SOUNDOFF: Islands’ watchdog celebrates 15th

As Whidbey Environmental Action Network enters its 15th year, the board of directors is working vigorously to insure that WEAN will continue to defend our environment. We will continue to watchdog and cajole our government into complying with it’s own laws. We have a long history of success, but we must make sure that WEAN is here to act as a check and balance for future generations.

After WEAN stopped Seattle Pacific University’s county-approved efforts to re-zone Camp Casey in order to develop a rare lowland old growth forest, Darrel Hines, SPU associate vice president, said “WEAN is a small hardcore group monitoring everything.” We’re conservationists who use all the tools to heal and defend the natural world — science, hands on restoration, education, and the law. That takes money, so we are asking you to come to our first ever benefit auction on Saturday, Oct. 2, at Thomas Berry Hall between 6 and 10 p.m.

We have long memories. Since 1989 Whidbey Environmental Action Network has been Whidbey and Camano islands’ guardian watchdog. WEAN’s first action was planting more than 5,000 locally adapted plants in the Big Muddy wetlands clearcut by Trillium Corp.

But WEAN doesn’s just deal with environmental destruction one trashout at a time. In 1996, WEAN’s first growth management lawsuit forced the re-zone of nearly the entire shoreline from 1/3-acre lots to 5 and 10 acres. In 2003 the state Court of Appeals agreed with WEAN that all the functions and values of wetlands, streams, and wildlife areas must be protected — an important legal precedent for all of Western Washington. It took 4 1/2 years to win this legal reversal of the Island County Commissioners’ campaign to reduce stream, wetland, and wildlife protection on the islands.

WEAN doesn’t give up. In 1985, the folks who later founded WEAN tried to get the county to stop roadside spraying. WEAN tried again in 1992, and in 2002 when WEAN helped WINS — Whidbey Island No Spray Coalition. This time, the impossible became possible, and the county finally ended its pesticide addiction. Now WEAN is working closely with WINS and activists in other counties to end the State Department of Transportation’ highway spraying.

WEAN aids local environmentally concerned citizens with legal information, research, and strategic planning focused on specific issues, such as roadside spray, the Coles Road annexation near Langley, and the persistent logging that continues to deforest the islands.

WEAN is here when it’s needed, whether for a single environmental brushfire or long term strategic litigation. And this ongoing presence has come fairly cheap until now. Last year, WEAN spent $55,000 and 75 percent of that was for the very able environmental lawyers who successfully argued our growth management appeals in court.

While WEAN has no paid staff, developers and their allies at the county don’t even blink when they spend $100,000 on a lawsuit, it’s just a cost of doing business. They know they’ll recoup their cost out of the land they develop, while sticking the rest of us with the tab in the form of crowded roads, deforestation, degraded wetlands and prairies.

Whidbey and Camano islands are special places whose natural beauty and environmental quality have been spared. WEAN intends to keep it that way, not just by fighting every brushfire that erupts, but by contributing to sensitive legislation and steadfast enforcement of the laws that protect our environment.

Support WEAN by coming to our first ever benefit auction Oct. 2 at Thomas Berry Hall. For more information, call WEAN at (360) 579-4202. All are welcome.

Fred Geisler is a Langley resident and WEAN board member. Also on the board are Gary Piazzon, Randy Blethen, Steve Erickson, Marianne Edain and Ann Dannhauer, MD.

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