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Herons or Oil: Which are long term?

Some folks from Bellingham who read this may also be participating in the kayaking and land protest at the Tesoro oil refinery near Anacortes. It is a coordinated protest with other groups around the U.S. this weekend. Unfortunately, the protest is taking place near the largest heron colony on the Salish Sea - a colony that has existed for at least 100 years. And May is a most sensitive time, as the young birds are still in the nests and their parents are foraging food from the nearby tidal waters.

In conflict with this, the purpose of a protest is to make known the presence of protestors by bringing together as many people as possible, carrying bright signs and banners, making noise, and generally doing something to attract attention. This activity disturbs herons.

Ann Eissinger, a biologist and expert on wildlife habitat, has been contracted for years by different Washington state civic governments to study and monitor heron colonies. The city of Bellingham has had her on contract for 16 years studying our heron colony in south Bellingham, and she is currently doing the base-line study for the 100 Acre Woods. Eissinger has asked protest organizers to restrict their areas of protest so as to minimize scaring the herons.

Above is the map Eissinger provided to protesters, and I am posting it here so Bellingham participants might be more sensitive to this situation. The heron nests are in the woods at the bottom of the red area, along the side of the railroad tracks. They have acclimated to the daily trains rumbling by.

And a personal observation. In talking with people about this, it seems there is a feeling that this protest against oil is more important than protecting the herons. After all, the oil protest is focused on long term issues. Reminds me of the thinking that came out of the Vietnam War, that we have to destroy the village in order to save it. I encourage my enviro friends to skip this protest - or better yet, go down there and urge people to stay out of these areas and stay off the water. Eliminate the kayaks from the protest and just protest on land on the east side of March Point.

About John Servais

Writer • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Tim Paxton

May 14, 2016

No protesters molesting the Herons today.  There were eagles near by the nests.  The police were stopping people from riding bikes across the bay via the rail road trail. There was about 150 kayakers leaving the Anacortes Marina park this morning around 10:30 heading out past the Coast Guard ship and towards the end of the pier.  Helicopter was up very high, no low flying planes while we were there.

Another big group of protesters was spotted blocking the rail road tracks along Highway 20, halfway to Mt. Vernon, well away from the Herons but with many signs and tents along the rails.

Anacortes was pretty much quiet due to all the TV/Radio news about the protest, most out of town people just stayed away.  Lots of police blocking March Point road from cars and bikes.  Police seemed very laid back about the whole protest.  Looked well organized.

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John Servais

May 14, 2016

Thanks, Tim, for the update.  And very good to learn there was respect for the herons.

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