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Blanchard Mountain Update

January 22, 2018 Update

Blanchard Mountain Funded!

The Capital Budget Bill that was passed this week included $10M for the Trust Land Transfer program for the “Harriet Spanel Forest” which is Blanchard Mountain. This funding will enable the full protection of the 1600-acre forested “core” of Blanchard Mountain as outlined in the 2007 Blanchard Strategies Agreement. The funding is due in large part to the tremendous community support for protecting Blanchard. Over the past decade thousands of constituents reached out to their state representatives. Outreach was particularly important in the last two years as the Agreement’s deadline for funding was ending.

Trust Land Transfer is a mechanism that will allow the core forest lands on Blanchard to be transferred to conservation status, while replacing these lands with other working forest lands elsewhere in Skagit County that will benefit schools. The WA State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working with legislators to address some issues affecting junior taxing districts that currently receive a portion of their funding from the Blanchard land that will be protected (i.e. the Burlington Edison School District). DNR will also have to do an internal land exchange because DNR’s holdings in Skagit County don’t have enough of the specific classification of land to do the entire Trust Land Transfer. But all of this is a process DNR and the Blanchard Advisory committee are willing to work through. Skagit Land Trust will continue to serve on this committee. We are confident Blanchard will be protected now that the funding is available. Thank you to everyone – you did it! Please take a moment to thank your legislators and others involved for their work and support.

These are:
Bill Wallace of the Burlington Edison School Board
All of the 40th delegation (Ranker, Morris, Lytton)
Representative Steve Tharinger (Capital Budget Chair)
Skagit County Commissioner Janicki
Land Commissioner Hilary Franz and her staff

July 21, 2017 Update

The Washington State budget that was passed in early July was for operations, not capital projects. The legislature has yet to pass a capital budget bill, which is where Blanchard would be funded. (To confuse things, they did pass a bare bones budget that only re-appropriated unspent dollars, including $2M from the last biennium for Blanchard land replacement.) There is an impasse, with the Senate Republicans holding out on the $4B capital budget for a resolution on the Hirst Ruling.

The House did pass another version of a capital bill. It’s framed as a bi-partisan compromise, enough so that it passed unanimously. In that bill Blanchard is fully funded ($10M for Trust Land transfer, with the Harriet Spanel Forest being alone on the Trust Land Transfer project list). But since the senate has not resolved their issues with Hirst, they have not passed this budget bill.

The upshot for us: It’s all or nothing. Either no bill passes, in which the whole state joins us in pain, or a bill passes that will include Blanchard. Here are the scenarios as we know them.

* The Governor will not be calling the legislature back for another special session until they reach agreement on fixing the water right issues emanating from the Supreme Court's Hirst Decision. Right now, that doesn't look promising. But the legislators negotiating that fix may continue to work over the next several weeks or months.

* Another scenario might play out following the upcoming November election, when there are some legislative seats that will be filled in November (and take effect immediately), which might change who's in charge of one or more of the legislative chambers. It's not beyond the pale to think a special session might be called in November or December to address the Capital Budget.

* Finally, the legislature could take up the Capital Budget when they return in January for the next regularly scheduled legislative session.

See recent articles
No deal on well drilling, so no deal on capital budget

Negotiations collapse, $4B construction budget unlikely as Washington Legislature enters final day

Click here to learn more about the campaign to save Blanchard Mountain

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