Whatcom Watch Online
February 1998
Volume 7, Issue 2

The Northwest Marine Sanctuary:
Our Waters are Still Unprotected

by Nancy DeVaux

The Northwest Straits National Marine Sanctuary has been a proposed designation for the inland waters of northwest Washington for ten years, but the process which occurred during 1997 appears to have indefinitely shelved the idea. And while problems facing the marine waters of the region have intensified during the last decade, disagreement over who should manage or control these waters has caused the idea to falter.

Seven counties are included in the area which might have been designated a national marine sanctuary: Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island, San Juan, Clallam and Jefferson. Most of the controversy, however, as well as the majority of press given to the proposal and the strategizing of political opposition to a federal sanctuary, has centered in San Juan County.

This article will summarize the history of the proposal and give an update on the outcome of the congressionally appointed "blue ribbon panel" which met throughout the spring and summer of 1997, to attempt to reach a consensus as to how to manage the marine resources. By using interviews with key individuals involved in the process, it will summarize the current status of the proposal and analyze obstacles to designation of a sanctuary.

National Marine Sanctuary: A Silver Anniversary

In 1972, a Democratic Congress and a Republican president, Richard Nixon, passed the Marine Sanctuary Act, which initiated the National Marine Sanctuary Program. This event took place during an era when our most sweeping environmental legislation was passed by the federal government. This includes the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), Clean Air Act (1971), Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973).

The National Marine Sanctuary Program is administered through the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), located within the Department of Commerce. Its aim is to recognize nationally significant or unique coastal resources and to provide additional management attention through resource protection, education, and research. The act gives broad powers to NOAA, to implement programs and regulations to protect the resources. Since 1972, 12 national marine sanctuaries have been designated in U.S. waters, including one in American Samoa and four off the California coast. The latest sanctuary to be designated was the Olympic Coast Sanctuary on the outer coast of Washington State, in 1994. Each designated marine sanctuary has a uniquely crafted management plan, which typically emphasizes partnerships with the state in which they are located. Additionally, the governor of the state in which a sanctuary is located must sign onto the implementing legislation, effectively giving the state veto power over designation.

Regulations are usually limited to just a few within each sanctuary. For example, in the Olympic Coast Sanctuary, new regulations include the prohibition of oil and gas exploration off the Washington coast, and the discontinuance of the U.S. Navy's practice of bombing Sea Lion rocks. Most sanctuaries include a regulation against damaging the sea floor. Nonetheless, fear of intrusive government regulations has been the resounding cry from opponents to a federal sanctuary. The National Marine Sanctuary Program has also been characterized by opponents as a huge bureaucracy. However, the entire program, including the administration in Washington D.C. and the 12 national marine sanctuaries with on-site staff and facilities, operates on an annual budget of $12,000,000 (1997 figures).

Northwest Straits Sanctuary

A sanctuary in the inland waters of northwest Washington was originally proposed in the August 4, 1983, Federal Register where NOAA published a site evaluation list listing two sites in Washington, including the outer coast and "Washington State Nearshore" which was described as "the waters around the San Juan Islands, encompassing approximately 250-275 square miles."

The inland waters of Washington are characterized by deep canyons with a large amount of fresh water entering the system from rainfall, rivers, and snow melt. The resulting estuarine water quality provides a rich habitat for many species, including over 20 species of marine mammals (including the longest-ever studied pods of orca whales), 200 species of fish, 100 species of marine birds and over 2,000 species of marine invertebrates. The historical abundance and diversity of marine life in these waters makes it a worthy candidate for special management attention.

In 1988, Congress reauthorized and amended Title III of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act, and elevated the status of the "Northern Puget Sound" sanctuary to active candidate. (See the sidebar "National Marine Sanctuary Proposal" on page 9)

In San Juan County, a public discussion group to formulate early citizen input was initiated by Friends of the San Juans, a grassroots environmental organization. This group met throughout 1989 and drafted a resolution of support for the designation, which was read into the record at the scoping hearings. The group asked NOAA to tailor the program to meet the needs of the local community through a combination of educational goals, research objectives, and regulatory emphasis.

The October 10, 1989, Federal Register announced the active candidacy status and upcoming scoping meetings, and expanded the area to 430 square miles, describing the area as:

"The area includes, in general, the waters sur-rounding the islands of San Juan County; waters off Cherry Point and Lummi Bay in Whatcom County; waters surrounding Cypress Island in Skagit County, waters surrounding Smith and Minor Islands and Par-tridge Banks in Island County; waters surrounding Protection Island in Jefferson County; up to the high water mark in Discovery Bay, Sequim Bay and Dungeness Bay; and surrounding Dungeness Spit in Clallam County; and a western boundary along 123 degrees 10' to the Canadian border."

Eight scoping meetings were held in different locations around the study area in November, 1989. (Friday Harbor, Eastsound, Bellingham, Anacortes, Coupeville, Sequim, Port Townsend and Seattle). Approximately 1,500 people attended the meetings, most expressing a desire to be involved in the evaluation and designation process. Also in 1989, then Washington Governor Booth Gardner assigned the Washington State Department of Ecology as the lead State agency to work with NOAA in the process.

NOAA and the Washington State Department of Ecology formed an advisory group called the Northern Puget Sound Marine Sanctuary Working Advisory Committee, consisting of 30 people representing county, state, and federal agencies, tribal authorities, commercial fishing interests, environmental organizations, civic organizations, shipping and port interests, recreational boating interests, and academic institutions. Numerous meetings and subcommittee meetings were held over the next two years, as the committee gathered resource information and regulatory/management information for the project, discussed major issues and concerns, and helped disseminate information about the study to various interest and user groups.

