Extremism is on the rise in Whatcom County, Washington

  Dear HCN,


I am writing to clarify some statements in the article from your 9/15/94 edition re "Rural residents defy Washington law." I am a Whatcom County resident, a former candidate for public office (County Council, 1993), and the current co-president of the Washington Environmental Council.


As a co-founder of Whatcom Watch, a citizens' networking newspaper, I can state that it tracks both the regulators and the local manifestations of the wise-use movement. We may be a "rebel" publication in that we allow citizen activists to write about their issues in their own words, but the activists are generally environmentally-concerned and pro-growth management. The fact that property rights organizer Skip Richards reads our newsletter is no surprise, since he or the situations he helps orchestrate are not infrequently the subject of our contributors' essays.


Another correction: Our Critical Areas Ordinance was not to protect wetlands and watersheds from development per se, but to ensure that development on property containing such features was sensitive to the special needs of those critical areas (e.g. aquifer recharge zones, geologically hazardous areas, riparian areas, etc.). Sensitive area setbacks might mean relocation or conditioning of some building plans, but outright denial of rights to use one's property (i.e. legitimate takings) have not occurred.


Implementation of state law has divided Whatcom County into two camps, indeed, but it is too simplistic to refer to them as urban and rural. A designation of stewardship ethic vs. greed and exploitation is more accurate, at least at the level of the leadership of both movements. Urban and rural residents mingle in both categories.


It is unfortunate that many rural residents have been used as pawns, subjected to misinformation and polarizing rhetoric by a certain extremist segment of the development community (yesterday's "good old boys' reborn as so-called champions of the underdog). It is less than coincidental that that has occurred in the wake of visits by wise-use organizer Chuck Cushman to Whatcom County.


A 20/20 T.V. report that featured an interview with Chuck Cushman showed Skip Richards in the background. Skip's group CLUE (the Coalition for Land Use Education) often provides Cushman's materials at meetings.


Thanks to a climate of hatred created in Whatcom County, elements of our society who indulge in cross-burning have just revived that little pastime. In addition, my campaign for public office last year included receiving telephoned death threats, clandestine perusal (theft?) of my mail, my car's headlights kicked in at a candidates' forum, and a campaign worker narrowly missing being hit by a car that had to leave the roadway to aim for her.


I have to wonder at the value system of people who would set about unravelling community cohesiveness, sacrificing decency and civility in the process, and all as the price for claiming irresponsible land use as their divine right.


I agree with any number of cutting-edge analysts and economists who say that the time has arrived for "full cost accounting." Only by attempting to tally the dollar-and-cents reality of what we are repeatedly destroying, it seems, will we ever convince a certain segment of our society that these irreplaceable natural systems have genuine value.


Thank you for the excellent work you do covering the West! I plan to be a subscriber for many years to come.





Sherilyn Wells


Bellingham, Washington


High Country News Classifieds
  • GRAND CANYON DIRECTOR
    The Grand Canyon director, with the Grand Canyon manager, conservation director, and other staff, envisions, prioritizes, and implements strategies for the Grand Canyon Trust's work...
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a part-time Administrative Assistant to support the organization's general operations. This includes phone and email communications, office correspondence and...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • ONE WILL: THREE WIVES
    by Edith Tarbescu. "One Will: Three Wives" is packed with a large array of interesting suspects, all of whom could be a murderer ... a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALAZAR CENTER FOR NORTH AMERICAN CONSERVATION
    The Program Director will oversee the programmatic initiatives of The Salazar Center, working closely with the Center's Director and staff to engage the world's leading...
  • WILDEARTH GUARDIANS - WILD PLACES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Salary Range: $70,000-$80,000. Location: Denver, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Missoula, MT or potentially elsewhere for the right person. Application Review: on a rolling basis....
  • RIVER EDUCATOR/GUIDE + TRIP LEADER
    Position Description: Full-time seasonal positions (mid-March through October) Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10 year old nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of...
  • BOOKKEEPER/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Position Description: Part-time, year-round bookkeeping and administration position (12 - 16 hours/week) $16 - $18/hour DOE Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10...
  • LAND STEWARD
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks a full-time Land Steward to manage and oversee its conservation easement monitoring and stewardship program for 42,437 acres in...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ventana Wilderness Alliance is seeking an experienced forward-facing public land conservation leader to serve as its Executive Director. The mission of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "We all love this place we call Montana. We believe that land and water and air are not ours to despoil, but ours to steward...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Development Director is responsible for organizing and launching a coherent set of development activities to build support for the Natural History Institute's programs and...
  • WILDLIFE PROJECT COORDINATOR
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation helps protect and conserve water, wildlife and wild lands in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by supporting organizations and people who...
  • TRUSTEE AND PHILANTHROPY RELATIONS MANGER,
    Come experience Work You Can Believe In! The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is seeking a Trustee and Philanthropy Relations Manager. This position is critical to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    -The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region- The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful, complex, diverse,...
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    Position will remain open until January 31, 2021 Join Our Team! The New Mexico Land Conservancy (NMLC) is a non-profit land trust organization dedicated to...
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...