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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 one Friday 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. See this article.

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.

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

May 16 2017

HELP SAVE BLANCHARD MOUNTAIN

Thanks to strong community support, we have a chance to finalize the protection of Blanchard's core forest. With leadership from Senator Ranker and Representatives Morris and Lytton and the help of key legislators, the proposed State House Capital Budget Bill includes full funding to complete protection of the 1600-acre Blanchard Core forest. This would be done through the Trust Land Transfer Program. Although the Senate budget did not include this funding for Blanchard, there is much support in the Senate. The two budget bills are now in a process of reconciliation. If our community can persuade the Senate to accept the Trust Land Transfer solution in the reconciled budget bill, the 1600-acre core of Blanchard will be protected forever.

However time is running out. A logging sale in the core forest is planned later in 2017 if funding isn't secured this legislative session. The next two to three weeks are critical as budget negotiations are getting down to the wire.

What You Can Do Now:

Focus on positive-toned comments to key legislators (see below). Pick 1-2 or do them all

If a legislator from your district is on this list, please be sure to write or email them as a priority.

  • Senator Pearson represents the 39th district (Sedro-Woolley and other areas east of I-5 in Skagit County, eastern Snohomish and King counties). kirk.pearson@leg.wa.gov ; (360) 786-7676
  • Senator Bailey represents the 10th district ( Mount Vernon, Conway, Fir Island, Southern Fidalgo Island as well as Western Snohomish etc). Senator bailey is on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. barbara.bailey@leg.wa.gov ; (360) 786-7618
  • Senator Frockt (represents areas in Seattle) is the ranking minority member for the Senate budget that oversees the capital budget: (360) 786 - 7690; David.Frockt@leg.wa.gov
  • Representative Frank Chopp is Speaker of the House so plays a large part in the budget reconciliation process. As a member of the House, he voted for the House proposed budget that included funding for Blanchard. Frank.Chopp@leg.wa.gov
  • Senator Jim Honeyford is the Chair for the Senate Capital Budget. Jim.Honeyford@leg.wa.gov; (360) 786 - 7684

****Please cc all letters to the Skagit Co. Commissioners: commissioners@co.skagit.wa.us (360) 416-1300. They need to see the wide community support for Blanchard

Message Tips

1. IDENTIFY YOURSELF: Begin with an introduction of yourself. Explain your connection to Blanchard. If you are a constituent in their district, say so.

2. BE BRIEF & POLITE: - a personal paragraph or two from a citizen makes good impact. Keep your message to 1 to 2 short paragraphs. Using bullet points to outline your points sometimes helps. Ask for full funding of $10 million in this year's budget through the Trust Land Transfer program.

3. RELATE IT TO HOME; Say why you personally want to see the 1600-acre forests on Blanchard Mountain protected forever. Help the legislator understand why your position is important to his or her constituents and the local and regional environment/community/economy.

4. INCLUDE YOUR FULL ADDRESS AND ZIP CODE.

Politeness and courtesy usually helps people read to the end of your message/point. Remember, this is a tough budget year for all.

Ideas

  • If you live in a town nearby or work in a job that benefits from Blanchard or came to Skagit as a visitor and spent money here - tell them your story. Over 100,000 people visit Blanchard annually and that number is growing. Located close to major cities and colleges with a great trail system and stunning views, Blanchard is used recreationally year-round by a wide range of people of all ages and backgrounds.
  • Blanchard is the last remaining place in Puget Sound where the forests of the Cascade Mountain touch the sea. It's naturally regenerated forest, lakes, cliffs, streams and caves are home to an incredibly diverse range of fish and wildlife. Explain why saving Blanchard is a legacy for future generations and needed for wildlife. For more information on Blanchard's ecology, click here blanchard ecology (2).docx
  • If you want to ensure we have working forests, but also want to see Blanchard saved - say so. The Blanchard Strategies solution allows a good portion of Blanchard to remain as working forest while permanently protecting the sensitive core forest. The Trust Land Transfer program understands that state forests like Blanchard generate revenues for schools and other junior taxing districts. Thus the program uses funds appropriated by the State to purchases forest lands elsewhere in the county to generate these revenues. Trust Land Transfer information
  • It has been 10 years since the Blanchard Strategies Agreement was arrived at - and the legislature heralded it as a model solution to a complex problem. It is a truly collaborative agreement supported by local forestry industry, conservation group, citizens, recreationalists, businesses, Skagit County, BE School District etc.

Other ways to help


Skagit Land Trust and Conservation Northwest are both members of the Blanchard Strategies Group that helped forge the Blanchard Strategies Agreement. We have worked for over a decade with many of you. Thank you!