Also following the scoping hearings, a coalition formed to support designation of the area as a national marine sanctuary. It was initiated by the Center for Marine Conservation , a national nonprofit organization whose purpose is protection of the marine environment. The center worked with state-wide and local nonprofit environmental organizations, hosting meetings in different cities and towns around the study area to discuss and build public support for the proposal. A series of newsletters was sent to all the attendees of the scoping meetings and members of environmental groups to keep supporters updated of progress on the proposal.

In November, 1992, NOAA issued a paper entitled "Northwest Straits, Washington, NMS: A Partnership for Protection," which was an unusual step in the designation process. Typically, a draft environmental impact statement and management plan is released, followed by more public hearings and further refinement of the management plan before final designation. In this case, however, since the Northwest Straits was the first proposed national marine sanctuary located entirely within state waters, NOAA decided not to put more of its increasingly scarce resources into publishing a plan until it had a firm commitment of partnership from the state of Washington, to work together on the project. Progress on the proposal slowed to a standstill.

Politics Intervenes

In November, 1992, at the same time that "Partnership for Protection" was published, the campaign season heralded significant changes in administration at the federal, state, and local levels. Bill Clinton was elected president, alongside the 104th Congress, which was determined to shrink big government as part of its "Contract With America." The national mood was now very different than it was in the early 1970s when the Marine Sanctuary Act was first passed.

Mike Lowry also became Washington State's governor in 1992, the same individual who as a member of Congress in 1988 had elevated the northern Puget Sound to "Active Candidate" on NOAA's site evaluation list. In San Juan County, two Republican county commissioners, John Evans and Tom Starr, both firm opponents of the sanctuary, were elected, and formed a new majority of the county commission of three members.

It was nearly two years before Governor Lowry wrote to NOAA saying the state did want to move ahead with a sanctuary. In July of 1995, a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Department of Ecology to jointly work on the draft environmental impact statement and management plan. Throughout this time, NOAA had been continuing to actively work in Washington State on the Olympic Coast site, which was designated the 14th National Marine Sanctuary in July, 1994.

Northwest Straits Sanctuary supporters continued to meet throughout this time period and strategize as a coalition, now under the leadership of People for Puget Sound, a regional nonprofit environmental organization. Opponents of the Sanctuary also began to organize. In the elections of 1994, many local governments across Washington State saw the election of a majority of conservative county commissioners who were sympathetic to the goals of Contract With America, specifically with regard to reducing the size and regulatory power of the federal government.

Following the 1994 elections, the San Juan County commissioners became proactive in their efforts to defeat the proposal for a sanctuary. Their strategy was twofold: first, develop a resolution of opposition to the sanctuary, and circulate it among the other counties in the study area. San Juan County's resolution was passed October 18, 1994. The resolution was signed by all the county councils in the area except Jefferson County, which passed a resolution saying it was "neither opposed nor in favor" but wished to work with NOAA.

Simultaneously, the San Juan County commissioners initiated a locally-based marine resource committee, consisting of a broad cross-section of the community with specific representation from commercial users, scientists, environmentalists, fishers, and whale watch operators to assess the problems and propose solutions with regard to the county's marine resources. The marine resource committee is a voluntary program now in its third year, having been initially formed in April, 1995.

At the resource committee's inception, Friday Harbor Port Commissioner Brian Calvert, having been perhaps the most vocal opponent of the federal marine sanctuary proposal, was elected chair, a position he continues to hold. The committee has recently received Sea Grant funding (a federal program administered through the University of Washington) to assist with implementing the establishment of voluntary, educational fish refugia, or "no take zones."

An important opportunity slipped by in 1996, when Governor Mike Lowry completed his term of office, before the Northwest Straits Sanctuary was even close to being ready to be designated. Originally scheduled for release in 1991, the draft environmental impact statement and management plan still has not been produced. When Lowry was elected in 1992, sanctuary supporters were hopeful that designation could occur within four years.

Also in 1996, the reauthorization of the Marine Sanctuary Act occurred. Funding for the National Sanctuary Program was appropriated only through 1996, so reauthorization by Congress was necessary for the entire program to continue. In March, 1996, Brian Calvert went to Washington D.C. to testify before the House Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans, in opposition to the Northwest Straits Sanctuary. A newspaper account of his effort said that Calvert was asked by Congressman Jack Metcalf, a member of the committee, to testify.

In April of 1996, a delegation from the Northwest Straits Sanctuary Coalition went to Washington D.C. to lobby for completion of the draft environmental impact statement and management plan and continuing with the designation process. Visits were made to NOAA, to the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to the offices of both of Washington's senators and the two representatives from the study area (Jack Metcalf and Norm Dicks). National level lobbying was now occupying both proponents and opponents of the sanctuary.

In response to this polarized message from the communities at the center of the proposed designation, a compromise was negotiated between Sen. Patty Murray's office and Rep. Jack Metcalf's office. This bargaining involved just how much local authority was required to establish a sanctuary. Metcalf proposed language to be added to the reauthorization legislation, requiring the approval of local elected officials with regard to the Northwest Straits Sanctuary. The House Resources Committee issued a report which included a description of his efforts and included proposed language in the bill.

Metcalf's original proposed language was not included in the bill which was finally passed on September 28, 1996, by the full Congress. Language about the formation of a special commission had been eliminated, but still, a requirement was included which prohibits the designation of an area in the Northwest Straits as a National Marine Sanctuary unless the designation is specifically authorized by a (federal) law.

Apparently the bargaining between Murray and Metcalf during the intervening months eliminated the need for including language requiring a new commission and setting criteria for appointees. They had agreed between themselves to create a new "blue ribbon panel" to assess the need for a National Marine Sanctuary in the Northwest straits.

Murray/Metcalf Commission

The new panel met throughout the spring and summer of 1997. A staff person from both Murray and Metcalf's office was assigned to facilitate. Only one person from Whatcom County was appointed, Port of Bellingham Executive Eirector Jim Darling. Others included former State Rep. Cheryl Hymes, county commissioners from Island and Clallam counties, representatives of the steamship operators association, port commissioner Brian Calvert from Friday Harbor, and representatives from scientific and educational institutions, tribes, and environmental groups. They were given the daunting task of trying to reach a consensus.

