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One Last Chance for Permanent Protection for the City’s Great Blue Herons?

 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.

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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. 

Comments by Readers

Thomas Gilmore

Oct 22, 2021

Can someone explain the City of Bellingham’s decade long delay in aquiring the lots to protect the Post Point Heron Colony?    How much longer will the city council  and the mayor delay on this very important environmental issue?  Before the November election it would be wise to know how every city council member would vote on the heron land aquisition!  

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Tip Johnson

Oct 22, 2021

Well, yes, they should buy it.  Long ago.  They are just waiting to add more density. So many “postcard” pictures of Bellingham feature these iconic birds.

But make sure there is no plan for a public trail.  Seth would then surely sell it for added density.

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Michael Riordan

Oct 25, 2021

Can anyone explain the City of Bellingham government?

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David A. Swanson

Oct 25, 2021

 

Hi Michael, 

 

The explanation may be found in the reply to Jon Humphry’s comment on the Broadband Access piece re the 2020 census counts of the Lummi Nation and the Hopi Reservation:

C. Wright Mills got it right at the national level in his 1956 book, “The Power Elite.” And by extrapolating downward what  Thorsten Veblen wrote 50 years earlier in regard to conspicuous consumption, the lower level power structures do their best to imitate the national level.

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Bill McCallum

Oct 25, 2021

 

Most of Bellingham appear to be happy with the Bellingham City Council.

 

I believe unopposed races show contentment.

 

2013

At-Large, Ward 1 (open), Ward 3 and Ward 5 unopposed.

2017

Ward 2 and Ward 4 unopposed.

 

2015

At-Large, Ward 1 (open), Ward 3 and Ward 5 unopposed.

 

 

2021

Ward 2 (open) and Ward 4 (open) unopposed.

 

 

Both Ward 1 and Ward 2 had an unopposed candidate in five consecutive races.

 

Ward 1: 1999, 2003, 2007 (open), 2011 and 2015 (open).

 

Ward 2: 2005, 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2021 (open).

 

In three of the races the incumbent was not running for reelection so it was an open race.

 

 

 

 

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Gene Knutson

Oct 26, 2021

Bill, Thanks for the history.  

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Bill McCallum

Oct 26, 2021

My comments are both incorrect and a mess. Everytime I tried to correct them they only got worse. I don’t know who to contact to delete them.

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Admin2

Oct 26, 2021

Bill,

Our policy is to not remove comments once they are made.  If you wish to provide a corrected version of your council election stats, please do so.

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David A. Swanson

Oct 26, 2021

The American Goldfinch is the Washington State bird. Why could the city council not declare that the Great Blue Heron is the Bellingham City Bird? If the city council drags its feet on this declaration perhaps the county council could step in and declare the Great Blue Heron to be the Whatcom County Bird.

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Tip Johnson

Oct 30, 2021

Seth?  Oh, Mayor Seth…???

The quiet mayor.

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Michael Lilliquist

Nov 09, 2021

Thomas asks, “Can someone explain the City of Bellingham’s decade long delay in aquiring the lots to protect the Post Point Heron Colony?”

I can offer an explanantion, but I need to leave out some of the details.

The City is not “delaying” purchase of property near the heron colony.  Over three years ago, the Bellingham City Council gave approval to negoatiate a puchase of property near the heron colony, and both Mayor Linnville and Mayor Fleetwood have tried several times to reach a deal for a fair selling price from a willing seller. That effort is still “live.”

And this is where I cannot offer details, becasue under state law RCW 42.30.110(1)(b and c), real estate negotiations by local government entitites are conducted confidentially, in order to avoid weakening the government’s negotiating position by releasing insider information.  So, I can’t tell you who has been offered what, and for what reasons, and for which property(ies).  It’s not exactly a state secret, however, if you talk with the property owners or their agents.

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