You are truly helping to move the money to the mountain!!

In just the last two months over 1000 postcards have been generated and sent to legislators! This page at Conservation Northwest has links to these postcards that are pre-addressed to legislators. Print a bunch and use them at outreach Blanchard Post Cards . Or call Copy and Print in Mount Vernon. 1726 Riverside Dr, Mt Vernon, WA 98273; Phone: (360) 416-3333. They have the postcard templates and you can order to have printed and then pay for them there. Call Molly at Skagit Land Trust (360.428.7878) if you need help.

Need help finding a legislator you think should hear about Blanchard? Use this link to find them leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder. Then call them or send an email or postcard

Build the network. Expand that foundation. We love all the signs and fliers out there!!

THANK PEOPLE.

  • Thank the DNR staff and Skagit County Commissioners, especially Commissioner Janicki- they have been supportive and working hard on this! Skagit County Commissioners; commissioners@co.skagit.wa.us
  • Thank Senator Ranker who tried very hard to get funding for Blanchard in the Senate Budget. We know he will continue to work to do so - he is STILL working hard. Senator Ranker (360) 786-7678 Sen. Kevin <Kevin.Ranker@leg.wa.gov;
  • Thank key people in the House who lead the support for Blanchard: Rep Jeff Morris and Rep Kristin Lytton have been huge positive leaders; Chairman Steve Tharinger; Rep Norma Smith (10th district and on capital budget committee); Rep David Hayes (10th) and Rep Beth Doglio (budget vice-chair). CC House Speaker Frank Chopp, Frank.Chopp@leg.wa.gov

steve.tharinger@leg.wa.gov; Morris, Rep. Jeff <Jeff.Morris@leg.wa.gov> (360) 786-7884  |  norma.smith@leg.wa.gov; Rep Beth Doglio (360) 786-7992; Rep Kris Lytton (360) 786-7800; Rep David Hayes 360) 786-7914  |  dave.hayes@leg.wa.gov

Frank.Chopp@leg.wa.gov

Helpful sites

Conservation Northwest

Conservation Northwest has excellent web content, including this legislative action form (enabling people to email both their own legislators, the budget chairs, and the Gov), a printable flier, letter to the editor tips and much more.

http://www.conservationnw.org/what-we-do/forests/blanchard-mountain

Blanchard Strategies

Blanchard Strategies, History and Update May 2017.docx

PRESS

Click on the articles below to read about a TLT land exchange proposed by Representative Morris and others to protect Blanchard Mountain through Trust Land Transfer.

Bellingham Herald - Push continues to save 1,600 acres on Blanchard Mountain from logging
Skagit Valley Herald - Legislators have new plan to save Blanchard forest

Speak Up, Speak Out Radio did an interview with Commissioner Janicki and members of the Blanchard Strategies Group (Molly Doran and Mitch Friedman) in mid January 2017. This interview has excellent background information. Look for the title, "IS LOGGING THE FUTURE OF BLANCHARD FOREST'S CORE? - January 18, 2017"

Radio Interview On Blanchard Situation

Recent letter to the ediotr: http://www.heraldnet.com/opinion/state-funds-could-help-save-blanchard-mountain-forest/

Other CONTACT INFORMATION

Governor Jay Inslee

Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
Call - 360-902-4111
Fax - 360-753-4110

Hilary Franz - Commissioner-elect of Public Lands
(206) 734-9729
hilary@hilaryfranz.com
www.hilaryfranz.com

Has been supportive of Blanchard funding from the get-go

Skagit County Commissioners
commissioners@co.skagit.wa.us
1800 Continental Place
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Very helpful in trying to find a solution that meets all needs. They support funding Blanchard

Some Q&A on Trust Land Transfer


What is Trust Land Transfer (TLT)? The legislatively funded Trust Land Transfer Program provides an opportunity to retain identified special trust lands in public ownership while maintaining and improving economic return to trust beneficiaries. This is a way the legislature set up to permanently protect high priority state trust lands that serve the public interest better for recreation or conservation but also remain consistent with the state’s trust obligations. The state protects the land while compensating the Common School Trust Fund for the value. The land is generally put into the Natural Area program (NRCA or NAP), to be managed by DNR for its natural and/or recreational value, and the legislature appropriates directly to the school trust an amount of money equal to the value of the timber. The legislature also appropriates to DNR an amount of money equal to the value of the underlying land, which DNR uses to buy “replacement land” to keep the trust whole for the long term. See information on DNR Trust Land Transfer Program below.