In order to determine the current status of the proposal, four interviews with key individuals were conducted: Mike Murray, NOAA; Lew Moore, Jack Metcalf's office; Kathy Fletcher, People for Puget Sound, and Brian Calvert, Friday Harbor Port Commissioner and chair of the San Juan County Marine Resources Commission. NOAA did not participate in the Murray-Metcalf Commission process, other than to provide information.

From the proposal's inception, a major difficulty has been problem definition. Lew Moore said, "I think, within the general public, there is a great disparity in terms of perception of problems in the marine waters." Also, "It's pretty hard to define what a sanctuary in fact would do in the Northwest Straits. NOAA has tried to develop a multi-user approach and has tried to be very open, but that has also meant that it has been very hard to depict how it would behave if it was put into place, which has kind of worked against NOAA, to the benefit of the opponents in my opinion."

However, within the Murray/Metcalf Commission, Moore said "I think you certainly saw, within our process, a fairly universal understanding develop that we have some serious problems; and certainly these potential and most likely to be occurring Endangered Species Act listings are kind of driving this home."

All the interviewees felt that the Murray/Metcalf Commission was educated about the problems. Brian Calvert said, "We had this crash course, a very intensive course, of the environmental situation as it is, and what we're looking at in the future. And I think it opened a lot of our eyes up. It was a learning experience, for sure."

Kathy Fletcher said one of the positive outcomes of the Murray/Metcalf Commission is that "there are a lot of people who probably hadn't thought very much about the condition of the marine resources who are now very concerned, because the news is very alarming and very bad, about the decline of marine species and the marine ecosystem. So if nothing else, it's a positive outcome that there are more people who realize that things are in a rather desperate condition."

Some of the depressing facts are itemized below, from a recent report from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (May, 1997):

While members of the Murray/Metcalf Commission became aware of the decline of the marine environment, they have another problem which has so far been unsolvable. Mike Murray put it this way: "What I don't see as a problem, is major disagreements on the issues...which is a good thing. Everybody wants the orcas to continue to live here, and the salmon runs to thrive; nobody likes to see habitat go away, particularly. And we all agree that the evidence, for the most part, that has mounted, is pretty solid. I mean it's hard to refute declining fish catches no matter which way you look at it. But what I do see being a major obstacle appears to be a struggle concerning governance and control, who makes which decisions about management, and I see what looks to be, from my vantage point, a lot of...I guess that you could call them turf battles...a lot of confusing jurisdictional overlaps that sort of play into these battles."

Calvert, on the other hand, sees the biggest problem as "coming up with programs to protect the environment that don't hurt the economy at the same time." He said, "one of the first principles that we all agreed on is that the economy and the environment are intertwined. That they rely on each other. If you damage either one of them, the other one gets hurt. Our economy is based on our environment; it makes our property value what it is. Much of our economy is based on the fact that we have a fairly attractive environment. And so, vice versa, any environmental protection is the product of a successful economy; it's somewhat of a luxury. Sad to say, but it is something that an unsuccessful economy can't do. Like in Third World countries, or Russia and what not, or even less economically successful states, their environmental programs are terrible!"

Counter to this perspective, Fletcher said one problem "is that to really protect the resources there are going to have to be some changes in the uses of the resources and regulatory actions will have to be taken and enforced, and the political climate to do that is...not entirely supportive. I think there is a lot of support, but there's also a lot of opposition, so the philosophical differences over the role of government and regulation, and the proper role of local, state, federal and tribal governments... those are huge obstacles to coming up with solutions."

With these widely divergent viewpoints, perhaps it is not surprising that at the present time the congressionally appointed blue ribbon panel has stalled in the issuance of a final report and recommendations. Consensus has proven exceedingly difficult.

The panel members did agree to the following "Findings and Guiding Principles," as compiled below by co-facilitators Dan Evans (from Senator Patty Murray's office) and Lew Moore for the commission's last scheduled meeting in August, 1997).

  1. The Northwest Straits is a uniquely beautiful and ecologically rich area which is of international significance and warrants regional or national recognition.
  2. Disturbing trends in the Northwest Straits study area call for timely action to avoid serious degradation of natural systems, scenic beauty, recreational opportunities, economic viability, and freedoms that are likely to be curtailed if these trends develop into crises.
  3. The long-term economic health of local communities is tied to the health of natural systems in the area.
  4. Effective solutions must shine a spotlight on priority issues, recognize existing agencies and authorities, and promote better collaboration, greater efficiency, and adequate resources for important initiatives.
  5. Local issues must be resolved at the local level; state and federal authorities should be brought in where necessary to protect key resources or rationalize processes (e.g., prevent duplication of effort).
  6. Solutions cannot interfere with tribal treaty rights.
  7. Sound science should be the foundation of resource management in the area.
  8. Overall ecosystem health should be our primary goal, but specific (objectives), such as recovering bottom fish populations, should be highlighted.
  9. Research, monitoring, and education should be high priorities.
  10. Our primary focus is on the marine environment; upland connections to marine waters should be handled by giving input to appropriate agencies.

Lack of agreement on a management framework, however, has so far prevented completion of the commission's tenure. Continued discussions, bargaining, and potential consensus is still under negotiation by a special subcommittee of the Murray/Metcalf Commission, appointed to try to resolve the impasse so that a report can be issued.

At a meeting of the Northwest Straits Sanctuary Coalition on November 12, 1997, a potential compromise was discussed, which would involve environmental group representatives on the subcommittee agreeing to a "consensus;" to have local, county governments emulate San Juan County's marine resource commission model, in lieu of a national marine sanctuary, and reserve the right to reopen the sanctuary process if this plan fails to improve conditions in the marine environment.

