FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Stewart Mountain Community Forest Riparian Reserve, RCO Grant Request by Whatcom Land Trust.
Communications and Outreach Director Karen Parker
Bellingham – The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO), Community Forests Program ranked our Stewart Mountain project at 8 out of 15 and will get funded if the Governor and Legislature fund the program at $20 million.
The Community Forests Program is a new state grant program that offers communities a means of protecting their working forests. As working forests disappear, so do their benefits: jobs, clean air, water and open areas for recreation. A community forest empowers local residents to control decisions on forest management and use, and to derive benefits from both.
Eligible applicants include but are not limited to local government entities (city or county government agencies), Native American tribes, and nonprofit conservation organizations like the Whatcom Land Trust. Indeed, land trusts statewide have been taking a leadership role in working with communities in promoting economic development and land conservation in rural communities.
The grant program (RCO) considers all benefits a forest will provide, from producing income from use of the land to protecting it against climate and other environmental changes, as well as providing opportunities for recreation, education and cultural enrichment. As Washington’s population grows and forestlands are increasingly threatened by development, the Community Forests Program is a valuable tool for preserving working lands for the benefit of Washingtonians now and into the future.
Find out more about RCO Community Forests Program
The Stewart Mountain Community Forest Riparian Reserve 2 includes an acquisition of 502 acres of upland and riparian forest along the South Fork Nooksack River. The property, which is the first phase of a proposed 6,000-acre community forest on Stewart Mountain, contains significant amounts of steep slope, salmon-bearing tributaries, and mature forests up to 126 years old. The Community Forest will be managed as a working forest that aims to optimize a wide variety of ecological, economic, and community benefits such as watershed health, sustainable jobs, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreational access. All forest management activities within the SMCF will be guided by three primary objectives:
1) restore hydrologic functions in the South Fork Nooksack River watershed,
2) recover local employment opportunities throughout the forestry sector, and
3) spur increased engagement and interest in community-based forest stewardship.
Outdoor recreation opportunities will be provided through existing infrastructure, along with opportunities for collaboration on education and research partnerships with community organizations in Whatcom County.
Your support is urgently needed! Together, we have a chance to make big things happen for community forests in the 2021 legislative session. Join us in requesting full funding for the Community Forest Program administered by the Recreation and Conservation Office. This sign-on letter will go to the Governor and Legislature, demonstrating the breadth of support for this important tool for local communities!
We are hoping to collect as many signatures as possible by November 6th to include in a letter to the Governor’s Office. We will continue collecting signatures until the end of January for an additional letter to legislators.
NOTE: Included in this press release is text from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) and Washington Association of Land Trusts (WALT).
About Whatcom Land Trust
The mission of the Whatcom Land Trust is to preserve and protect wildlife habitat, scenic, agricultural and open space lands in Whatcom County for future generations by securing interests in land and promoting land stewardship. Since our founding in 1984, the Land Trust has permanently protected more than 24,000 acres throughout Whatcom County, including 14,000 of public park land, 1,200 of working lands for agriculture and forestry, 12,000 acres in the Lake Whatcom Watershed to ensure clean drinking water for 100,000 residents, and more than 36 miles of marine and freshwater shorelines that preserve wildlife habitat. Our staff of twelve, governing board of eleven diverse private citizens, and 600-plus volunteers effectively collaborate with over 200 organizations and individuals including private landowners, local communities, Tribes, public agencies including Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham, corporations and other conservation organizations to permanently protect and manage lands and engage local citizens in conservation actions.