed economically and practically for long-term commercial production of timber. Achievement of the GMA's goal of preserving natural resource industries requires the conservation of a land base sufficient in size and quality to maintain those industries and the implementation of land use restrictions that discourage incompatible uses of designated forest resource lands.

Whatcom County has one remaining lumber mill. There is another mill just north of Mt. Vernon as well. Without a forest land base adequate to support these mills, the industry, and the jobs associated with it, will be lost. What will the land be used for then?


It is striking how the too human tendency to sacrifice the needs of others and assert our own preferences has driven discussion of this park plan to date.

Little concern has been expressed for the lost revenues that support schools and other laudable public purposes. No discussion of where and how, or even if we need try, to replace the lands lost to an industry that has been a foundation of our community and long an engine of our economy. Little thought has been given to prioritizing our goals, and spending the sums this park will require on more effective protection of the lake and its watershed.

How much consideration is being given future generations who will have fewer employment opportunities. Working in resource based industries is not glamorous, and probably not a career that many potential park patrons aspired to, or would choose for their children. But, without forgiving all the horrendous failings in the past, this is our history. These are authentic people. This is a real and important industry.

Are we lacking for recreational opportunities? Aren't these lands open for hiking now? Is the real purpose of this request to create a park? Do we really want a park in the watershed? And we must ask, who will be the real beneficiaries of this change, and what will it have cost us in the end?

Convincing an inadequately informed public that they are protecting their water supply, stopping those rotten loggers, and at the same time getting a nice new park, may turn out to have been a brilliant strategy by those looking to circumvent an enormous impediment to development in the watershed.

Ask yourself if you think these landowners and their representatives intend to reduce sprawl, protect the lake, preserve our rural lands and prevent the suburbanization of the forest.

Do you think the county has suddenly become the protector of the lake and the opponent of development in the watershed?

John Servais  //  Sun, Mar 30, 2008, 12:56 pm

Greg - thanks for walking us through this convoluted issue.  Strange that supposed enviros like Mitch and Lisa are so entangled with the largest and most rapacious developer in the county.  Indeed, Syre’s desire to develop Galbraith Mountain is a scenario that runs against all that is environmentally sound. 

Stranger still is the lack of comment on this website by those same people - hiding behind aliases - who were so shrill last year in complaining of their inability to comment here.  Now they can but they don’t.  All they need do is register with their actual names and they can do their best to refute your article.

g.h. kirsch  //  Sun, Mar 30, 2008, 3:52 pm


Lest the County Council might select their own advisory committee to review and consider his proposed deal with DNR, Pete Kremen has beat them to the punch and appointed his personal favorites to advise the council.

Administration sources say this group will be known as the Committee to Review & Approve the Plan (CRAP).

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they pointed out that the Council is used to stuff like this CRAP.  “It’s like growing mushrooms.  Keep ‘em in the dark and feed ‘em you know what!”

Critics were quite amused that Kremen doesn’t think that his CRAP stinks, though they acknowledged little likelihood anyone at the Council will say this CRAP is inappropriate.

Tom Pratum  //  Sun, Mar 30, 2008, 4:37 pm

As John said, thanks for the long message regarding this convoluted issue. I hope folks will read what you have written here - even if they don’t all agree with it, these issue need to be discussed before this enormous land use issue is moved forward.

Regarding the committee you mention in your last message, I think it is a really good thing, even though I can’t argue too much with your sentiment that it appears to be a “rubber stamp” for the idea. Most of the committee members appear to be strong supporters - I don’t see any real detractors. Still, I think the committee will have to consider a lot of stuff that might otherwise be swept under the rug, and it will also delay adoption, potentially allowing more education with regard to the issues involved.

This committee, by the way, is not referred to in the MOA presented on Feb 26, but appears in a late draft of the MOA in late January. I obtained this info via a public info request to the DNR. The formation of this committee seems to coincide with my sending the info out to various folks (including the news media). I don’t want to believe the county was trying to avoid doing this, but I leave it to the reader to decide.