Is It Still on the Agenda?

Is a sanctuary still on the government's agenda? Four different replies were recorded in the interviews: "No," (Calvert) "Yes," (Murray) "Possibly, down the road," (Fletcher) and "Can't say," (Moore). The bureaucracy representative (Murray) said that it is still officially on the agenda, until it is officially halted. The opponent (Calvert) said, "No...that was easy." The congressional representative (Moore) would only reveal that there were differences of opinion within the bureaucracy. The advocate (Fletcher) said that for the time being, the possibility of sanctuary designation appears to be at least a few years down the road, and if it does occur, it will be because of the failure of the agencies to protect the resources.

Regarding the problem of keeping the sanctuary on the agenda, Fletcher said, "I also think there has been a singular lack of leadership coming from our congressional delegation, from our governor, and from our agencies...I think they've all been waiting around hoping that some magical solution will emerge, without them having to go out on a limb."


Whether or not alternatives to the idea of a sanctuary have been developed was also disputed among the interviewees. Brian Calvert took the position that yes, an alternative has not only been proposed, but has already been implemented in San Juan County. Kathy Fletcher and Mike Murray felt that the blue ribbon panel had not seriously considered the sanctuary designation as a viable alternative, because some members, from the beginning, had closed minds to such a possibility. Therefore, only pieces of the proposed sanctuary have been discussed as alternatives.

Moore said that, "The biggest difference between what we have talked about and the marine sanctuary is, most of the alternatives are being devised with the idea of avoiding new federal regulations. I think that's pretty safe to say. Its not to say we haven't discussed federal regulations, because we have. Most of the rough outlines, that's all they are, but they are really rough outlines that we have talked about, of the alternative approaches, have been driven to a great degree by the desire to avoid new federal regulations or to appease those who are very concerned about new federal regulations."

Each said that it was a positive outcome of the Murray/Metcalf Commission that all the members had come together to sit at the table and discuss the condition of the marine resources. Three of the four said it was positive to see people who had formerly been bitter opponents get to know each other and realize they had things in common. Murray elaborated, "I think there's a lot of power that can come out of that, some working relationships which could go well beyond the tenure of this particular group. Who knows what kind of partnerships could be forged from that?"

As far as any negative results from the commission process, Moore said, "It's a negative that they haven't been able to reach a consensus," and "The jury is still out," until it can be determined if the consensus is something that does any good. Murray said a negative outcome of the commission is "more conflict over governance, and turf battles, and control issues." Brian Calvert saw no negative outcomes, and Kathy Fletcher echoed Moore that "the jury is still out," as to how much positive will come out of it (the Murray/Metcalf Commission).

Whether or not local governments can do an adequate job dealing with environmental risks remains a major unanswered question. On land, the surrounding human population is expected to reach ten million within the next two decades. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is now the busiest port of entry in the United States, and with increasing free trade and the state's growing relationship with Asian markets, the risks to the decreasingly pristine waters of the Northwest Straits are also growing.

Designing Bellingham's First
Cohousing Community

by Kate N. Nichols

Cohousing--a unique way of bringing people together who want to live in a community designed to meet their needs. Bellingham Cohousing Group is one of about 200 groups in the United States that are in the process of developing a neighborhood. Bellingham Cohousing Group passed their first major milestone by buying 5.78 acres at 2614 Donovan Avenue in September 1997 to develop as a cohousing community. They surpassed that milestone when they designed their site plan of Bellingham's first cohousing neighborhood and preserved the magic of the old "Donovan Farm."

Donovan Farm has been a part of Bellingham since 1890. In recent history many people have lived on the property in a barn, in a bus or teepee, with an open-door policy. But when the Massey family wanted to sell the property, that community moved on and in a daring, or some feel foolish move, four people in Bellingham Cohousing Group agreed to put up the down payment on the land.

What Is Cohousing?

Architects Kathryn McCamant and her husband, Chuck Durrett, coined the word cohousing. They spent a year in Denmark in the 1980s studying the Danish version. When they got back to the United States they devoted their time to spreading the movement. In cohousing each household owns their own home. Homes can be built smaller and simpler because the community builds a common house The common house has a kitchen and dining room, where the group has optional meals together. Members take turns cooking. The community can share resources such as a lawn mower, tools, a boat, truck, whatever it chooses. The book, "Cohousing, A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves," (Ten Speed Press, 1994) which is like the Bible to the movement was written by Kathryn McCamant and Chuck Durrett.

Marinus Van De Kamp and his wife Irene MacPherson started this cohousing group in Bellingham two years ago. Van De Kamp said, "I grew up in a small town in Holland and I miss some of the community feeling in my neighborhood." There are presently six households in the group committed to the development.

The group's drive got them to the point of designing a site for thirty-two attached homes. Their primary considerations in site design were that it would encourage a sense of community, make a connection to the larger community, and respect the environment. They also wanted to ensure that everyone's voice was heard in the process. They hired McCamant to facilitate the site programming which involves the process of "visioning" with clients; the clients talk about what they want for their homes and then the visual idea is drawn up.

After the programming process, once the group's design criteria and priorities were clear, McCamant set out an eight-foot scale map of the site and a set of blocks for the group to play with. The group came up with a plan of three clusters of homes. Cars will be parked at the periphery of the property with pedestrian pathways from the parking to the houses. Footpaths will also connect the three clusters. Each cluster has an area called a gathering node that will be planned by the households in the cluster to encourage people to gather. Each cluster will decide what they want to include in their gathering node: a sand box for kids and picnic tables or benches under a grape arbor, for example. The group agreed that they wanted surprises along the paths around the community. Views of the Chuckanut Mountains and of the tree-lined front entrance are priorities and a sacred spot by Connelly Creek, which runs through the south end of the site, will also be observed.

