Why Was County Staff Not Disclosing Relevant CAO Information?/ Letter to Whatcom County Council, Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Wendy Harris


5 hrs  January 10, 2017  Wendy Harris
Dear County Council,
As you are aware, it is a fatal flaw in the CAO that the county lacks baselines standards to help measure and monitor the county’s success in meeting no net loss standards. Thus, I had begun reviewing this information on my own in an attempt to help the county better achieve GMA compliance.
Last week, I wrote to Keith Folkerts from WDFW on this issue and was provided with a new High Resolution Change Detection Data- set map. He also included a copy of two studies drafted specifically for Whatcom County. One was a 2006 to 2011 WDFW Whatcom County: Land Cover Change within Riparian Buffers, and the other a 2005-2011 Whatcom County: Land Cover Change by Sub-Basin. Obviously this has some value in tracking things like habitat connectivity, wetlands and habitat patch sizes, and could be developed as one tool that the county uses in meeting its NNL obligation.
I was surprised to learn that these two local studies had been developed in association with Mark Personius and Cliff Strong about a year and a half ago, when the CAO Technical advisory committee (TAC) and the citizen advisory committee (CAC) were meeting and discussing these very issues. (“In collaboration with Whatcom County Planning and Development Services, a pilot application investigating land cover change within riparian buffers was developed.”) Moreover, the purpose of this program was to assist in an attempt to evaluate agricultural buffer effectiveness. (“The objective of this exercise is to provide a glimpse into riparian critical area ordinance effectiveness; this report is not meant to draw final conclusions, rather offer an opportunity to ask deeper land-use management questions.)
The members of the CAC, TAC and the PC were never apprised of this information, at least as far as I am aware. I would appreciate it if you could schedule some time for Mark and Cliff to go over these studies at one of our work sessions and explain, in layman’s terms, how they can be used to support a science based NNL determination for our updated CAO. I would also be interesting in learning why this information was never shared with the citizen groups or with the planning commission.
The referenced information is linked in the below email.
Wendy Harris
From: “Keith E Folkerts (DFW)” <Keith.Folkerts@dfw.wa.gov>
To: “Wendy”
Sent: Friday, January 6, 2017 1:39:07 PM
Subject: RE: Whatcom County CAO
Thanks for your interest in maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife; thanks, too, for the phone call earlier this week. I am glad you found my presentation for Commerce’s quarterly gathering of planners helpful.
In response to your questions:
1. The High Resolution Change Detection dataset is available at http://www.pshrcd.com (look under the “data” tab). This webpage has links to published science on the methods used. In addition to the high resolution CHANGE in land cover, this page now (as of this week) also provides high resolution wall-to-wall land cover. As you mentioned, the importance of these datasets is that they can be used to assess the rate of change within critical areas and their buffers (riparian areas, Priority Habitats, Priority Areas for Priority Species, CARAs, etc.). The information our office prepared with/for Mark Personius and Cliff Strong that you requested is attached. This dataset provides a set of baseline data (2011 and 2013) and change since then.
2. Many efforts have been made to map corridors. You can see many of these at the Conservation Biology Institute’s website; then type in phrases such as “Washington, corridor” or “Washington, priority” in the search box.
3. The Growth Management Hearings Board’s decisions related to No Net Loss and Monitoring and Adaptive Management are available here. Search the combined board’s digest (from 2010) and the Western board digest (pre-2010) for “no net loss” and “adaptive” to see pertinent cases.
Those are the answers to the questions that I recall. If you have additional questions, please let me know.
Keith Folkerts
Keith Folkerts | Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Priority Habitats and Species Section Manager | Land Use Policy Lead
Office (360) 902-2390 | Cell (360) 628-6757

Read Wendy’s post in the Whatcom Hawk Facebook group here.

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