WEAN hires director, plans to extend reach

The best known environmental advocacy group on Whidbey Island will no longer be a two-person show.

The best known and feisty environmental advocacy group on Whidbey Island will no longer be a two-person show.

Marianne Edain, who founded Whidbey Environmental Action Network with Steve Erickson 38 years ago, called this new phase “WEAN 2.0” and explained that the plan is to hire a full staff and expand the scope of the group’s activities.

“We’re growing up and becoming a real organization,” she said with a laugh.

In the first of several planned hires, WEAN’s board of directors welcomed Marnie Jackson as the executive director, beginning April 10. Jackson, who moved to Whidbey when she was 11 years old, has been “an activist and an advocate for animals, people and planet since her early teens, when she was inspired by WEAN to organize South Whidbey High School students against a proposed McDonalds at Bayview Corner,” the organization reported.

Jackson is a current member of the South Whidbey School Board, a role she said she sought in order to support students who are seeking equity and climate action. She worked as a communications manager and then executive director for Whidbey Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes “transformational learning” in the areas of generative leadership, ecosystem vitality and community resiliency, according to the organization’s website.

Jackson was also a donor organizer for Showing Up for Racial Justice and worked in organic farming, teaching and journalism.

Jackson said she has long admired Edain and Erickson for the “amazing work” they have done in protecting the environment through WEAN, which has a mission of the restoration and preservation of native biological diversity of Whidbey Island and the Pacific Northwest. She said she plans to continue the group’s government and industry watchdogging and policy advocating.

In their years leading WEAN, Edain and Erickson were unafraid of confronting governmental authority, from municipalities to the county to the state and even the Navy. The self-taught legal advocates were remarkably successful, making them unpopular with some elected officials, farmers and developers. Their work led to the protection of Trillium Forest and the western toad as well as a strong critical areas ordinance in the county.

But in addition to this role, Jackson hopes to collaborate with other groups and delve into social justice and other areas of concern. She anticipates, for example, that WEAN will be part of the community discussion on affordable housing, which has long been identified as an urgent need on the island. She rejects the “false zero sum choice” between affordable housing and environmental protection.

“WEAN is thrilled to have a person of Marnie’s caliber and commitment to our native ecosystems joining the organization as executive director,” board chairperson Andréa Linton said in a statement. “Strong community ties, cooperative partnerships and active engagement with residents of Island County will most certainly be forged under Marnie’s leadership.”