Creating A Neighborhood Within a Neighborhood

Because of the group's concern that it interact with the larger community, the cohousing garden was planned along the city trail on the eastside of the property to encourage passersby to stop and chat. They plan to put open parking along the front edge so that people walking by can look into the community. A basketball court is planned in the parking lot so that neighbors can see a game and join in. Also the group plans to clean up the front of the property along the street and add interesting landscape to welcome people into the community.

Each person in the group was encouraged to bring their vision to the site plan. One member suggested the existing greenhouse be cleaned up and included in the plan. Other group members want to raise rabbits and chickens and a place was set aside for them near the garden. There will be a "tot lot," a playing field for children and adults, and a workshop with a space for teens.

Another member likes to hang her clothes up outside and wanted to make sure there was space for that. McCamant advised putting the clothesline in a prominent place because men tend to like to hang their clothes up where they can be seen, so the clothes line has a conspicuous space behind the common house.

The common house is the heart of the community and there are plans for a large porch facing the open wetlands to the south with a terrace for community gatherings. The L-shaped terrace can be viewed from most homes so anyone who wants to know if there is any action going on, can just step outside their door and peek out at the terrace.

The old Donovan farmhouse will be renovated to use as the common house and a dining room will be added on to it for optional meals. The group envisions space in the common house for a library, crafts, a room for children, guest room, and office space as well as a place to share expertise. For example, Celie Lloyd a regular contra-dancer and core member says, "I enjoy helping people learn to dance. Music is an international language and a way the community can be drawn together. I am looking forward to teaching dancing in the dining room after the tables have been cleared away or outside on the terrace."

Extended Family Setting

Children also benefit from the diversity of people in the community. They learn from the different skills and interests of all the adults. They can get help with homework and projects from adults other than their parents. Michelle Domash of the Puget Ridge cohousing neighborhood in West Seattle said that "groups of people go off and do things together. If a child wants to join the group without their parent, they may." Children growing up within the community may grow as close as siblings, which is an advantage for "only" children.

The diversity in ages is beneficial for everyone. People without children get to enjoy the community's children; children without grandparents close by can benefit from people willing to step in and grandparent. In most cohousing neighborhoods, parents organize after-school activities. Furthermore, both parents and their children benefit greatly from the site plan. Without automobile access along the front of the houses, it is a safer place to raise children. The Donovan site has lots of green space for kids and adults to play. The whole project is designed to be family-oriented which is reflected in the fact that the group offers child care to continue to attract more families.

Low-Impact Development

The group is paying close attention to the environmental impact of the project on the land. The large trees will remain. There are 2.8 acres of designated wetland on the property. In a conventional development, there would have been wetland mitigation and detached homes built into the wetlands. But the Bellingham Cohousing Group will build attached homes and stay out of the wetlands.

Building attached homes will also save on the amount of building material used. The plan has less impermeable surface area than a regular development: houses have smaller footprints; larger homes will be two-story rather than one story; there will be less road area into the neighborhood, and fewer parking spaces and garages. Additionally, the group hopes to work with the city of Bellingham to enhance the creek.

Many, many meetings are required to develop this project. Most groups make their decision based on a non-hierarchical structure so that everyone in the community has a voice in how it is built. Similarly, the Bellingham group hired Holly O'Neil to teach them the formal consensus decision making process. Afterwards, the group agreed to use the handbook on formal consensus decision making "On Conflict & Consensus," (Food Not Bombs Publishing, 1991) by C.T. Lawerence Butler and Amy Rothstein, as an ongoing guide to the process. Members find the group process a challenge and a great learning experience.

Is It Within My Budget?

Cohousing costs as much as a regular development, sometimes more when group participation time is factored into the design process. However, cohousing groups often use better building materials than a conventional developer and tend to focus on energy efficiency. Although the homes are smaller, each household pays for a portion of the common house. For those who may qualify for low-income housing, the group is actively investigating options to build up to five or six homes that are affordable to those families and seniors.

Chris Hanson, a cohousing development consultant, came and did a development plan workshop with the group in January. On March 28, Katie McCamant is coming back to program the common house and the vision will continue to take on the reality of what the group can afford as well as what the space will look like.

Bellingham Cohousing Group formed a Limited Liability Company to develop the property. A household becomes a member of the company by buying an interest in it. People who are interested in the group may observe meetings. It is not just a financial commitment; every adult in the community needs to participate in developing the property. Once the homes are built, a member's financial interest in the company becomes the down payment for their house. The group wll probably form a condominium association once the houses are built. The group has also discussed setting up a community land trust for the common areas of the land.

Personal Boundaries Okay

In talking to a couple of people who have lived in Puget Ridge in West Seattle for the past three years, they agree that living in a close community is not for everyone. Some people are concerned about the lack of privacy. However, "I haven't even put up curtains," said Barb Erwine who has lived in Puget Ridge for the past three years. "Most people are too isolated (outside of cohousing). When people need privacy, such as the two couples who had new babies, they simply put notes up on their doors requesting it."

Teenagers have had the most trouble adjusting to cohousing. A "simpatico teen culture hasn't developed yet in Puget Ridge," according to Marty Kehill, mother of two teenagers." Some teenagers moved into cohousing with fantasies of being part of a big, happy family. But although there was tremendous goodwill, when everyone actually moved into the community, they became more reserved." "In general, teenagers are focused more on their friends and are not as involved with the community," added Leslie Wood from Windsong, a cohousing neighborhood in Langley, B.C., who is also a single mother of two teenagers. "But over time, they may."

Here in Bellingham, group members hope that it takes several cups of tea (or a beer) and an hour to walk from their car to their home. The group wants diversity and welcomes anyone that would like to join in making cohousing a reality in Bellingham.

