Opinions of the Editorial Board
Somehow, whenever new budgets are rolled out, it always feels like the environment is the first thing to get cut.
Gov. Jay Inslee has released his proposed budget for 2017, containing a legislative funding gap of about $6.2 million. The gap leaves 1,600 acres of forest in the Blanchard area unprotected and at risk of logging, according to a Skagit County press release.
Blanchard Forest is an area of land south of Bellingham in Skagit County. It includes the Oyster Dome hiking area, a 5-mile trail popular for student hikers and locals. Oyster Dome is known for being one of the most well-liked hiking areas locally, particularly for its views overlooking the Samish Bay.
The area was historically logged extensively until it was put into the state trust in 1925, protecting the zone from clearcutting.
And therein lies the problem.
Washington state is home to some of the most incredible natural landscapes in the nation. We are surrounded by spectacular lakes, mountains and rivers on our front doorstep. And arguably no nearby hiking area is more popular for beginner and moderate hikers than Oyster Dome, due to close location and beautiful views.
Local voices are not silent, though. Already there are Facebook groups and activists springing up throughout the northwest. Conservation Northwest, a popular organization for land usage in the area, already has an action alert setup to directly contact legislators. The Skagit Land Trust, another conservation group dedicated to the county area, has begun advocating for direct contact with government officials as a means of action. People are talking, as they rightfully should.
One of the difficulties that come with conservation efforts is the age-old tragedy of the commons. Everyone wants to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors, but no one wants to be the one to take responsibility. Collective action becomes difficult when everyone uses something individually, and doesn’t think unitedly. We can’t all take advantage without giving something in return.
We are lucky enough as is to be surrounded by the great variety of landscapes that we are. Skiing? Mt. Baker is an hour and a half drive west. Sailing? Bellingham Bay is minutes away from campus. And if you like hiking, horseback riding or mountain biking, Blanchard Forest is one of the most easily accessible places nearby.
With that being said, it seems unnecessary for us to have to watch as the land is once again cleared away. An increasing amount of forests are already being clearcut. Conservation International reports nearly half of the earth’s forests have already been decimated, and deforestation accounts for nearly 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Ultimately, we take authority. Think larger than ourselves. Choose what to prioritize, and what to push to the wayside. A primary aspect of enjoying the area we live in must be taking care and being good stewards of it. Even if you aren’t an avid outdoorsman, there is importance in appreciating the significance of the land others use, rely on and enjoy.
Letting our representatives know why preservation of the Blanchard Forest area is of paramount importance to their constituents is one of the best ways to enact change. It may not feel like it, but they do listen. Understanding and acknowledging the necessary protection of our lands is our best chance of keeping the places we care for untouched. Legislature was, after all, created to be representative of the people.
And if already there is outcry, more will follow. Silence so often equals acquiescence in situations like these. It’s in our —and the land’s— best interest to contribute.
The Editorial Board consists of Anna Edlund, Alyssa Evans and Robert Johnson