DNR, Conservation and Recreation Groups Celebrate the Protection of Blanchard Mountain

DNR, Conservation and Recreation Groups Celebrate the Protection of Blanchard Mountain

Conservation Northwest / Sep 16, 2018 / Blanchard Mountain, News Releases, Protecting Wildlands

“The Blanchard Forest Strategy is community-based land management in action, and a true win-win.”

Samish Overlook, Skagit County— Local residents and outdoor enthusiasts from around the region joined Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, state legislators, county commissioners and other local elected officials, and conservation, recreation and local business leaders today to celebrate the permanent protection of Blanchard Mountain, heart of the newly-renamed Harriet Spanel State Forest.

After more than a decade of advocacy on behalf of the “Blanchard Core”, 1,600 acres in the southern Chuckanut Range comprising Blanchard Mountain, Oyster Dome, Samish Overlook and Lilly Lake prized for hiking, biking, gliding, horseback riding and wildlife watching, the state recently provided funding and management mechanisms to permanently preserve the area while still meeting school trust obligations.

“The Blanchard Forest Strategy is community-based land management in action, and a true win-win,” said Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “We’re preserving recreation opportunities for families to get outdoors, and we’re preserving working forestland that provides local jobs and funding for important public services. I want to acknowledge the community members and Department of Natural Resources staff who put in the long hours and hard work to make this possible. And I want to thank our champions in the legislature who helped secure the funding needed for replacement land acquisitions. It has been a long road to get here, but the community’s patience and dedication paid off.”

“I am so excited for the people of Skagit County and our neighbors to the north. Blanchard Mountain is a public treasure that is now preserved forever, while still benefiting our local schools and trust obligations. Everybody wins,” said Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki. “It’s been a phenomenal partnership across so many different areas of interest, from backcountry horsemen and timber groups to outdoor recreationists and wildlife conservation. It’s a win-win-win across the board.”

“The permanent protection of Blanchard Mountain is a testament to the power of diverse stakeholders working together in the interest of shared conservation progress,” said Mitch Friedman, Executive Director of Conservation Northwest and a leader on Blanchard Strategies Group negotiations since 2007. “This is a celebration more than a decade in the making, and a win-win for all involved. We found the sweet spot that allowed outdoor recreationists, conservation groups, school trusts, elected leaders and the DNR to walk away happy. I’m proud to have been a part of it, and most appreciative of Skagit and Whatcom communities, our elected leaders, and our Department of Natural Resources and Commissioner of Public Lands for making it happen. The future generations who enjoy this special place will have you to thank.”

“The Blanchard Strategies Agreement is a model solution to a complex problem. It took a decade and hundreds of people to arrive at, get support for, and implement,” said Molly Doran, Executive Director of Skagit Land Trust and one of the lead organizers of the celebration event. “Collaboration like this isn’t fast or easy, but it sure is worth doing for all generations of people and wildlife.”

Sunday’s event was hosted by Conservation Northwest, Skagit Land Trust, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Backcountry Horsemen Whatcom Chapter, and Washington State Department of Natural Resources, with contributions from Washington Trails Association, Whatcom Land Trust, Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition, Sierra Pacific Industries, North Cascades Soaring Club, Sierra Club Mt Baker Group, Friends of Blanchard Mountain, and Boundary Bay Brewery.

Located between Bellingham and Burlington off Chuckanut Drive, Blanchard Mountain is a hugely popular recreation destination visited by as many as 100,000 people from across the Puget Sound region each year. It is the heart of the newly-renamed Harriet Spanel State Forest. For decades, trails, recreation destinations and habitat were at risk of being closed or gravely altered by logging. Thanks to a collaborative effort by local groups, citizens and elected leaders, the core of the Forest around Blanchard Mountain is now permanently protected for future generations to enjoy. The Department of Natural Resources is in the process of completing Trust Land Transfers to acquire replacement working forest lands from willing private sellers to benefit school trust obligations.

According to DNR data, more than 100,000 people visit Blanchard each year to ride horses, hang glide, hike, mountain bike and watch birds and other wildlife. Oyster Creek has a native run of salmon and sea run cutthroat trout.

Blanchard State Forest features popular hikes (including Oyster Dome and Blanchard Mountain) and mountain bike trails; scenic lakes and streams; salmon, trout, owls and woodpeckers; deer; mushrooms; and territorial views west to the San Juan Islands and east to Mount Baker and the Cascades. Patches of remnant old growth and stately, mature trees remain after nearly three generations of logging.

Blanchard State Forest also provides important habitat connectivity as the only place in Washington where the Cascade Mountains meet the Salish Sea. The southernmost outpost of the Chuckanut Mountains, Blanchard Mountain, together with the Lake Whatcom watershed, helps connect the coast to the Cascades.

In January 2018, the state passed a Capital Budget that includes full funding to preserve the Blanchard core through the Trust Land Transfer. The new conservation area has also been officially renamed the Harriet Spanel Forest in recognition of one of its greatest champions, a longtime state senator who passed away in 2016.

Additional information on the Blanchard Forest Strategy Agreement and the effort to protect Blanchard Mountain is available at: www.conservationnw.org/blanchard-mountain/.