Rocky-Mountain Goats, the Olympics, and the Native Plants Dispute

by John DiGregoria

The animal rights movement (Fund for Animals, the Humane Society, etc.) has taken up the misguided cause of saving the Olympic goat populations from human management. They argue that the goat is actually native to the Olympic Mountains, that the goats pose no real threat to any rare plants within the Olympic Mountains, and that we should let the goat seek its own natural balance in the rocky terrain of the majestic Olympic Mountains.

I agree that we should protect the Rocky Mountain goat in its native habitat. I am also a proponent of eliminating all goat hunting and the hunting of their predators throughout Washington state. I do not, however, feel that we should protect exotic species like the brown snake in Polynesia, the wild boar in Hawaii and the mountain goat in the Olympic Mountains. These exotic species have shown that their natural behavior can quickly alter native communities with extinction of some species a likely result.

Animal Rights Groups Are Wrong

In actuality, the goats are not native at all and they do threaten the extinction of rare native plants. It is common knowledge that in the 1920s, a group of sport hunters decided to introduce goats into the Olympics so they could have a local source for trophy hunting. They introduced approximately twelve goats, taken from different locations in the Cascades and Vancouver Island, into the mountains above Port Angeles. The Olympic Mountains provided the goats with a perfect habitat: escape terrain (rock/cliff areas) with adjacent plant communities abundant in grasses and shrubs. The goats quickly multiplied, spreading throughout the high ridges of the mountains. By the early 1980s, the goat population was estimated at over one thousand individuals. During the goats' expansion, park managers noticed that goat behavior negatively impacts native plant communities, especially those containing rare plants. Having a mandate to protect these native ecosystems from exotic invasives caused the Park Service to develop a management plan that entailed the systematic removal of goats from the park.

The Park Service Organic Act of 1916 states that park lands should be conserved "in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." The Park Service determined that the mountain goat was not endemic to the park and should be removed since the goats were eating, wallowing and trampling large areas of once pristine subalpine and alpine vegetation. In 1972 the park began removing goats by trapping and airlifting them from the areas where overlap with rare plant communities existed. Trophy hunters assisted the park's plan by removing goats from the adjacent national forests. (Hunting, of course, is prohibited within park boundaries.) However, the Park Service's goat management plans have been temporarily halted by animal rights advocates and Rep. Norm Dicks.

The Olympic Mountains are an international treasure that is recognized as a world-heritage site and bioreserve. Sections of this great treasure have been protected as national parks and wilderness areas. The Olympic Mountains contain a variety of ecosystems from the temperate spruce forests of the Hoh and Quinalt Rivers to the subalpine and alpine meadows on the high ridges of the northeast. Over twenty-seven percent of Washington state's rare plants can be found on the Olympic Peninsula. During the past fifty years, human mismanagement of the Olympics has led to a decline in the quality of habitat on which many rare plants and animals depend. Our shortsightedness has included logging the Olympics' forests, damming the Elwah and Skokomish rivers as well as introducing the mountain goat into the Olympics. Although there are several factors which have drastically altered the habitat requirements of the salmon in the rivers and the plants on the ridges, our focus here is the impact of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Olympic Mountains.

Are Goats Native to the Olympic Mountains?

During the last ice age, mountain goats in the Cascade Mountains were forced to migrate south of the ice sheets that covered most of what is now Washington. Evidence suggests that the goats inhabited the cliffs above the Dalles area along the Columbia River. As the ice sheets moved north so did the goats, following the migrating vegetation along cliffy terrain of the Cascade Mountains. The goats continued to move north into the Canadian coast range. There is no real evidence that the goats could have nor did cross the Puget trough into the Olympic Mountains, yet some argue that they must have.

R. Lee Lyman, a professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri, argues that "the Puget lowland served as a biogeographical filter rather than a barrier for mammalian taxa during periods of maximum glacial extent." Unless I'm confused, a filter is a barrier to all things filtered out. For example, the "First Need" water filter some people use while backpacking is a barrier to all particles over three microns. Lyman correctly argues that some mammals could have migrated from the Cascades to the Olympics through the Puget lowlands. Yet eleven mammals, including the grizzly bear, pika, red fox, bighorn sheep and wolverine are missing from the Olympics. Lyman incorrectly argues that the Puget lowlands provided the habitat necessary for goats to survive for a period long enough to make the migration from the cliffs of Mount Rainier to the cliffs of the southeast Olympics. Lyman forgot to include the habitat requirements of the mountain goat when considering whether the goats could have made the migration.

Mountain goats require escape terrain as their primary method for reducing predation from large carnivores, like mountain lions. Studies have shown that bighorn sheep will forage farther from escape terrain than goats and that goats have not been observed far from some form of cliff or rocky outcrop. The Puget lowlands are predominantly piles of loose glacial till left after the glaciers receded. There is no substantial nor continuous escape terrain between Mount Rainier and the southeast Olympic Mountains, the assumed migration corridor. If we assume the goats used the glacial edges as escape terrain, then where was the vegetation? Research on the migration of vegetative communities moving north following the retreating glaciers suggests that the winds and cold temperatures coming off of the glaciers precluded colonization of plants within close proximity of the southern edges of the ice sheets. Considering the lack of suitable habitat, it seems apparent that the Puget lowlands filtered out both the bighorn sheep and the Rocky Mountain goat by being a barrier to their migration.

A second argument used by the animal rights corner refers to a National Geographic Magazine article written by Samuel C. Gilman and published in 1896 which includes a list of plentiful game including the mountain goat. A series of other articles also states goats lived in the Olympics, yet all of these articles cite the National Geographic article. The real question is: if the goat inhabited the Olympic Mountains in 1889, how did over a dozen zoological research teams explore the Olympic mountains between 1895 and 1921 and come up with no sign of the mountain goat anywhere? The alpine zone that goats inhabit is extremely harsh with repressed decomposition. If goats did inhabit this area surely someone would have found a goat bone somewhere. Did Gilman actually have the opportunity to see the last individuals of a goat population on its way out? Did he possibly see snow patches or clouds among the cliffs instead; or did he feel that since the Olympics were such great goat habitat and goats could be found in the Cascades that through creative writing they must have been there? Since it is now over a hundred years later, we'll never know whether goats were actually seen in the Olympics.

