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March 2006 Issue (vol 37, number 3)
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MARCH General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, March 28, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Swinomish Tribal Culture

Rudy Vendiola, member of the Swinomish tribe and Director of Indian Education at Ferndale High School, will be sharing tribal culture through the drum, songs, and stories which grandfather has provided to us. Each aspect is tied to the animal and Earth. His tribe utilizes these elements in their teachings to gain wisdom and deeper respect for animals. Participants will gain a deeper understanding of native culture and the role of animals in tribal life.

Join us for this enlightening evening and remember that meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public. Come one, come all.

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From the President

Change is happening all around us. Last year, changes in the National Audubon Society caused our chapter to make a major change in our membership policy. In order to ensure the financial future of the North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS), your Board of Directors voted to focus our efforts on local chapter membership. A letter was mailed to all past members in December asking for financial support through chapter membership or donation. We are extremely pleased to report that one very important thing has not changed and that is the support of our members. On behalf of the NCAS Board of Directors, I want to thank all of you who have sent in your chapter memberships and/or made a donation to the chapter. We are very appreciative of your generosity. With your financial assistance, we will be able to accomplish more in our efforts toward public education and protection of our environment; and we should be able to balance our 2006 budget.

There is certainly a lot of work that needs to be done. Change is happening in Whatcom County at an alarming rate. It is not uncommon to travel a street in one of our communities, or a road on an urban fringe, or even one out in the county, and find a landscape altered since your last visit. A new apartment complex has sprung up in the last few months. Another wooded area has been cleared. A new subdivision has sprouted where just last year crops were being raised. Development is threatening many of our favorite places and important wildlife habitats. Members and other citizens are calling the chapter to inform us of issues, ask for information, and seek our support. This is another area where the NCAS can use your help. Our Conservation Committee could use a few knowledgeable people with the time to monitor local land-use applications, attend public meetings, and to review and comment on documents.

So much is happening so fast in our community that it is extremely difficult to stay abreast of it all and fulfill our mission to protect and preserve wildlife and habitat for the future. If all of us who care could just contribute a little, we can make a difference. All citizens who care about nature need to take some time to inform their elected officials that preservation of the environment is an important issue. Tell them that you care about wildlife, wildlife habitat, and the environment, and that you vote. This is a critical time for the future of our county. Find an issue you care about and get involved.

Paul Woodcock

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LUMMI FLATS FIELD TRIP

Buntings! Buntings!! Buntings!!!
Lila Emmer
NCAS Secretary,Field Trip Participant

Three puffs of white, flapping rapidly, against a blue sky, up and over the dike, directly in front of us, possibly flushed by the low-flying float plane!

Dianne is calling out, pointing at the only bunting sighting of the morning. Joan, Cosi, Gail, and Lila also catching them without need for any glass they are so close, so perfect. Dianne is clearly thrilled earlier, walking ahead of the others on the dike, she had confided in me, Im a recovering birder. It was right that she would be the spotter of these buntings.

Saturday, February 11 five women, five spotting scopes, two permits, on the dike on the Lummi Reservation and Paul. Paul, gently trying to rein in, to corral, to educate this group who are clearly relishing the opportunities present this day, on this less than pristine man-made dike.

We identify multiple species of ducks, hawks, and sparrows; as well as meadowlarks and the three buntings; hundreds of Brant geese (including a singular pale-bellied Brant goose who flew in low and preened alone); and bald eagles: juveniles through mature adults (occasionally referenced as buzzards, but definitely a grand specimen of a raptor)!

Back at the cars, we shared phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and plans to hike the Cascades. There was no apparent disappointment that we didnt see any snowy owls, werent able to view the buntings at rest, or even photograph them this was a splendid and fun trip.

So, whats my point? Simply, my dear Watson, its not only about the birds!

Thank you, Paul.

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! Nesting Box Alert!

For those who provide nesting boxes for cavity-nesting birds, its time to perform those pre-spring maintenance checks and prepare for the arrival of this years occupants.

Clean the boxes and, to help control parasites, remove old nesting material and discard it in the garbage so the birds wont use the same material again. Use a stiff wire brush to remove any residue such as dried fecal matter and embedded eggshell fragments. Check the boxes for damage and open any drain holes that might have become clogged over the winter.