Trust Land Transfer, information

Do all state lands qualify for TLT? No, TLT can only be used for Common School Trust lands, which are those acres that resulted from the federal land grant at the time Washington was established. Most revenue from management of these lands goes into the Common School Construction Fund, which is apportioned according to a complex formula to school districts statewide.

Is Blanchard part of the Common School Trust? No. Blanchard, and many other areas, came into state management when private timber companies logged them almost a century ago, then lost ownership when they didn't pay taxes. These tax-delinquent clearcuts defaulted into county ownership. Counties didn’t have the means to reforest and manage these lands, so asked the state to do it on their behalf. These are often called forest board lands. Revenues from these lands go to the local county, which redistributes a portion to specified junior taxing districts like schools and hospitals.

So how can TLT be used to protect Blanchard? The DNR must first do a land exchange between the trusts. So part of the 1,600 Blanchard core will be traded for land of equal value that is both part of the Common School Trust and in Skagit County.

Why wasn’t TLT used from the beginning? The original stakeholder group that negotiated the Blanchard Strategies Agreement considered TLT but ran into two obstacles: 1) There was not nearly enough (if any) Common School Land in the Burlington-Edison School District (BESD) to make the trade and 2) There wasn’t enough Common School Land in Skagit County to undertake the 1600-acre agreement. However, DNR has recently said they have found a way to perform a series of swaps to make enough Common School Land available in Skagit County to undertake TLT for the remainder of the 1600 acres on Blanchard that still need funding. They cannot however make Common School Land for the swap available in the BESD.

How Does This Affect the Burlington Edison School District (BESD)? When Blanchard acres are traded out of the school district, those benefits then go to whichever district in Skagit County the acres are within. Although the Blanchard Agreement does allow for purchases of replacement land outside of the BESD, keeping the trusts and junior taxing districts whole is a priority of that agreement. Most of the revenues from Blanchard logging operations goes to county-wide institutions and are thus unaffected by the TLT swap proposed or can be replaced in other ways. The main exception is about 14% generated that goes to the BESD school construction/capital fund used to match bonds and levies passed in the district. Distribution percentages will vary between junior taxing districts and change from year to years so this percentage also varies.

How Much Is 14% in dollars? It is not easy to answer exactly because Blanchard is part of a bigger system. The BESD has 8006 acres of State Forest lands in their district (including Blanchard ), which have been generating about $90,000 of income for school construction on an annual basis recently. However that figure will fluctuate over time depending on the value and timing of harvests etc. The timber value for the 1600-acre core of Blanchard was appraised at $14.2 million. How much that forested core would generates a year in revenue (in theory) depends on the future forest rotation period and the area's sustainable harvest calculations. And, some of those acres (about 500 acres) have already been "replaced". Some of those replacement lands are in the BESD (thus contributing to the BESD construction fund) and some are elsewhere in Skagit County (thus contributing to another school district's construction fund).

Is there a way to keep the BESD whole? Maybe. We will work with DNR, legislators and Skagit County to find a way to ensure BESD receives about what it would if the swap could involve lands in the district. By agreement of the Blanchard stakeholders on April 10, 2017, DNR will not execute the inter-trust land exchange until we have resolved that situation to the group’s satisfaction. So even if the legislature fully funds the Blanchard TLT, as contained presently only the House version of the Capital Budget Bill (which now needs to be reconciled with the Senate version, which lacks Blanchard funds), Blanchard will still not be fully secured until spring of 2018 at the earliest. Though DNR will not log in the meantime.

Why does the bill contain $10M, when only $7.7M is owed? Because TLT requires that the land be replaced in order to keep the trust whole for the long term. When we were seeking $7.7. million we were buying the timber rights only. So the additional $2.3M is for the DNR to buy additional (i.e., replacement) land for the Common School Trust.

Do the Blanchard stakeholders support the TLT approach for Blanchard? Yes. This is more complicated and therefore not ideal, but per an April 10 agreement, the stakeholders feel they have found a way to accomplish the terms of the 2007 agreement through TLT, and therefore support this approach.

As Representative Jeff Morris wrote in his enewsletter in April:

“I am very happy to report that the House capital budget has chosen to fund Blanchard Mountain within an existing program that deals with timber trust land.

The Trust Land Transfer program is administered by the Department of Natural Resources, and it exchanges underperforming trust lands for more economically viable timber lands.

Through this program, many designated trust lands have been preserved for other uses when they cease to provide timber revenue. We appropriated $10m in the House capital budget for the Trust Land Transfer Program. (There is no funding for this item in the Senate capital budget.)”