UPDATE: Whatcom County Council member Sam Crawford is proposing modifications to the proposed reconveyance of Lake Whatcom watershed forest lands from the Washington Department of Natural Resources to Whatcom County.
Crawford’s proposal would subtract 1,755 acres from the 8,844 acres of state forest lands that have been proposed for transfer to the county–a transfer that has been touted as a lake protection measure that will also create a potential new park. But opponents site a potential loss of both timber revenues to governments and timber-related jobs. As they see it, existing environmental regulations on logging in the watershed are already highly protective of the lake’s water, which provides drinking water to Bellingham and some other areas.
Crawford says the 1,755 acres he proposes to keep under state control are “areas that are still harvestable with little impact.”
He also said he wants the council to take some time to study his proposal, and not vote tonight.
The Lake Whatcom reconveyance is on the Whatcom County Council agenda tonight (Tuesday, Sept. 11) for a public hearing and possible vote.
Both opponents and supporters are mobilizing for a big turnout on the question of whether 8,844 acres of state forest lands should be turned over to Whatcom County for park use.
It started as a cluster of policy questions, and reasonable people could disagree: What is the best way to protect Lake Whatcom? Is logging of state lands in the watershed a real threat to the lake? What about the public logging revenues that would be lost to local governments? What would it cost the c9unty to manage the property for recreation, and what impact would recreation activities have on the lake?
But now, the whole issue seems to have become another symbolic battleground for some people–part of the struggle against big government, liberal environmentalism and perhaps something even more sinister.
Here’s part of an email that County Council member Ken Mann shared on Facebook:
“”We urge you to vote against the reconveyance proposition. It is an iniquity about to be perpetrated on Whatcom residents with not one iota of benefit, only additional cost and deprivation. You are being a party to the machinations of Agenda 21. One can only wish you had the Whatcom residents interests at heart instead of the progressive/communist world government ruthlessness. I urge to take action to refute the Growth Management Act, take a stand for the people instead – the people whom you are representing.”
Agenda 21–not to be confused with Area 51– is a United Nations environmental plan that is viewed in some quarters as part of a plan to subvert property rights.
In the Lake Whatcom reconveyance, land would be transferred from state government to county government, so it’s hard to see what private property rights are at stake.
In another recent development, the Whatcom Excavator anonymous blog has uncorked some email records obtained via a public records request, in which backers of the reconveyance discuss the public revenue that could be derived from cell tower leases or wind power turbines on the property. As the Excavator sees it, the local timber industry and related businesses lose revenue so that the county can gain some.