Whatcom Magazine

Whatcom Land Trust creates partnerships, parks

Intern Kaitlyn Hammon, left, volunteer coordinator Dennis Conner and executive director Rich Bowers enjoy a Whatcom Land Trust staff field trip to the south fork of the Nooksack River in October 2015.
Intern Kaitlyn Hammon, left, volunteer coordinator Dennis Conner and executive director Rich Bowers enjoy a Whatcom Land Trust staff field trip to the south fork of the Nooksack River in October 2015. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Whatcom Land Trust has had a busy three decades protecting farmland, nature preserves and land for parks in the county.

Since its inception in 1985, the nonprofit organization has played a pivotal role in the creation of at least 14 county parks. A recent triumph was the reconveyance of 8,844 acres of state Department of Natural Resource land in Lake Whatcom watershed for park use.

“That project started in 2007 and was just finalized last year,” says Rich Bowers, executive director. “To help make this happen, Whatcom Land Trust attended meetings, lobbied the Legislature in Olympia, raised funding for the Mount Baker School District, and worked with the county, the city and recreation users to supply comments and information to the decision makers.”

The organization specializes in partnerships, from major transactions to individual conservation easements on a person’s property.

We could potentially have a beautiful ring of recreational park land around our city’s water supply that will be there forever.

Rich Bowers, executive director

“Our role is to bring partners together,” Bowers says. “We have a relationship-building history where we can bring people to a table and work out a deal.”

Over the years, the Land Trust has had a hand in protecting 5,000 acres of parkland, 32 miles of marine and freshwater shoreline, and 1,000 acres of agricultural, forestry and other working lands. Projects in the works include Galbraith Mountain, where the Land Trust hopes to conserve more than 2,000 acres.

“It would provide outstanding recreation, protection for the Lake Whatcom watershed, and a nice buffer from development on the south side of the city,” Bowers says. “Between the Lake Whatcom watershed reconveyance and Galbraith Mountain, we could potentially have a beautiful ring of recreational park land around our city’s water supply that will be there forever.”

The Land Trust also would like to protect 122 acres at Governors Point at the south end of Chuckanut Bay, one of the last remaining large parcels of marine headland in the county.

Properties under private protection such as the Land Trust provides represent 1 percent of the county, so more land needs to be conserved to maintain the county’s agricultural and recreational character, Bowers says.

“It can be interesting when developers come in with much more money than we can bring to the table,” he says. “But usually when you get right down to it, if it’s an iconic, beautiful place, at some point everyone comes together and sees the wonderful opportunities for the whole county, not just for themselves. Getting to that point is the real challenge.”

Whatcom Land Trust

Details: whatcomlandtrust.org and 360-650-9470. Contact the Land Trust for details about these upcoming events:

Feb. 18: Vikki Jackson discusses Whatcom County amphibians

Feb. 27: Training for volunteer land stewards

March 12: Work party at Samish River headwaters

March 17: Brian Flowers discusses eco-friendly burials

March 19: Work party in South Fork Nooksack valley, near Acme

March 26: Work party at Wildcat Reach on north fork of the Nooksack River

April 16: Work party at Maple Creek Reach in Maple Falls

April 23: Earth Day work party and picnic on south fork of the Nooksack near Acme

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