Protecting Blanchard Forest

The chair of the Mount Baker Group of the Sierra Club, Randy Walcott, took up the cause of protecting Blanchard State Forest and Blanchard Mountain from ongoing logging. In December 1998, he formally petitioned the Washington State Department of Natural Resources requesting that Blanchard Mountain be declared a natural resource conservation area. The agency denied the petition, citing loyalties to the trust.

2001: Conservation Northwest joined Randy and others to protect Blanchard State      Forest. Conservation Northwest’s goal was twofold, safeguarding Blanchard in perpetuity   as a functioning forest and leading a way to better management of our other valuable state trust lands.

2006: To break a long stalemate, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources convened a group of diverse interests, including representatives from Conservation Northwest and Friends of Blanchard Mountain, to create a collaborative forest management plan for Blanchard’s forests. It was an opportunity for the Board of Natural Resources and Department of Natural Resources staff to work with citizens finding a proactive solution to protect this remarkable mountain and its forested trails and wildlife habitat.

Late 2006: This collaboration produced the Blanchard Forest Strategy agreement, protecting 1,600 acres of core, central habitat from logging while allowing continued logging on other parts of the forest under prevailing rules. That heart of Blanchard is 1,300 acres more than the Department of Natural Resources wanted to give up and 1,000 acres less than what conservationists had been fighting for. But the Blanchard agreement made up for that by finding unexpected common ground around the idea of working together to prevent the conversion of working forests to sprawl. The agreement was signed in January 2007.

2010: Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark announced that the Department of Natural Resources intends to establish a Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA) at the core of Blanchard State Forest. NRCA designation protects “outstanding examples of native ecosystems, habitat for endangered, threatened and sensitive plants and animals, and scenic landscapes.”

2016: The state Legislature has previously supported the Blanchard agreement with $6.5 million in funding; however, an additional $7.7 million was needed to complete the purchases of core zone replacement lands. Without this funding, the strategy is no longer implementable. The Department of Natural Resources committed to implementing the strategy but is unable to do so without the remaining $7.7 million from the legislature.

2017: After passionate advocacy in Olympia from Conservation Northwest, our Wild Northwest activists, and numerous other recreation and conservation leaders, funds to preserve the Blanchard core were included in both the state House and Senate budget proposals during the 2017 legislative session. The capital budget was stalled due to disagreement over unrelated issues, and the legislature adjourned without passing it.

2018: The legislature passed a capital budget in January 2018 that includes full funding to preserve the Blanchard core! 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.

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