OLYMPIA – A bill finalizing protection of the Harriet Spanel State Forest near Bellingham was signed into law today, capping off a 16-year effort to protect the land for recreation and habitat preservation.
Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mt. Vernon) has been working to save the land since 2003. Located within the Blanchard State Forest, this core zone of 1,600 acres was part of the state’s Common School Trust, which uses timber harvests to fund school construction and services such as Medic One. House Bill 2119, sponsored by Morris and co-sponsored by his seatmate, Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-Bow), is the last step in the process. Sen. Liz Lovelett, who also serves the 40th legislative district, sponsored a similar bill in the state Senate.
To keep the crucial revenue from this land flowing, a plan was developed in 2008 to swap the 1,600 acres with other forestland. Morris has been working with the state Department of Natural Resources to make the land switch happen, and secured funding in the state’s capital budget to help the process along.
“It was a great solution because we were able to preserve the land while making sure we didn’t hurt school construction and other projects,” Morris said. “I’m also happy we could name this state forest after Harriet Spanel.” Morris sponsored legislation last year to honor Spanel, who served as a legislator in the 40th legislative district for 22 years.
Because there were a number of land parcels in the swap, the county needed HB 2119, which provides flexibility to make sure trust beneficiaries and private landowners are made whole.
“We have amazing recreational opportunities here, including the Chuckanut, Blanchard and Lake Whatcom forestlands,” Morris said. “I’m glad we can include the Harriet Spanel State Forest on this list.”