Tom Pratum

Tip Johnson  //  Mon, Mar 31, 2008, 1:45 pm

And what happens to the Lake Whatcom landscape plan?  I thought the state said withdrawal of the hard-won landscape plan was a precondition of the reconveyance.

At the risk of repeating myself, I’d like to restate the obvious:

Government’s foremost obligation is to protect the public’s health.  Zoning is a police power specifically because of that obligation.  Constitutionally, landowners are guaranteed only a reasonable use of their property.  What are reasonable uses of lands surrounding the water supply?  Houses, roads and leaky sewer systems do not seem to have qualified.  The lake is in peril.

To take any park proponents seriously, I would first need to see land around the lake rezoned to reflect uses that are compatible with a water supply.  That might be park, or forestry.  But it certainly would not include further subdivision or utility extension.  It would not include septic systems and roads.  At what point is it prudent to stop pandering to the speculations of a few developers and attend to the health and safety of the general population?  After the lake is encrusted with dying algae?

Funds for watershed protection should first target acquisition of existing platted and serviced lots.  Additional platting should be prohibited.  Then remedial measures such as stormwater intercepts and treatment should be installed and costs assessed to properties creating the problem.

It wouldn’t take long for forestry to look quite reasonable.  But we would still need a landscape plan much more than a park.

Wendy Harris  //  Mon, Mar 31, 2008, 5:26 pm

I do not believe that all your concerns regarding the reconveyance are warranted. Reconveyance of public trust forest lands from the State to the County for use as a public park is specifically authorized by RCW 79.22.300.  Under this same statute, the State has the right to take the land back if the County ceases to use it for park purposes.  Thus, the reconveyance is proper, and the County is prohibited from using the land for anything other than a park.

Nor is there anything improper with using reconveyed park land to protect the watershed. The Shoreline Management Act acknowledges that well-planned parks and public facilities may serve an important goal in protecting and preserving shorelines of statewide significance, such as Lake Whatcom. RCW 90.58.020; WAC 173-26-181.

There is also no problem with the County using commercial forestry land as a public park.  Under County Code, permitted uses for commercial forestry land specifically include public forest preserves.  WCC 20.43.050;

Additionally, County laws support the sustained use of forest resources and discourage rezoning for residential use. In particular, the Right To Practice Forestry Act, WCC 14.04, requires written, recorded disclosure to any purchaser of real property within a half mile of an area designated as forestry. The disclosure is clearly meant to discourage residential development near forest lands and reads, in part,“The subject property is within or near designated FORESTRY lands on which a variety of commercial activities may occur. The legally permissible amounts of noise, dust, smoke, traffic and fumes which may be generated byactivities on forest land may exceed those levels conducive to a tranquil residential environment..Whatcom County has determined that use of real property for forestry operations is a high priority and favored use and will not consider to be a nuisance those inconveniences or discomforts arising
from legally permitted forest practices.”  I do not know about you, but I personally would think twice about purchasing residential land after being handed this notice.

It is also important to consider the environmentally harmful activities allowed on forestry land when evaluating the reconveyance.  Under WCC 20.43, allowed activities include not only logging, but surface mining, aircraft landing areas, operation of sawmills and forestry industry residue dumps, and permanent living quarters for logging and maintenance crews.

In terms of the financial costs of the reconveyed park lands, this must be considered in light of the costs that are offset.  Preventing logging in the watershed, which is listed by the EPA and Ecology as a factor in nonpoint source pollution, assists the County in complying with the pending TMDL and the requirements under the SMA.  It is important for the County to ensure its compliance with the SMA, as this is one of the laws through which the State satisfies the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, (?CZMA?).  The CZMA gives the state authority over federal projects and makes the state eligible for federal funding of approximately 2.5 million dollars annually.  Failure to comply with the SMA could result in the loss of grants and other funding relied upon by the County.

Considering all of these facts, which are based on review of relevant laws rather than fear-based opinions, it is difficult for me to understand the opposition to the reconveyance.