A third argument used to show that goats inhabited the Olympics comes from goat horns found in archaeological digs along the Washington coast. No one refutes that goat and sheep horns were found as tools within old human settlements, but the question is: did the natives acquire the horns by hunting in the high mountains across the lowland forests or were they acquired by trading with natives from other settlements? Ethnologies of the coastal Salish provide no connection between the natives and a relationship with mountain goats or bighorn sheep. If these people hunted goat and sheep, then why are there no rituals and songs about this connection? We do know that the coastal Indians participated in trade with settlements on Vancouver Island and the Puget Sound. In fact trading among North American nations was so prevalent that shells collected and traded by the coastal Salish can be found in archaeological sites throughout the east coast.

One can state that the mountain goat did occupy the Olympic Mountains prior to the 1900s, but there is no substantial data with which to successfully argue this point. From the preponderance of evidence reviewed by the author, prior to the introduced population of this century, the mountain goat did not inhabit the Olympic mountains, at least not since the ice sheets last covered most of Washington state.

Do Goats Threaten Native Plants?

The Olympic Mountains are home to a variety of plants listed by the state of Washington as rare. However, none of these plants are currently protected by the Endangered Species Act. The rare Olympic crazyweed was listed as a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act, but since President Clinton removed all candidate species from the list, consideration for listing this plant and animals like the lynx and salmonids has diminished. Just because a species has not been recognized by our politically motivated government as rare and in need of protection, does not mean that we as a nation should sit back and let rare species disappear. Research conducted within Olympic National Park clearly shows that goats negatively impacted rare plants and their associated plant communities.

Prior to the reduction program implemented by the National Park Service, goats inhabited the entire Klahhane Ridge, home to a variety of rare plants and their communities. Goats have been observed both eating and wallowing in rare plants. Goats prefer to forage on Idaho fescue, an important grass for maintaining plant community structure and integrity. When Idaho fescue was eliminated from some areas, weedy pioneer species moved into the disturbed sites and transformed the community structure. According to Dr. Lawrence Bliss, a professor of Botany at the University of Washington, "After the goat population on Klahhane Ridge was reduced by about ninety percent, the favorite goat forage species like Idaho fescue increased and less palatable disturbance species like yarrow became less abundant." It is not only the direct impacts on individual rare plants, but also the larger impacts on the community structure, which provide the habitat for rare plant species to survive over the long run.

The removal of the goat population from the ridges of the northeast Olympic Mountains has allowed the native communities to recover. If the goats are allowed to re-expand into these areas then we will once again have a conflict between maintaining the health and integrity of the native plant communities and having an exotic goat population inhabit a bioreserve.

What Do We Do Now?

We can stop all goat management plans on the Olympics and let the goat population evolve into a viable population over the long run and risk losing the variety of plant communities endemic to the Olympics or we can continue to remove goats from the mountains. This question is a football being kicked around in the political arena by animal rights groups (mammalists in this instance), environmentalists, and government agencies. As we continue to debate this issue, the goat population will continue to grow, the Endangered Species Act will continue to be attacked and quite possibly weakened, and numerous global species will continue to disappear.

A thought in parting_the next time your non-native house cat brings in a maimed and fluttering native song bird, think about the similar vulnerabilities of native plant communities in the Olympics. If all life forms are sacred, then we must look beyond the warm and fuzzy and protect the diversity of life that currently exists. This includes plants.

Increased Visitors to Sucia Island Have Huge Impact on this Tranquil Haven

by Anita White

Sucia Island was traditionally used by Lummi Indians as a summer hunting and foraging area until its discovery by the Spanish Eliza expedition in 1791. -State Park Guide

Sucia Island, one of the 16 San Juan Marine State Parks, is a haven for boaters, hikers, beachcombers, sailors, peace-seekers, kayakers and wildlife alike.

On the way to Sucia, bald eagles sail overhead and hundreds of harbor seals lounge on islands of rock, clues to the serenity of the destination.

With the anchor at the bottom of Echo Bay and the engine off, the power of the island is realized--silence. No cars, planes or humming machinery masking the hush.

Around the perimeter of the island boats can moor in Shallow Bay, Fox Cove, Mud Bay, Ewing Cove, Fossil Bay and Snoring Bay.

The island is the shape of a horseshoe, like a coral atoll of the South Pacific with its southeast side eroded away.

The largest moorage, sheltered on three sides by the surrounding island, is Echo Bay.

In the spring the visiting boats number from two to 20, but the summer is a different story. "Once, I counted as many as 700 boats here at the same time," said Dave Castor, ranger for San Juan Marine State Parks.

The increasing number of people coming to the island each year threatens the wildlife and stretches the resources available to the parks.

Maintaining all 16 of the marine state parks are two full time rangers that work all year and two to three seasonal employees hired for each summer, usually students from Western Washington University.

"There is only time for maintenance, not education of the visitors," said Castor as a seasonal employee manipulates a lawn mower into an eight-foot skiff. It is time to mow the campgrounds at nearby Matia Island park.

The budget for the 16 marine parks is less than one quarter of one percent of Washington state's entire park budget. "Since 1970 the San Juan Parks budget has been cut 39 percent," said Castor.

The state of Washington wants the San Juan Marine State Parks to generate 40 per cent of its revenue from operation. "Right now we currently collect 2 percent of our revenue from moorage fees, the only fees we charge on the island," said Castor.

State Initiative 601 does not allow the parks to raise fees faster than inflation, even when the state is insisting that the parks generate more revenue, explained Castor.

The amount of people using the island increases each year, creating more maintenance work for the rangers. Already, almost three miles of trails have been eliminated on Sucia to protect the wildlife from people.

