Friday, March 22, 2013

One of the Reconveyance Heroes: Sam Crawford

Over the past week I have been mulling the Whatcom County Council's approval of the 8,800 acre Lake Whatcom Reconveyance.

Is there anything worth adding to this issue?

Last June I wrote a lengthily post on the history and process up to that point in time lake-whatcom-reconveyance. That post could use some editing and beefing up as the process has been a long one and for Whatcom County a big deal. Since then the only substantive write up I did was a discussion of the on base forest land in the reconveyance area lake-whatcom-forest-reserve-park-on-base-forest-acres. To be honest, the post regarding on base forest acres was to blunt the claims that 8,800 acres was being removed from forestry.

After the Council voted 5-2 last week to approve the reconveyance, a friend pointed out that the reconveyance required a near perfect alignment of key individual people at key times. Over the past week while meandering nearly 1,000 miles over the Pacific Northwest landscape, I thought a great deal about those key individuals. And I thought about how great policy is almost always the result of individual actions by individual people at just the right time.

Not to diminish other key people, but I feel it entirely appropriate to praise County Council Member Sam Crawford.

Most of the time we hope that elected officials will be open minded, will attempt to represent all of their constituents not just their ideological tribe, will work hard to understand issues, and yes, be careful with government finances. Sam Crawford has been solid in his support of the reconveyance throughout the process. He exhibited all of the qualities we want in an elected official on this issue. His path toward environmental protection and enhancement is different than what is typically desired by enviro types, but I would argue that it can be effective and conservative. And it should be celebrated.

What has become clear throughout this process is that Mr. Crawford loves the natural world. Sam is very much a conservative Republican, and as a member of that tribe he is and has been a property rights advocate with a long record of taking a dubious view of environmental regulation.

There are some lessons here.

For enviro types, there should be great celebration that a conservative County Council Member would so strongly and steadfastly support one of the largest county parks in the entire country. And the idea that enhancing and protecting the environment and community values crosses party/tribal lines. We need environmentally minded conservatives and business people. And those types need to be recognized and given some room to maneuver.

For some fiscal conservative types - Whatcom County just created an 8,800 acre park for the cost of doing the surveys. And regardless of the rhetoric the timber industry will not collapse (in fact there very likely will be some timber harvest), there is a plan for funding the park that will be of minimal cost to the county, and the park will provide multiple benefits including economic opportunities. Being too rigid will do little for improving our community.

1 comment:

Geoffrey Middaugh said...

I have worked with a number of county council/commissioners/judges across the west in my career, and I think they have the hardest job (except for maybe big city mayors). Every once in a while there is a profile in courage, and it usually depends on who is talking to them most. And yes, this is one.