Wendy Harris

Tom Pratum  //  Mon, Mar 31, 2008, 8:06 pm


Regarding the cost aspects: I am nearly certain that, if the costs of this project were compared to the water quality cost offset, and this project were judged on that basis, this would never happen.

First, the TMDL data show that nearly all (if not all) of the problem lies in the developed sub-basins. The Smith Creek sub-basin, one part of the reconveyance, is clean. The Austin Creek sub-basin (the other primary reconveyance area) has a few problems, but these are certainly caused by Sudden Valley; if only we could “reconvey” that back to forestry use (even though that is not what it was prior to SV). Whatcom County has done a very poor job dealing with residential development in the watershed, and that is the primary cause of the downward spiral of Lake Whatcom water quality.

The “low-ball” figure for the cost is $335,000 per year - that is substantially more than Whatcom County currently spends on Lake Whatcom programs. The “actual” cost will be difficult to come up with, but consider that the Look North Timber sale on Lookout Mt (47.3 acres - approximately the same yearly acreage as is expected to be harvested on the 7400 watershed acres plus 1000 non-watershed acres in the park) sold in February for $829,000. Seventy five percent of that will go to the Whatcom County Treasurer to be distributed to junior taxing districts, including Whatcom County. Whatcom County alone will gain approximately $175,000, the Bellingham School district approximately $225,000, and about $50,000 will go to other entities.

Bottom line - the cost of this park is substantial. OK, that is fine; it will be a nice park after all, but exactly how are we going to pay for it? Whatcom County is not exactly flush with money right now - to convince yourself just check out some of the arguments with regard to the Lummi ferry.

The conservation futures fund has been
suggested as a source; this is a paltry fund that Pete Kremen recently refused to increase the levy on. Suggesting its use for this purpose can’t possibly be serious.

How else? Personally, I would be happy if Pete Kremen said he believed in this park so much he was going to raise taxes to pay for it - this park could be the crown jewel of our county and we should be willing to pay for it and not try to hide its’ cost.

The cost is a huge issue, and we need to make sure that cost does not impact other water quality programs.

Tom Pratum

g.h. kirsch  //  Mon, Mar 31, 2008, 11:12 pm


Welcome to NWCitizen.  I am pleased that you have joined in the discussion of forestry versus parks as a means to protect the lake, and hope that you will continue to contribute your opinion.

You feel you have considered the facts, based on review of the relevant laws.

First let me say that you will get no disagreement from me when you point out that the County is prohibited from using the land for anything other than a park. 

And I don’t think you meant to suggest that I consider it improper to use the proposal, if it is for a park, to protect the lake.  I only point out that such a use is not a basis for making the request to return the lands to county management.

But your assertion there is no problem with the county using commercial forest land as a public park is directly contradicted by WCC 20.43.154 which specifically excludes ?parks? from even conditional uses in the commercial forest zone.

I can understand how you are confused.  WCC 20.43.056 does list ?forest preserves? as a permitted use.  Clearly you are misinterpreting the county code if you equate ?forest preserves? with ?parks? as this leads to the absurd conclusion that ?parks? are both permitted and excluded uses.

In order to reach an interpretation of the code that harmonizes these two sections you can only conclude that what is meant by a ?forest preserve? is not a ?park.?  Which brings us back to the point we both agree upon, if this is not to be a park the county lacks a basis to request it be turned over to their management.

I will confess I don’t understand your argument based on the Shoreline Management Act.  I was under the impression that the act only applied to uplands within some 200’ of the shoreline.  Am I missing something here?

Wendy Harris  //  Tue, Apr 01, 2008, 1:40 am

Unfortunately, the WCC does not define public forest preserve, but if you search this term on the internet, you will see that in other states, it includes public access and use of the preserve. 

Under WCC, trails, trailheads, restroom facilities and associated parking areas for no more than 30 vehicles are another specifically permitted use of commercial forest land. 