Sucia is 562 acres small and is a blend of exposed wildflower-covered cliffs, marine and freshwater wetlands, 50-year-old second growth forests and 55 camping and picnic sites.

Old logging roads make up 3.5 miles of trails in the interior and another six miles of footpaths weave along the edges of the cliffs.

Great horned owls fly across the old roads to perch in trees and river otter leave presents of empty shells along the cliff trails.

"Eventually, the trails will not be maintained and the docks will not be repaired," said Burt Webber, professor at Western Washington University and frequent visitor to Sucia Island. The budget severely restricts maintenance at all the marine parks.

"Ultimately, it is up to the visitors of Sucia and other parks to let the state know that these places are important," said Castor.

Growth Managment Act:
State Board Finds Portions of the Comprehensive Plan Inadequate

by Sue Lorentz

On Tuesday, January 20, the Western Washington Growth Management Hearing Board issued a decision on several appeals to the latest version of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan as well as the development regulations that accompany the plan. Five portions of the plan that had previously been declared invalid because they were out of compliance with the Growth Management Act were found in this decision to still be out of compliance and thus invalid. Other portions of the plan were found to have been brought into compliance. Several new provisions were also considered.

Challenge Mounted by Concerned Citizens

The challenge to the plan came from Whatcom Resource Watch, represented by David Bricklin and from Sherilyn Wells who acted without representation. Wells, as a private citizen, argued new issues as well as expanded on issues previously raised by the Watershed Defense Fund. The costs of protracted but successful litigation to force the county to comply with the law have been so high that the Watershed Defense Fund could not afford to have an attorney argue these points. Arguing on the side of the county at the December l0-11 hearing were as many as 12 attorneys.

Geneva Urban Growth Area Remains Invalid

Three urban growth areas were found to still be out of compliance and thus invalid. Probably the most significant of these was the Geneva area of the Bellingham urban growth area. This area was originally found invalid because "water resources and watershed impactshad reached critical deficiences" and no analysis had been conducted to support its designation as an urban growth area.

The county argued that Bellingham had done an analysis and was better able to protect the watershed from future and existing developments in Geneva. The board decided that without an interlocal agreement or annexation, designation as an urban growth area would give the area no additional protection and unmitigated development would continue. "The record does not reveal why the county is unable to protect the watershed if it is not designated for Urban Growth," the board wrote in its decision.

The aquifer recharge area of the Drayton Harbor area of the Blaine urban growth area and the long-term planning area of the Birch Bay urban growth area were also found to be out of compliance.

Most Rural Areas Out of Compliance

In finding the designated Rural Areas (with the exception of Point Roberts and Deming) out of compliance the board wrote: "The county needs to show much more clearly that its work to minimize and contain existing areas of more intensive rural development has been carried out before we can be convinced that substantial intereference has been removed in the Rural Areas." "The county appears to have accommodated preexisting zoning, not actual uses," "existing zoning cannot be a sole criteria for designating rural lands for more intense development." "We find it a remarkable coincidence that the county's efforts to meet the requirements of the [Growth Management Act]have resultedin maintaining the status quo."

Development Regulations Found Invalid

The board found that the only changes to the development regulations since a previous finding of invalidity were to the planned unit development and bonus density provisions. The planned unit development provisions were found with this decision to comply with the Growth Management Act. The bonus density provisions have been dropped but the other findings of invalidity on the development regulations remain.

The agricultural overlay provisions were found to "constitute a holding pattern for future sprawl." These provisions were found to not comply with the act.

Other Urban Growth Areas Accepted

Urban Growth Areas found to be in compliance were the remainder of the Blaine urban growth area (UGA), the Sumas, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack and Everson UGAs, the short-term planning area of the Birch Bay UGA and Custer and Cherry Point UGAs.

Development of the Custer UGA is conditioned on approval of a master plan. The board felt that this brought the UGA into compliance. Additional analysis of the Cherry Point UGA along with development regulations which limit the area to heavy industrial use were enough to convince the board that this area is in compliance. Sherilyn Wells argued against this decision on the basis that water from the Nooksack River is over-allocated and therefore there will be no water for those areas of Cherry Point that do not already have water rights. She also pointed out that this portion of the plan is internally inconsistent since Cherry Point is designated as a Shoreline of State-wide Significance in the Whatcom County Shoreline Plan.

The board did not agree with her.

The Rural Areas of Point Roberts and Deming were found in compliance. Also found in compliance were the Agricultural Land section with the exception of the overlay provisions, the Forest and Mineral Lands provisions and the public participation efforts.

What Comes Next

Whatcom Resource Watch has filed a "motion to reconsider" because of their disagreement with the gravel mining provisions approved by the board. Sherilyn Wells has not yet decided whether she will appeal the decision. Both sides have 30-days from the decision date to file an appeal in Superior Court. Whether the county will appeal remains to be seen.

Only Change Came from Legislature

In assessing this version of the plan and the board's decisions Sherilyn Wells stated: "The plan didn't really change. The only thing that changed was the very high degree of deference that the board is expected to give to local governments thanks to the changes to the Growth Management Act enacted in the last legislative session."


The Growth Management Act is a state enacted law requiring cities and counties to do certain things to provide good growth management in their jurisdictions. One of the ways that management must be provided is by means of a comprehensive plan that will meet objectives of the Growth Management Act. Why is it that if this is a state mandated requirement the state does not challenge inadequate plans submitted by local governments such as Whatcom County? Why is the challenge left up to private citizens such as Whatcom Resource Watch and Sherilyn Wells when it is the interest of the state that they are striving to protect? If these courageous people did not step forward, at their own expense, would the incredibly inadequate original plan submitted by the county, which not only did not contain sprawl but encouraged it, have been accepted by the state without challenge? Apparently so.

Whatcom Watch Online
NorthWest Citizen