Editor’s Note: Jamie K Donaldson graciously acknowledges community efforts in this article. What she doesn’t mention is her own unflagging commitment to keeping this issue alive over 22 years, or her fundraising efforts, her many articles, her gentle nudging of public officials, or her quiet negotiations. We at NW Citizen would like to acknowledge her. Thank you, Jamie K, this legacy is yours.
This past Monday, I was Zooming in front of a split computer screen: participating in the monthly board meeting of the Bellingham Food Bank, while keeping an eye on the City Council meeting. I knew the council was going to consider a potential land acquisition, which it does on occasion. But this time was special. The council would be voting on whether to acquire privately-owned land to create a protected reserve at Post Point in Fairhaven for the Great Blue Herons that have been nesting there for two decades. When the vote came in 6-0 to purchase the land, pandemonium broke out in my kitchen… Well, as much as is possible for this elder activist “bird lady,” as I’ve been called.
Over the past 22 years, and together with hundreds of others, I’ve advocated for permanent, augmented protection for the herons. This effort included challenging building permits issued by the city to build within the Critical Area around the herons’ nests. Now, with the City Council’s unanimous vote on Monday, the vision of a heron reserve will finally come to fruition.
We would not have reached this point if it weren’t for the leadership of Mayor Seth Fleetwood. At advocates’ request, he took a personal interest in the Post Point herons during his campaign for office. And despite being tugged in other directions throughout the pandemic and homelessness crises, he came through for the birds. Please send Mayor Fleetwood a “thank you” to email@example.com or call (360) 778-8000 to leave a message. While you’re at it, the sitting council certainly deserves our thanks as well. Please message them at firstname.lastname@example.org
What was not apparent at Monday’s council meeting was the fact that the journey to Post Point protections has been a long, circuitous, and sometimes contentious one. There were appearances before the Hearing Examiner, grassroots fundraising to hire a lawyer to represent the herons, and hundreds of emails to past and present mayors and council members. While a complete recap of this history is for another time, I do feel drawn to list just a few examples of the many different ways local people got involved to help protect the herons over the years:
- residents of The Willows retirement home made a field trip to see the herons and wrote a joint letter to their council member encouraging action on their behalf;
- local chapters of the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club rallied members to advocate on behalf of the herons and provided testimony for briefings and at council meetings;
- Public Works employees who operate the Post Point treatment plant constructed fencing, added signage, and replanted native species in front of the nesting core;
- wildlife biologist Ann Eissinger provided nearly two decades’ of science-based monitoring and recommendations for the management of the Post Point colony;
- local professional and hobby photographers contributed photographs of Great Blue Herons to this publication for the cause;
- The Whatcom Land Trust stepped up to help negotiate the final land purchase that will make the reserve possible. It has just launched a public fundraising campaign to raise $100,000 before Earth Day, April 22, to contribute to the acquisition. If you are able, please consider a donation for Post Point Great Blue Heron protection through the trust’s website at https://whatcomlandtrust.org/
As for me, well, on this joyous occasion, I’m not beyond anthropomorphizing. The Post Point herons can now raise their chicks in peace, knowing there will not be houses built smack up against the buffer surrounding their nesting and roosting trees. And in this instance, even though it was NIMBY-ism (“not in my back yard”) that inspired us to fight back development, we have achieved a righteous and correct outcome for both struggling wildlife and Bellinghamsters alike.