After twenty years of fits and starts, there is a time-sensitive opportunity for the city of Bellingham to finally create the Post Point Great Blue Heron Reserve. City Council and Mayor Fleetwood need to finalize the purchase from two willing sellers of the privately-owned land adjacent to the heron colony. Both the prior City Council and mayor agreed to the purchase but nothing happened. And to be clear, no further development can occur on these lots on Shorewood Drive without threatening the existence of Bellingham’s only remaining Great Blue Heron nesting site.
The urgency comes because, although city representatives have spoken with the two owners, no action to purchase the properties has been made public by the sitting council. One of the lots was on the open market earlier this year and quickly attracted an offer pending a feasibility study for development. Heron advocates recently learned that the deal fell through, however, and that the owner has again offered to sell the lot to the city for heron protection. It is beyond the realm of possibility that this opportunity will come around again. The city must act now to purchase this lot to the east of the nesting core, and the much-larger parcel to the west, which is not currently on the open market.
Why does this matter? Because, according to wildlife biologist and heron expert Ann Eissinger (who monitors the Point Point nesting site for the city), there is evidence that heron colonies in the Puget Sound, particularly in the southern part of the sound, are beginning to fail due to intensifying development and habitat fragmentation. The health of existing Great Blue Heron colonies in the northern part of the sound, i.e., in Skagit and Whatcom Counties, becomes more important for the success of the species as a whole in our part of the world. The three remaining heron colonies in Whatcom County, including at Post Point (the other two are on Robertson Road and near Drayton Harbor), don’t benefit from a holistic conservation and management approach that is afforded to the Skagit County heron colonies by the Skagit Land Trust. Here in Bellingham we’re on our own to provide the most robust protections possible for the city’s only heron colony.
Fortunately for us, the Post Point nesting site is holding steady at 40+ nests, and could potentially expand if the properties adjacent to it were incorporated into a protected reserve where additional habitat restoration, including the planting of additional nesting trees, could be undertaken. As Ann Eissinger put it, the city has an opportunity to make “an investment in a natural, biodiverse hotspot within the city.” Let’s do it. Finally.
For background information on the 20-year effort to provide permanent protection for the Post Point Great Blue Heron colony, see previous articles by Jamie K. Donaldson and John Servais here on Northwest Citizen.