The nesters will be here before you know it so be prepared with clean nesting boxes. The birds will thank you.

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Birding Festivals..

Come Bird With Us
Olympic Bird Fest
Sequim, Washington
March 31-April 2

Grab your binoculars and join the 2006 Olympic Bird Fest celebration at the Dungeness River Audubon Center. The stage is set&#;.quiet bays and estuaries, sandy beaches, a five-mile-long sand spit, and a protected island bird sanctuary on the Strait of Juan de Fuca; wetlands, tide pools, rainforests, and lush river valleys. The players are ready&#;.Marbled Murrelets, Rhinoceros Auklets, Harlequin Ducks, Black Oystercatchers, Peregrine Falcons, and Northern Pygmy Owls will be sporting their finest spring plumage for this celebration. Enjoy guided birding trips, boat and kayak tours, a traditional salmon bake at the SKlallam Tribal Center, and more.

Program information and registration can be found online at http://www.olympicbirdfest.org. You can also reach us by e-mail at rivercenter@olympus.net or by utilizing the traditional telephone technique at 360-681-4076.

Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival
April 28-30

Mark your calendars and stay tuned for more information as soon as it becomes available. For pre-festival updates, visit the fine website of the Grays Harbor Audubon Society at http://www.ghas.org.

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4th Annual Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival

March 24-26
Blaine/Semiahmoo

Join in the fun at one of the Pacific Northwests premier birding locations and help to celebrate the 4th Annual Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival. Events for all ages include a variety of displays and seminars, field trips, and Semiahmoo Bay cruises on the historic foot passenger ferry, the MV Plover. Take a van ride and a boat cruise on the freshwater habitats at the Lake Terrell Wildlife Area. The festival highlight will be the Saturday evening banquet and live auction at the Semiahmoo Resort.

The festival will be centered at the resort, which is located at the tip of the 1.5 mile-long natural sand spit that separates Semiahmoo Bay from Drayton Harbor. This unique area is one of 53 Important Bird Areas in Washington state and the prime wintering area for thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as passerine species and attendant raptors. Wings Over Water began its run as the Washington Brant Festival and the emphasis since then has been to increase public awareness of the Pacific Black Brant; and to emphasize the need for conservation and restoration of the habitat that is critical to this unique species.

For more information about the festival and about Brant in general, visit the website of the Washington Brant Foundation at http://www.washingtonbrant.org.

NCAS will provide five viewing stations at the best sites on the waterfront between the south end of Birch Bay State Park and Marine Park in Blaine. All stations will have a knowledgeable birder on hand with a scope, maps, brochures, and answers to all the questions you might have.

Join us for a great weekend with LOTS of birds. In mid-February, thousands of loons and waterfowl filled the channel between Semiahmoo and White Rock, BC,

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ACOW is coming to
Whatcom County

There are 26 Audubon chapters in Washington state, one of which is the North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS). Twice each year leaders of these chapters and our state office Audubon Washington meet at what is known as the Audubon Council of Washington (ACOW). ACOW is always on the move around the state and is hosted in turn by various chapters. This years Fall ACOW will be hosted by NCAS and will be held on October 6-8, at Camp Lutherwood on Lake Samish.

ACOWs are always inspirational and educational events. They offer an opportunity for the chapters to share knowledge and experience and explain what is happening in their respective parts of the state. Chapters share the issues they are dealing with, the battles they are fighting, and the fun they are having, as well as their successes and their failures. An ACOW is also an opportunity for the host chapter to educate the rest of the state about their area.

On Friday afternoon will be a meeting of the Audubon Washington Conservation Committee and Education Committee, both made up of representatives from all chapters. Saturday morning will be reserved for field trips while the afternoon will be filled with workshops and presentations. On Sunday morning, Audubon Washington will inform the group on what is happening on the state and national levels. Usually, 80-100 people attend.

