Whatcom Land Trust’s first involvement in the Lake Whatcom Watershed came in 1990 with a conservation easement donated in memory of Earl and Pearl Hegg. Today, WLT is responsible for stewarding 1476 acres in the watershed including Stimpson Family Nature Reserve, Lookout Mountain Preserve and Ladies of the Lake. Protection of those sites involved the cooperation of private landowners, corporations, county and city governments, the State Department of Natural Resources and Western Washington University. The City of Bellingham (COB) and Whatcom Land Trust have partnered to protect 362 acres as part of COB’s water quality improvement plan: COB buys land in the watershed and Whatcom Land Trust provides stewardship services and holds conservation easements that protect the fragile forests and natural ecosystems that compose the Lake’s watershed.
What is the Reconveyance?
Dan McShane’s blog, “Reading the Washington Landscape” explains it all on June 2, 2012. (Links are at the end of this post). The blog post is lengthy because the issue is a dynamic one.
The briefest summary is this: Whatcom County has asked the Washington State Department of Natural Resource (DNR) to return some forest lands that are situated in the Lake Whatcom Watershed to Whatcom County ownership for use as a public park.
Whatcom Land Trust has been an active proponent of the Reconveyance from the start, nearly eight years ago. We are in the business of conserving wildlife habitat, protecting water quality, preserving forests, shorelines and greenspaces and providing the Whatcom public with opportunities to enjoy the natural outdoors in a variety of ways. This conservation project was right up our alley from day one.
Of course, all projects include concerns and hurdles. In this case, school funding in the outlying districts was a concern. When DNR logs lands in Whatcom County, a portion of the proceeds is given to the rural school districts. Mt. Baker School District could once rely on a fair income from logging in the watershed. That revenue stream had dwindled dramatically over the years due to legal changes to logging practices including restrictions on logging steep slopes and stream corridors. (Below, check out page 8 of a recent Cascadia Weekly to learn one reason why these restrictions are important.) Nevertheless, everyone involved in the Reconveyance process recognized Mt. Baker School’s concerns. Whatcom Land Trust worked with the school board to develop an estimate of funds that might be lost if the watershed lands in question were removed from DNR’s timber harvest cycle. WLT and the school board settled on a sum that would more than offset potential losses. The school board agreed to retract their opposition to the reconveyance if their students would not suffer from lack of funds. WLT then set to work raising the money and successfully found one anonymous donor to provide half: $250,000. WLT has agreed to match that figure and deliver $500,000 to the Mt Baker School District in the event that the lands are reconveyed.
That’s where you come in!
Are you a business owner in Whatcom County hoping to attract long-term, high-quality employees? Do you own a home in the watershed that gleans some value from a view of forested hillsides? Do you thrill to an afternoon of downhill single-track biking? Like the idea of a little primitive camping within walking distance of a WTA bus-stop? Do you drink the water from Lake Whatcom? There are many reasons to pitch-in on this outstanding conservation project!
WLT has been key in the creation of 13 Whatcom County parks. Typically, WLT has purchased the land, then reconveyed it to Whatcom County for management by the Parks and Recreation department. Lookout Mountain Preserve southwest of the lake is a perfect example of this arrangement. Our other county parks are: Lily Point Marine Reserve, Maple Beach (both on Point Roberts), Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve, Jensen Family Forest, Chuckanut Ridge Wetland, Teddy Bear Cove, Squires Lake, Stimpson Family Forest, Deming Homestead Eagle, Canyon Lake Community Forest, Maple Creek Park and Hegg Memorial Park. WLT and Whatcom County have been successfully creating the parks you enjoy for 22 years.
Whatcom Land Trust is a private non-profit organization. WLT is committed to the preservation, protection and restoration of the natural and cultural heritage that has inspired so many people to make Whatcom County home. We strive to protect natural assets that promote the well-being of all the county’s inhabitants.
Preserving the extraordinary natural features that provide the quality of life we cherish–exceptional food, water, recreation and livelihood–requires active choices and enduring resolve. WLT, with the help of landowners, donors and partners, has chosen to ensure that Whatcom County’s unique legacy remains for future generations.
WLT PRESERVES intact, functioning ecosystems while we still have them.
WLT works with willing landowners who wish to preserve natural features that provide critical habitat for native plants and animals. While some preserved properties are open for passive recreational use, most WLT-preserved acreage is set aside as wildlife sanctuary.
WLT PROTECTS vulnerable working lands that benefit humans as well as wildlife.
Farms and forest lands provide our communities with quality food, water and timber products. Watershed properties are protected to ensure a safe and adequate supply of drinking water for people, as well as quality waterways needed for healthy fisheries.
WLT RESTORES degraded lands, reestablishing functional habitats for diverse species.
With the help of multiple partners, WLT replaces invasive weeds with native plants that provide food and shelter for mammals, birds and reptiles. Where streams have been diverted into uniform ditches, WLT works to return a natural meander to the stream that promotes longevity and reproductive success for fish and amphibians. We’ve even acquired clear-cut tracts and begun reestablishing the natural forest and vegetation. Restored tracts create vital links between preserves, creating unbroken corridors where wildlife can thrive.
Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization. — , A Sand County Almanac, 1949