Under WWC (I assume this is what you meant when you referred to ?20.43.154?) conditional uses include operation of dispersed, primitive recreational facilities including tent campgrounds, game reserves, developed trailheads with parking for more than 30 vehicles, but excluding uses such as community centers, riding academies, off-road vehicle parks, parks, marinas, camping clubs, institutional camps and recreational vehicle and travel trailer parks. 

Taken in context, it is clear that the County Code contemplates a light use facility, rather than the type of traditionally developed park that would exist in an urban area and this is exactly how the County Parks Department intends to use the reconveyed land.  I spoke with McFarlane about this, and he stated that if I wanted an idea of how the County intends to use this land, I should visit the Stimpson Family Preserve.  (Moreover, state law provides for reconveyance for park purposes, and nothing prohibits County Council from clarifying/amending the County Code to conform to state law assuming that this was even necessary.)

You are correct that the SMA is generally limited to 200 feet from the high water mark or floodway, although it does include associated wetlands and buffers needed to protect the wetlands. However, the SMA includes a no net loss standard, as well as restoration standards, that are currently not being met with regard to Lake Whatcom.  Reducing logging, a known nonpoint source of pollution, will help the County meet SMA requirements.

The costs of complying with the SMA and the TDML are going to be staggering. I have heard that it is anticipated that the TDML will require an 80% reduction in pollutants entering the Lake.  I do not see how the County will be able to meet these costs without raising taxes, and when the cost of operating the reconveyed park lands is weighed against the restoration costs if logging continues in the watershed, the reconveyed park land will be a bargain. 

The cost of managing the reconveyed park land should not be weighed against current watershed program funding since these programs are under funded. The County will soon be forced by federal and state law to pay quite a bit more into the watershed.  Thus, the cost of the managing the reconveyed park lands needs to be weighed against the County budget in general, which reduces its significance.

Here is an idea that I think is fun to play with? someone suggested to me that because the DNR contributes to the water quality problems in the Lake through their logging activities, they should be required to pay restoration costs attributable to these activities.  It is unfair for City and County residents to pay for the expensive problems DNR creates, especially since the DNR is logging for profit.  Of course, this would require the ability to determine how much of the restoration costs should be attributable to DNR, which is probably not possible.  However, if we could establish that the restoration costs outweigh the logging profits, would this provide incentive for the DNR to stop logging in the watershed?  The DNR has an obligation to beneficiaries to maximize profits from public trust land, and would be motivated to avoid actions that are counter productive to this goal.

Randy Arabie  //  Tue, Apr 01, 2008, 9:34 am

What is the primary purpose of the re conveyance, protection of the watershed or creation of a park?

I don’t believe this is the best use of resources if protection of the watershed is the primary purpose.  While commercial forestry in the watershed may be a contributing factor, it is not the primary source of pollution.  The primary sources of pollution in the lake are residential development in the watershed and recreational use of the lake.  This re conveyance will do nothing to address those sources of pollution.

Additionally, because commercial forestry is also compatible with “public forestry preserve” uses, per Wendy’s comment above, why not simply allow DNR to continue management?  These are public trust lands and open to the public, right now.  What, at present, is preventing use of these commercial forests as a light use, relatively undeveloped public forest preserve?


g.h. kirsch  //  Tue, Apr 01, 2008, 10:24 am


I don’t understand how you can say that the WCC does not define public forest preserve.  Though it is not explicitly defined, the code certainly distinguishes a forest preserve from a park; as it similarly distinguishes a park from trails, trailheads, restroom facilities and associated parking areas.

When you move on to conditional uses such as primitive recreational facilities including tent campgrounds, you have moved into a category of things that not only are similarly distinguished from parks in the code, but require a conditional use permit prior to being allowed.  They are not permitted outright, and should not be dismissed as environmentally insignificant and would entail an environmental impact statement.

Again, the code distinguishes all these things from parks, which is the sole basis for establishing a right to ask that the lands be reconveyed.  I do admire your and the county’s effort to finesses the code’s clear exclusion of parks as a use in the commercial forest zone. 

