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Blanchard Mountain

Blanchard Mountain is the southernmost tip of the Chuckanuts near Bellingham. The area surrounding Blanchard Mountain is known as the Blanchard State Forest and is managed as working forest by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

  • January 2016 - Action needed to fully fund Blanchard agreement, save Blanchard State Forest from clearcutting!

Where the Cascades touch the sea

Blanchard, where the Cascades meet the sea. Photo © Lee Mann

Blanchard Mountain, south of Bellingham and some 45 miles from the Canadian border, is the southernmost outpost of the Chuckanut range, the only place in Washington state where the Cascade Mountains connect to the Salish Sea. 

The area surrounding Blanchard Mountain is known as the Blanchard State Forest and is managed as working forest by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The ultimate of green belts, Blanchard State Forest is a beloved and well-used place for recreation, respite, and exploration that separates the increasingly populated Skagit and Whatcom counties. More than 35,000 people visit Blanchard's 4,800 acres each year to ride horses, hang glide, hike, mountain bike and watch birds and other wildlife. Oyster Creek has a native run of salmon and sea run cutthroat trout.

Southernmost outpost of the Chuckanut Mountains, Blanchard Mountain, together with the Lake Whatcom watershed, helps connect the Coast to the Cascades.

Blanchard State Forest features popular hikes (including Oyster Dome and Blanchard Mountain) and mountain bike trails; scenic lakes and streams; salmon, owls and woodpeckers; deer; mushrooms; and territorial views west to the San Juan Islands and east to Mount Baker and the Cascades. Patches of remnant old growth and stately, mature trees remain after nearly three generations of logging.

Blanchard Forest Strategy agreement

Salmon spawn in Blanchard. Photo Tom Wake

Blanchard State Forest is one of many valuable state trust lands–working forests managed by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for state trust lands beneficiaries. The DNR had planned to clearcut Blanchard, and many of us wanted to protect this cherished area. In 2006, the agency convened a group of diverse interests, including Conservation Northwest and Friends of Blanchard Mountain, to create a management plan for Blanchard's forests that could satisfy the needs of all with interests at stake. The result was the 2008 Blanchard Forest Strategy agreement.

This collaborative agreement recommended that a 1,600 acre core area be protected. This core protects most of the recreational resources such as the top of Blanchard including the Oyster Dome, trails, and lakes. The other two thirds of Blanchard will remain working forest. Meanwhile, to replace the core, the Strategies Group members would seek funding from the legislature to purchase nearby private forestland that is at risk of conversion to residential use. This would increase the size of the Blanchard State Forest, enable the trust beneficiaries to continue receiving revenue, and ensuring timber jobs will be retained.

The Public Land Commissioner accepted the recommendations and the Washington State Legislature showed their support over the course of three legislative sessions by providing $5.5 million of the $12 million in appropriations necessary to fund the replacement land purchases. In 2015 and 2016, Conservation Northwest and our partners on the Blanchard Strategies Group continue to work with the Governor and Legislature to ensure the fiscal needs of the Blanchard Agreement are fulfilled.

A history of protecting Blanchard Forest

A decade ago, 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 DNR requesting that Blanchard Mountain be declared a natural resource conservation area. The agency denied the petition, citing loyalties to the trust.

In 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.

In 2006, to break a long stalemate, the DNR 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 DNR staff to work with citizens finding a proactive solution to protect this remarkable mountain and its forested trails and wildlife habitat.

In late 2006 and 2007, 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 DNR 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.

In 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. 

In 2016, the State Legislature has previously supported the Blanchard Agreement with $6.5 million in funding; however, an additional $7.7 million is needed to complete the purchases of core zone replacement lands. If DNR does not receive this funding now, the integrity of the agreement will be gone and the Strategy will no longer be implementable. Years of partnership and the shared vision for the forest will be lost. DNR is committed to implement the Strategy but will not be able to do so without the remaining $7.7 million from the legislature. Please take action today and urge the Governor and state legislators to fully fund the Blanchard Forest Strategy agreement! 

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