Hosting such an event is a new experience for most of us at NCAS. We are going to need a committee and it will be necessary to recruit some new volunteers, some of whom will, ideally, have experience in coordinating such a gathering. If you want to meet Auduboners from outside our area, make some new friends (who will know where to find Tri-colored Blackbirds and Great Gray Owls in eastern Washington), and just have some fun, please join the team. We will need people to lend support in the areas of:

Planning

Registration

Hospitality

Transportation

Program Coordination

General Administration

Procurement

If you are inspired to become involved in this once-in-a-decade event, please call Paul at 380-3356.

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Comprehensive Plan Amendments: The Good and the Ugly

Tom Pratum
Conservation Committee

In addition to 10-year county comprehensive plan updates the most recent of which occurred just last year it is possible for virtually anyone to submit proposals to update the comprehensive plan during any given year. Such proposals must be submitted prior to the end of the preceding year. For the year 2006, 30 proposals have been submitted, and these range from minor rezones to major development activities. I would like to discuss two here, starting with the good:

Docket 2006-K; Sudden Valley Provisional UGA rescission. In 2001, the County Council unwisely granted this prior recreational community in the Lake Whatcom watershed provisional urban growth area (UGA) status. One provision is that Sudden Valley must become a city within 5 years (of 2001) note that Sudden Valley cannot become a city without UGA status.

No matter what we may think of the motives of the Sudden Valley citizens who are behind the effort for their area to become a city, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the Lake Whatcom watershed already has far too many jurisdictional entities for management activities to be effective. The currently existing jurisdictions of the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District are, unfortunately, often at odds over management activities; with the result that far too little is being done to save our drinking water reservoir. The very last thing that is needed is yet another jurisdiction in the watershed adoption of this comprehensive plan amendment would be one of the very best things this council could do for the Lake Whatcom watershed.

Docket 2006-S; Bellingham UGA Study Area Designation and Forestry to R10A Rezone. When it comes to comp plan amendments they dont come much uglier than this. Imagine owning 2400 acres of land zoned mostly for commercial forestry, and having the ability in one fell swoop to increase its value over 10 fold with little or no investment required. This appears to be the exact motive of a local developer to have this plan adopted.

The scope of this project given on the accompanying map dwarfs the previous subject of this article Sudden Valley. The area overlaps two drinking-water watersheds Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish and extends down the ridge of Lookout (or Galbraith) Mountain from just above the North Lake Samish exit on I-5 all the way to Geneva.

It would very likely obliterate the current recreational mountain biking area along Galbraith Mountain, and would bring roads and utilities into the Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish watersheds from directions most of us never felt we needed to worry about. It is also very likely that we would see significant wildlife reductions in Whatcom Falls Park once this wildlife corridor becomes urbanized.

The proposal asks for an immediate rezone from mostly commercial forestry to rural one home per 10 acres. This alone would have devastating effects. Current zoning allows no homes or residential structures to be built, and a rezone to rural would change that drastically.

The most insidious change is the proposal to make this a long-term planning area for inclusion into Bellinghams UGA. All one needs to do is look at other long-term planning areas to see the trouble. Birch Bay is a good example. Our chapter worked with a number of other organizations to remove parts of the Birch Bay long-term planning area from consideration for inclusion into the Birch Bay UGA in order to protect the areas environmental resources, and it was an uphill battle.

Property owners in long-term planning areas often assume their property values should reflect the potential upper limit of the UGA zoning in this case that would be 4 homes per acre. Property owners in this situation have a high incentive to fight environmental organizations such as ours who wish to preserve our local quality of life.

So, the best thing would be for the County Council to remove this proposal from the docketed amendments without delay. If they dont, we will fight the proposal every step of the way. If they do, we thank them for their forward thinking. But we mustnt forget that proposals such as this are bound to come back to haunt us in the future.

Before ending, I should mention that there are a number of other comprehensive plan amendments that are also worthy of our attention many good and some bad - and I will write about those in the future as time and space permit.

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HELP WANTED

NCAS is seeking a motivated and suitably-skilled individual who would be interested in the position of Treasurer for the chapter. Michele Bodtke, our most valuable player at this position for several years, has decided to retire and pass on the reins to someone else. If youre good with numbers and would like to consider becoming a member of the dynamic NCAS Board of Directors, give Paul Woodcock a call at 380-3356, or Joe Meche at 738-0641.

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