How the City Avoids Its Obligation To Protect Wildlife / Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Wendy Harris

memorial for bear4 hrs November 8, 2015  Wendy Harris

What is happening here in Bellingham and Whatcom County to our wildlife, is happening all over the country and all over the planet, and it adds up to one big crisis.

Whether deliberate or through neglect, we are destroying biodiversity (which refers to having abundant types and numbers of species and habitat, and a diverse genetic pool). Scientists have determined this is the biggest factor, among many other important factors, in preventing global collapse (which means the loss of adequate function in the collective ecosystems of the earth). (YES.. biodiversity has greater impact than climate change. Believe it.)

Biodiversity keeps our planet healthy, and it keeps humans healthy. In fact, the human species can not survive without the free ecosystem services that are provided through biodiversity. Thinks about things like pollination by bees and the massive amount of insects eaten by bats, and the impact that returning the wolves to Yellowstone had on unexpected things like landscape vegetation and health water flows.

We can not control the whole planet, but we can certainly control our own city and county. Right now, neither the city or county have any identified and protected habitat corridors, which are the primary factor in promoting biodiversity. And not doing so is a GMA violation. Additionally, under the city’s critical area ordinance, habitat corridors are a critical area, so they must be identified and protected as a matter of city law, in addition to state law.

The city will tell you it has identified habitat corridors and it will show you a map with big sweeping arrows that lack any specificity. The Growth Management Hearings Board has held that habitat corridors must be specific so that the area involved can be identified. This is one of many tricks the city staff has up its sleeve.

It will also tell you that it has a draft habitat restoration masterplan. That restoration masterplan only protects what has already been destroyed and it does not protect existing ecosystem functions. In fact, it does not even mention habitat conservation areas, the GMA or the no net loss standard. And it does not identify with any detail the wildlife that must be protected. Moreover, habitat only has value to the extent that there is connectivity, and this masterplan excludes the Lake Whatcom watershed, one of the most important watersheds in the entire city because it connect the marine water through Whatcom Creek to the fresh waters of Lake Whatcom, to the upland forests, including large acres of national forest lands.

Stand up for wildlife and habitat and GMA compliance on Monday night and tell the city council that it should not approve the draft CAO update until the staff returns with habitat corridors identified and protected and reflected on city maps.

Read Wendy’s post on the Whatcom Hawk Facebook page here.

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