This brings me to another point of agreement with you, nothing prohibits County Council from clarifying/amending the County Code.  While you would like to soft pedal the necessity of the same, I have always felt that this is the first and most critical consideration going forward. 

I realize that you have only recently moved to this area, so it is understandable that you have not witnessed the piecemealing incrementalism that has been this county’s strategy to avoid growth management. 

Once we are well on our way in the process of re conveyance, at a point where no one will want to turn back, we will find we have to ?clarify? what uses we meant to allow in the commercial forest zone.  The usual suspects will be appointed to a ?technical review panel? that will expand the conditional uses to a point that land speculators will be salivating to get in the game.  We’ve seen it all before.

So it is absolutely necessary that before we start this process, we change our zoning code to allow a park in the commercial forest zone, regardless how benign a park they say it will be, and address any changes in the context of our Comprehensive Plan and the Growth Management Act.

And in so doing, it is imperative that, even if you do not care if we undermine the forest industry, that there be a clear prohibition of any development, residential or resort, before we buy into this plan.  It would be appropriate that this take place in a more comprehensive resolution of the problems facing the entire watershed.

As Tom Pratum has pointed out, where we have forestry now, the lake does not seem to be suffering.  It is where we have allowed development to occur that we see the problems.  This park that isn’t a park plan threatens to bring more development.

Current management and forest practices are not an immediate threat to the lake.  Why are people so willing to let this process go forward without first making sure that it will not do more harm than good?  Who is pushing this so hard and why now?  What’s the rush?

Tom Pratum  //  Tue, Apr 01, 2008, 3:42 pm

I think all of the discussion here is indicative of how complex this issue is. I wish I had the space to say a lot of things, but in keeping with the current thread….


First, I agree with Greg and your input, as well as anyone else’s input, is very much appreciated here.

I am not sure what your background is, but it is difficult for me to understand what you mean by “the expensive problems DNR creates”. The DNR has created some problems via their logging activities, but those problems pale in comparison with the timber harvest activities that occur on private land - these activities the county has taken practically no notice of. Timber harvest activities on DNR land are held to a much higher standard than on private land. We need to make sure ALL timber harvest activities in the watershed are held to a high standard - the DNR activities are the least of our problems right now.

Reconveyance will have no effect on the TMDL requirements. As I tried to point out in my last message (and as Greg again re-states), the sub-basin’s containing the DNR land to be reconveyed are not the major contributors to the current problems in Lake Whatcom. The county will have to clean-up the other sub-basins, and that will indeed take money, but we will have much less of that money if we aren’t careful with how this issue of reconveyance is moved forward.

Sure, all expenditures need to be weighed against the county budget in general, but I suggest you talk with some folks involved in budgetary issues to get some insight into how that comparison is done. One relevant example: the shortfall for the Lummi Island Ferry is an insignificant portion of the total county budget, but that doesn’t mean the county will continue to fund that shortfall out of other programs. If the reconveyed park is viewed as a Lake Whatcom program, its funding will come out of other Lake Whatcom funding (unless we make provisions for funding it otherwise ahead of time).

One other thing I wanted to mention - parks degrade water quality. You can prove that to yourself by taking a walk down the North Lake Whatcom (Hertz) trail. That area was in much better shape when it was a railroad right-of-way. Making this large area a park will allow things to happen that would not be allowed now. For example, once this becomes a park there is nothing that would prevent some future county administration from clear-cutting 160 acres to make a shooting range or a drive-in RV park. After all, those are in keeping with the area being a park. For that reason, I think it is imperative that a conservation easement be given to a 3rd party such as WLT if this does occur.

In response to Randy Arabies question; the DNR land is already used for light recreational activities. For example, the back country horsemen have a few trails that go up from the Y-Road Stewart Mt trailhead. Quite a few folks go up there; the number is increasing all of the time. There is similar light recreation now on Lookout Mt above Sudden Valley, and off the Powerline Road above Smith Creek. So I guess the answer to your last question is that nothing is stopping that, and that it is happening now.

