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Help Save the Post Point Herons

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Raised by 159 people in 3 months
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HELP SAVE BELLINGHAM'S ONLY HERON COLONY!

                                   The herons need a good lawyer.

The City of Bellingham planning department has awarded a Critical Areas Permit to a developer for two building sites within the critical area denoted by the Great Blue Heron colony, the sloped bluff to the shoreline, and the restored lagoon at Post Point.  The sites are partially within and adjacent to, the established 197-foot protective buffer surrounding the  heron colony.  This buffer is the minimum recommended by the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, the regulatory body for Priority Species, including Great Blue Herons, and was enacted by the city as part of its 2003 heron management plan.

These particular herons arrived at Post Point in 2000 after being flushed out of their nesting colony on Chuckanut Bay for the development of the "Blue Heron Estates."  To our great delight, the current colony is growing with 44 active nests recorded during the 2018 nesting season, although some of the birds are mostly likely refugees from the much larger and older colony on Sammish Island that was flushed out in 2017.

The Critical Areas Permit constitutes a variance to the city's Critical Areas Ordinance which was designed to protect and conserve natural, sensitive areas such as wetlands and wildlife habitat.  Although it's true that the Post Point herons have endured enormous pressures such as the nearby railroad track and off-leash dog park, they can still be very sensitive to human disturbance.  There is no science to tell us whether the proposed development of the "Heronwood Cluster" will be the human trigger that sends the city's only heron colony packing.  Where will they go?  And what a loss to all of us of this unique natural treasure.

                                     The herons need a good lawyer.

To its credit, the city has spent over $400,000 to protect the heron colony on its northern flank adjacent to the water treatment plant.  And now we risk losing that investment as well as the herons themselves by allowing a housing development right on the colony's southern flank on Shorewood Drive.  Furthermore, the removal of large trees on the plat will likely undermine the all-important buffer against  the south prevailing winds which the herons cannot tolerate.

There are serious flaws in the mitigation plan submitted by the developer to offset the risks associated with the "Heronwood Cluster" project.  These flaws pose unacceptable risk to the heron colony and form the basis of an appeal of the Critical Areas Permit filed by me, with the North Cascades Audubon Society petitioning to be an additional party to the appeal.  The Mt. Baker Group of the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club will also be helping at the upcoming hearing.  Across the table from us will be two attorneys, one for the City of Bellingham and one for the landowner, as well as the developer.

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                                   The herons need a good lawyer.

We are raising money to help defray the costs of hiring local attorney, Phil Buri , to represent us and the herons through the upcoming appeal process before the city Hearing Examiner.  Thwarting the Critical Areas Permit is an urgent first step to ensuring true and permanent protection for our city's only remaining Great Blue Heron colony.  And we will work for a lasting solution so that the herons are protected, there is no threat of further development encroaching upon their remaining habitat, and the owner of the property is satisfied with whatever deal emerges.

Please give what you can, as soon as you can.  We are getting our legal arguments, exhibits, and witnesses ready for the upcoming hearing, now tentatively scheduled for late July. We thank you most sincerely, and the herons would too, if they could speak a language we understood.

For more information about the effort to protect the heron colony, plus more great photos of the birds this year, visit www.nwcitizen.com/page/herons 

Thanks to Nancy Downing and Linda Wright Photography for the photos of the Great Blue Herons on the nest at Post Point and down at Marine Park.

With gratitude,

Jamie K. Donaldson
Audubon and Sierra Club member
Member, Fairhaven Neighbors
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In the comments, Diane asked why we have to spend taxpayer money to purchase land that should have been protected by the city's Critical Area Ordinance. It's a good question that I share! One important lesson from this whole experience is that our city's CAO utterly failed to protect a Priority Species, and that was the basis of this campaign's legal action. Perhaps the next important battle is to put real teeth into the CAO and open it up to public scrutiny when permits to build in critical areas are under consideration.

Meanwhile, I did want to advise donors and supporters that I have temporarily disabled donations to this campaign. That's because we have raised the money to pay the lawyer's final invoice(s) and to challenge any additional building applications that might be filed for the land we want for the heron reserve.
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Huge Victory!

Together with the president of my neighborhood association, I met with Mayor Kelli Linville this past Thursday and guess what? She said that the city will now purchase the undeveloped land next to the herons' nests to help protect them.

The day before, my op ed piece about the herons came out in the Cascadia Weekly newspaper. You can read it here: http://www.cascadiaweekly.com/cw/currents/a_win_for_the_birds

We're so much closer to creating the Post Point Great Blue Heron Reserve now that the Critical Areas Permit was quashed and the mayor is on board. Now the action turns to City Council to bring forward the land purchase and create the heron reserve.

If you live in Bellingham, please send an email encouraging council members to act on this now: ccmail@cob.org

If you are able to do more, please contact me and I'll send you a pdf flyer you can print out and distribute to friends and colleagues, urging them to take action, too, to create the heron reserve.

We're almost there, but I won't crack open any champagne until I see the herons protected once and for all.

Thank you again for your invaluable help with this campaign to save the Post Point Herons.

Jamie K.
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GOOD NEWS!

Yesterday was the deadline for filing pre-hearing arguments plus witness and exhibit lists in anticipation of the hearing on July 29. The herons' lawyer, Phil Buri, filed our paperwork, but the opposing sides did not file.

This means that they "surrender" and will not defend their Critical Areas Permit. There will be no hearing before the Hearing Examiner. Good news for the herons!

However, we will not cease our efforts until the herons have a permanent protective reserve around them. We will continue to press the City of Bellingham to acquire the undeveloped plat next to the heron colony while challenging any additional building applications that appear in the meantime. So this campaign is not over yet.

Thank you most sincerely for your support for protecting Bellingham's only heron colony. We can celebrate the victory of thwarting the Critical Areas Permit allowing for the construction of two houses right next to the birds' nests.

Please contact me if you would like a copy of the excellent legal briefing that Phil Buri prepared-- with your help.

With deep gratitude,
Jamie K.
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Greetings! The herons in the nests are getting very big and seemingly anxious to fly the coop. The photo from Wednesday (thanks Pat Buhl!) shows one bird edging out on branches above the nest to try out its flight moves. It won't be long now! Yesterday I met with the herons' attorney, Phil Buri, and we're moving forward with our plans for the hearing in front of the Hearing Examiner on July 29, expert witnesses, exhibits, etc.

Thank you, thank you, to all of you who have supported this campaign to save and protect Bellingham's last Great Blue Heron colony. Please keep spreading the word: www.nwcitizen.com/page/herons

Gratefully,

Jamie K.
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$11,273 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 159 people in 3 months
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