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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Conservation Northwest Expresses Substantial Concerns With Settlement Agreement in Lake Whatcom Lawsuit

Conservation Northwest, an intervener in a lawsuit involving regulation of logging on state forest land around Lake Whatcom, expressed substantial concerns with a policy matter included within the proposed settlement.

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Bellingham, WA Sep 08, 2008

Parties to a lawsuit involving regulation of logging on state forest land around Lake Whatcom, the source of drinking water for 80,000 Whatcom County residents, made public today terms of a potential settlement. Conservation Northwest, an intervener in the lawsuit, expressed substantial concerns with a policy matter included within the proposed settlement. The proposed settlement allows Conservation Northwest to oppose the policy matter even if it chooses to accept the overall settlement.

“This deal would deepen outdated policies that fund education through destruction of forests,” said Mitch Friedman, Executive Director of Conservation Northwest. “We should have both well-funded schools and a healthy environment.”

The lawsuit was brought against the state by Skagit County, Mt. Baker School District, and the timber industry. It challenged the authority of the state to protect public safety and drinking water in ways that reduce logging revenue to schools. The Washington State Legislature passed a bill in 2000 directing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to provide Lake Whatcom protection against logging roads on steep slopes and other practices that have harmed property and the lake by causing erosion and landslides. Conservation Northwest intervened with Bellingham and Whatcom County on the side of the state.

The settlement terms made public today by the other parties includes $1.2 million in cash to be paid by the city, county and state to the Mt. Baker School District. The settlement also binds the signors to advocate for legislation to change how the state apportions school funds so that districts that include public forest could keep more of the logging revenue generated by DNR within their district. Present policy aims for statewide equity of school districts by pooling and redistributing funds by formula.

Mary Ann Armstrong, a former board member of the Mt. Baker School District, said, “The Mt. Baker School District, like most in the state, needs help. It’s time for genuine reform of school funding in Washington to provide stable, sufficient, and equitable resources to schools. But let’s not do it at the expense of our forests and public drinking water.”

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