Members of the Birch Bay community and various state environmental agencies and organizations met at Birch Bay State Park on a damp Thursday afternoon for the adoption of a management plan for the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.
Peter Goldmark, the commissioner of public lands for the Washington state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), was on hand Thursday, November 18, to sign off on the management plan and re-dedicate the 3,000-acre Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. The plan has been in the works since 2003.
“DNR will make sure this site is managed sustainably,” Goldmark said.
Goldmark thanked the Cherry Point workgroup, which included representatives from DNR and departments of ecology, fish and wildlife, environmental groups, Washington University faculty, and members of industry. The workgroup was assembled in 2007 to evaluate the management options for the reserve.
The reserve is home to a number of species of plants and animals vital to the local ecosystem, in particular the Pacific herring. The herring hold a vital place in the area’s ecosystem since they are a food stock for orcas, seabirds and salmon.
Since the 1970s, herring populations, and subsequently bird populations, have declined drastically in the area, said Steve Irving of the North Cascades Audubon Society.
Goldmark said the adoption of the plan is a significant step in improving the reserve’s ecosystem. The plan provides guidance necessary for environmentally conscious development of the area surrounding the reserve, he said.
The land surrounding the reserve is zoned for heavy industrial use. In addition to the BP Cherry Point Refinery, the Conoco Phillips refinery and Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter take up land east of the shoreline.
Photo: Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, l., stands with Bridget Moran, a deputy supervisor for aquatic resources with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and Whatcom County Council member Carl Weimer during a re-dedication ceremony for the 3,000-acre Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve last week.
Photo by Jeremy Schwartz