Tom Pratum

Randy Arabie  //  Tue, Apr 01, 2008, 10:03 pm

Thanks for your answer, Tom, as I think we may agree. 

My point being, this re conveyance isn’t necessary if it’s primary purpose is to prevent additional residential development while, as a secondary benefit, creating additional public opportunities for light recreational activities. 

As outlined here, it does neither.  As an interested citizen of Bellingham, I expect the county will present to the review committee a pro forma statement supporting this proposal.  Said statement should include goals with measurable metrics of achievement (i.e. pollution reduction, balance of watershed acres protected, etc.) along with financials showing funding sources and expenditures.


g.h. kirsch  //  Tue, Apr 01, 2008, 10:57 pm

For those readers of a similar mind to Mr. Arabie, who don’t understand why we need to create a park to have recreational opportunities on these lands, this past February the Superior Court in King County made an interesting ruling.  It was in the matter concerning issues surrounding DNR’s activities on Blanchard Mountain.

The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs who argued that the DNR is directed by state statute to manage public lands under its jurisdiction utilizing a multiple use concept when it’s in the best interests of the state and general welfare of its citizens. 

The court observed the statutes also provide that DNR permit additional uses, such as recreation, to the extent they are compatible with fulfilling their financial obligations as trust managers, or the state compensates the beneficiaries for lost earnings, if any.

In this instance it would mean that Whatcom County needn’t take on the burdens of managing a park, or rezoning its commercial forest zone, in order to advance the general welfare (ie protecting the lake’s water quality) or to increase recreational use of these lands. 

They would however need to see that the beneficiaries of the trusts be kept whole.

Curiously, Conservation Northwest appeared in court as an Intervenor arguing that the plaintiff public advocacy groups (which included the North Cascades Conservation Council) be denied standing; that is that their position not be heard.

In upholding the plaintiffs’ right to sue DNR to ensure enforcement of these statutory provisions, the court clearly recognized the validity of the multiple use policy.

Curiously, when I first questioned Lisa McShane on the wisdom of creating a park in the watershed, and raised my concern re the inevitability of ensuing rezones and development, she argued there was no way to achieve appropriate forest practices short of taking over the lands. 

It seems that this is not the case, and the Landscape Plan may even be improved upon. 

The bottom line of course is that it won’t be accomplished without compensating the beneficiaries of DNR’s current management.

Tom Pratum  //  Wed, Apr 02, 2008, 12:40 pm

I wanted to add one correction regarding my first message above. It was just pointed out to me that a stakeholder review is in the MOA timeline given to the council, so it didn’t completely come out of the blue.

I can still say with certainty that it wasn’t in there before the end of January, and it has taken the county over 30 days to implement it - that seems like a long time given that this was supposed to have a 60 day comment window. It is pretty obvious to me that they were trying to avoid it if possible.

I still think it is a good thing, and hope that meaningful discussions result.

Tom Pratum

Ken Mann  //  Mon, Apr 07, 2008, 12:43 pm

Hi Folks - I appreciate the discussion as well.  I do have to take offense at the depiction of the Stakeholder Committee as “personal favorites” or “CRAP.”

At last check, Marian Beddill and Lois Garlick ran AGAINST Pete for Executive and were openly critical.  I have recently criticized the exec/planning department in the press and sent a Planning Commission resolution to the council and executive requesting assistance for PDS.  Pete was not happy with me.

Personally, I have a very open mind on the reconveyance issue.  The idea of a park is attractive, but without doing a thorough cost/benefit analysis and detailed review I have not formed an opinion.  I do have concerns, some of which have been discussed here.

I am familiar with the high degree of paranoia and distrust of the county administration by members of this discussion board.  During my time as planning commissioner and council candidate, I think I have earned some benefit of the doubt as to my priorities and allegiance.

Keep up the great work!

Ken Mann

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