Group to organize committee for Cherry Point reserve

Published on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A statewide environmental nonprofit is teaming up with two state agencies to establish citizens committees to help protect aquatic reserves across Washington.

Seattle-based People for Puget Sound (PPS), through a grant from the Washington departments of natural resources (DNR) and fish and wildlife (WDFW), is spearheading an effort to create stewardship committees for five of the state’s seven aquatic reserves, including the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve just south of Birch Bay. Maddie Foutch, a lead organizer with PPS, described the project at the June 20 Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resource Management district advisory committee meeting.

“You all know you live in a beautiful place,” Foutch told the audience.

The stewardship committee would be comprised of 15 or so members and would take on the recommendations in the 2010 Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve management plan. These include reaching out to the general population and educating the community on the importance of the reserve and  promoting various projects that volunteers could undertake, such as monitoring shoreline vegetation near the reserve.

The Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve stretches from Point Whitehorn to the northern edge of the Lummi reservation but only includes the tidelands, not the actual shoreline. The management plan for the reserve is designed to protect sensitive fish and plant species, such as herring and eel grass.

“It’s one of the most diverse ecosystems left in Puget Sound,” Foutch said.

PPS is partnering with RE Sources for Sustainable Communities in Bellingham to get the stewardship committee up and running. Wendy Steffensen, lead scientist with RE Sources, said the staff will provide guidance on the management plan but would leave most decision-making to the citizens on the committee.

“It’s really citizen driven,” Steffensen said.

PPS had applied for a grant for the project from the two state agencies after staff realized that while most aquatic reserves had management plans specifying what needed to be done, there were no resources available to actually accomplish the goals, Steffensen said.

Once a marine area is granted reserve status, DNR cannot issue any more leases for development. Although the proposed $600 million Gateway Pacific Terminal would sit within the reserve boundaries, the project is allowed because its existence was written into the reserve’s management plan. The terminal, if built, would be the last heavy industrial project allowed in the area.

Foutch said she’s hoping the committee can have its first meeting in mid-August and meet quarterly after that.
Organizers are looking for participants from both Birch Bay and Blaine.

For information on how to get involved, contact Foutch at 206/456-3784 or via email at mfoutch@pugetsound.org.