You may be familiar with the notion that Blanchard Mountain is slated to be logged. If you’ve been to Blanchard you may find that notion confusing, frustrating and more than a little sad. It’s steep loamy slopes are covered in a forest that becomes increasingly ancient as one ascends. And ascend you do; 100,000 hikers, runners, mountain bikers and equestrians escape the city to this place for it’s lush vegetation and stunning island vistas. From Oyster Dome and the North Butte, you can soak in views that few are lucky to have so close to home.
If you have yet to enjoy the quiet wilds of the treasure in your backyard, there’s still time to do so. But the question remains; why would anyone ever cut down such a beautiful place? Furthermore, what can I do to help preserve it. The answer is not as simple as you might imagine, and it is not for wanting that the place is slated to be harvested. Broad support exists for the idea of saving Blanchard, and the Blanchard Forest Strategy Group has been hard at work to just that since 2006. Blanchard is what is called State Trust Land, managed by the Department of Natural Resources. Understanding this designation is key to understanding the predicament Blanchard Mountain is in, along with many other State Trust Lands.
The Department of Natural Resources tells the following story of State Trust Lands:
At statehood in 1889, the U.S. Congress granted Washington millions of acres of land to support public institutions such as funding the construction of public K-12 grade schools statewide, state universities, other state educational institutions, and prisons.Today, DNR manages 3 million acres of these federally granted trust lands to provide a continuous flow of revenue to beneficiaries through revenue-producing activities such as:
- Harvesting timber, biomass byproducts, and other forest products
- Leasing lands for agricultural purposes, such as orchards and vineyards, irrigated agriculture, dryland crops, and grazing
- Leasing communications sites, mining and mineral leases, wind farms and energy production, commercial properties, and rights of way.
- DNR, Forest and Trust Lands
So the future revenue of the lumber of Blanchard Mountain is promised the Skagit County Burlington Edison School District and other specific trusts (surprise, it’s not in Whatcom County!). How’s that for a dilemna? While the harvest of Blanchard feels psychologically wrong, denying public schools their funding certainly does not feel right, and makes the solution far more complicated.
To make matters worse, the State of Washington is suffering from budgetary pressures on two fronts. State budgets were carved to the bone during the Great Recession as the economy plummeted and while the economy has rebounded, the funding for fundamental programs programs hasn’t entirely followed.