Our Precious Water

What do we think of when we think of life? Often, the answer to that question is water. Water covers 71% of the earth’s surface, makes up almost 60% of the human body, and plants, animals, and humans alike require it to survive. Water, especially clean drinking water, is one of our most precious resources. Here in Whatcom County, Lake Whatcom makes up the drinking water source for over half of the County’s entire population, more than 100,000 people. Lake Whatcom, and the greater Lake Whatcom watershed, needs to be protected now more than ever. To protect the water, you must protect the land. Whatcom Land Trust acknowledges that need, and is working towards preserving and protecting clean drinking water for all in Whatcom County who depend on it. 

 Currently the biggest threat to the continued water quality of the lake is land use and land disturbance due to residential development and forest practices. Excess phosphorus levels in the lake continue to be a pressing concern. Phosphorus is a nutrient that can feed algal blooms and cause low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, which kills off plant and animal life in the lake. Clare Fogelsong, with the City of Bellingham Public Works Department, says that levels of phosphorus have been relatively stable over the past few years. There are regulations in place that work to limit land use and disturbances that carry phosphorus into the lake. The City and the County have also acquired over 10,000 acres of watershed property to continue to protect the land, and have worked with the Land Trust to create conservation easements on many of these properties to strengthen the protections.

One of the latest easements Whatcom Land Trust acquired in the area covers an 84-acre seed orchard previously owned by the Weyerhaeuser timber company. This Y Road Seed Orchard Conservation Easement property in particular is unique because of its connection to nearly 3,500 acres of Department of Natural Resources land, which makes it a great place to hike, bike, and explore the outdoors.

Another parcel of land the Land Trust is working to protect is the Koblitz property. Neal Koblitz and Anne Hibner Koblitz understand the importance of the preservation of land in the Lake Whatcom Watershed, and protecting the water quality we all benefit from here in Whatcom County. In 2019 they began the process of donating land in the watershed, including nearly 62 acres of steep, forested habitat adjacent to the Lookout Mountain Preserve. The preservation of this forest habitat will help to maintain the water quality in the Lake Whatcom watershed, as well as create a large contiguous area of protected land which can serve as a wildlife corridor. The land is being donated to the City of Bellingham, and the Land Trust will hold a conservation easement on the property for permanent protection. 

Lake Whatcom is valuable in so many different ways. From the drinking water it provides to all of Bellingham, to the recreational space to connect with nature it provides for Whatcom County residents. The Land Trust has a long-term commitment to all the land within the watershed, and is continuing to work towards its protection. Water is a precious resource, and we have a commitment here at Whatcom Land Trust to ensure its safety, now and into the future. 

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