Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Friends Don't Let Friends Face the Honey Badger Alone

Faced with the looming threat that Whatcom County will be the site of North America’s largest coal terminal, it’s understandable that everybody’s attention is focused on Cherry Point.

I’m afraid that we’re not going to have much of a county left, once the coal terminal goes away.

Whatcom County remains fixated on making sure that all of the County’s increased population, between now and 2029, can live in new houses built outside of cities.  It has not planned for this growth, in the sense of providing capital facilities.  It can’t pay for this growth – no impact fees.  It’s illegal under the Growth Management Hearings Board’s decision in January.

(Warning:  the link is to a YouTube video that uses a bad word.  It’s a variation on “crap,” which apparently is a statesmanlike term – see below.)

Are you all tired of hearing about the County’s illegal, invalid Rural Element?  Somebody yesterday commented that “it’s like climate change – it goes on forever and people just get used to it.”  If it’s any consolation, nobody is as tired of it as David and I.  But the problem is –

It matters.

The Planning Commission has passed the Rural Element on to the County Council.  The Council’s Planning and Development Committee got the first crack at it yesterday.

I had to leave the meeting yesterday before it got good.  I hear that a hearty session of wildlife-bashing took place after I left.  No room for critters in a human-centric county (hear that, honey badger?).

And then there was Council member Sam Crawford’s “rant,” as reported here, in the Herald’s Politics blog.  

For someone who’s going to have to stand up before this Council in the next few weeks, I must say that there’s something particularly daunting about this "rant."  The description of the Hearings Board and its work as “crap” and “political" makes it pretty clear that we’re going to be in a hostile environment.  

Closeup view of a Honey Badger.

I had hoped that the reality of compliance – the words “illegal” and “invalid” – might promote some moderation at the County.  So far, we’ve experienced exactly the opposite.

But we’ll fight on, because what else can you do.

It sure would be nice to have some friends.  Friends?  Can we count on you to help out?  

I’ll be posting more about where to write and when to come to Council meetings.  It's all going to happen between now and July 10th, the County's compliance deadline.

Please, let’s make sure that we have clean water, room for wildlife, firefighters and police and roads -- all those first-world amenities that the County is not planning for.  All in all, it's up to us to make sure that Whatcom County remains a great place for our kids and their kids.


  1. Jean, David, I'm in to help. But I need clarity on who exactly the honey badger is. It is much more compelling to work from the honey badger perspective than the victim of a honey badger.

  2. Oh, I don't know. I don't think that honey badgers should take over the world. But maybe that's where we're headed: a world of honey badgers, Asian clams, crows and pigeons.

    The Chuckanut Wildlife Corridor, in contrast, provides habitat for "northern goshawks, bald eagles, osprey, band-tailed pigeons, big-eared bats, tailed frog, and marbled murrelets." That's according to the County's own Best Available Science report --

    The Chuckanut Wildlife Corridor is the "last remaining area in the Puget Trough where the natural land cover of the Cascades extends to the marine shoreline," according to the County's own web site ( (watch it disappear now!).

    What the County has planned for the Chuckanut Wildlife Corridor is 5-acre residential development, just like most (2/3,in fact) of the rest of the "rural" area. What kind of species will that support? According to the County's own environmental impact statement (for the Urban Growth Area update):

    "Vegetated suburban residential areas offer limited habitat for wildlife, with species that have acclimated to human presence being the most prevalent. Representative species that may occur include the American robin and opossum (Didelphis virginiana). . . Developed areas provide very little in the way of wildlife habitat, with species expected to occur being limited to those requiring little natural habitat such as American crow and pigeon (Columba livia)."

    The Hearings Board found that the County hadn't adequately protected wildlife in the Wildlife Corridor. I hear that some County Council members are now denying that the Chuckanut Wildlife Corridor exists. We provided them with physical evidence, of course, including maps and ordinances, but I guess that it's like birth certificates: you don't have to believe the physical evidence if you don't like it.

  3. Or maybe the Council just wants to make sure that we contribute our part to the "species extinction" part . . .

    June 6, 2012

    Earth Is Headed for Disaster, Interdisciplinary Scientific Review Concludes
    By Paul Basken, Chronicle of Higher Education

    An interdisciplinary group of 22 scientists, combining paleontological evidence with ecological modeling, has concluded that the earth appears headed toward catastrophic and irreversible environmental changes.

    Their report, in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature, describes an exponentially increasing rate of species extinctions, extreme climate fluctuations, and other threats that together risk a level of upheaval not seen since the large-scale extinctions 65 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs. . .

    The report's conclusions center on a measure of the amount of the earth's land surface that has been transformed by people, from forests and prairies to uses such as cornfields and parking lots. The percentage of transformed land now stands at 43 percent, with the world's population at seven billion. . .

    The scientists making those estimates include biologists, ecologists, geologists, paleontologists, and complex-systems theoreticians in the United States, Canada, South America, and Europe. . . .

    The size of the problems demands a global response, Mr. Barnosky [the lead author] said. "The only way out of them is cooperation between nations, between individuals on a global basis," he said.

    Yet he acknowledged that in a nation with sharp political divisions, including over environmental issues, the report may not garner much attention. "I don't know how much it will sway the people who are just not inclined to believe any of this stuff anyway, who just basically will put their heads in the sand and say, Let's go on with business as usual," he said.

    And that's how the honey badger wins.

    Or, we can stand up before the County Council and tell it that business as usual is not OK. (subscription required)

  4. The corridor goes right over where Concrete Nor'west wants to open a new gravel mine on Saxon Road. Strip the trees (habitat), mine the gravel and increase temperatures in the adjacent Nooksack River. While that land is forest, the adjacent rural lands enjoy the characteristics of that habitat corridor.

  5. David and Jean,

    Help is near at hand.

    It is my understanding Western is currently, with funding from Hanna-Barbera, doing an archeological investigation of the old sandstone quarries on Chuckanut. For years rumor has circulated that miners in the early decades of the 1900s, blasting to remove rock along Chuckanut Bay, found old etchings in the stone; “Fred was here” and “Barney was here” are prominent examples.

    Based on those clues students at Western believe it may be possible to locate the exact location of the Slate Rock and Gravel Quarry and, if things go well, the nearby location of the town of Bedrock.

    “This will be an important find,” said Western professor I. M. Overwrought. “It has long been felt development in Bedrock and blasting at the quarry led to the blockage of the Chuckanut Wildlife Corridor and, eventually, the extinction of the dinosaurs along with their eventual conversion into coal.”

    "The projected discoveries," Overwrought continued, "Will illuminate the true facts regarding present day controversies, issues we all, with the exception of the Honey Badger, are concerned about."

    1. Uh, OK.

      If there's one thing we ought to be hatin' on around here, it's our University. For sure.

    2. Ya finally stumped me... I don't git what yer try'n to say.

    3. No, Jack, I insist -- you stumped me. I thought you were making fun of Western. If not, I truly don't get it.

  6. In the name of internet civil discourse... I thee stump!

  7. Hi Jean,
    Re: "I’ll be posting more about where to write and when to come to Council meetings. It's all going to happen between now and July 24th, the County's compliance deadline." Please do! This is very helpful to me and people like me who want to be involved but aren't sure what to do. I will be checking for updates.
    As always, thanks! :)

  8. Thanks, CM. All we know right now is that the Council will be discussing the matter in Executive Session (no public allowed) at 1:00 on Tuesday, June 12. Then, around 1:30, in Council Chambers, the public will be allowed to listen. No public testimony (unless the Council decides to let people speak, which it sometimes does).

    Other than that, and the July 24th deadline, we don't know what the schedule will be. The Council has regular meetings on June 19, July 10 and July 24 -- perhaps there will be a public hearing somewhere along the way on those dates. Or maybe there will be a special meeting. We just don't know yet. But when we do, I'll post it.

  9. Oops, that's July 10 for the compliance deadline. Not July 24th.