ACFL protection needs support
During the last few weeks, a handful of individuals who care deeply about protection of the Anacortes Community Forestlands have been urging the Anacortes Planning Commission to provide such protection in the Critical Areas Ordinance update.
The provisions relating to the ACFL in draft update under consideration by the commission are woefully inadequate. If anything, they weaken the minimal protections in the existing Anacortes Municipal Code.
Public comments already submitted to the commission have gone so far as to provide several pages of ACFL-protecting language for inclusion in the CAO update. Even in the unlikely event that the commission recommends adopting this proposed language in its recommendation to the City Council, the protection of the ACFL wouldn’t be assured. Ideas like plunking down a bike skills training course in the middle of the ACFL could still slip through.
The problem is that trying to fit the ACFL into the policies and procedures appropriate for other critical areas is like trying to drive a large square peg into a small round hole. Most areas of the ACFL were conveyed to the city under provisions that they be managed both to protect their natural values “forever” and to provide for dispersed, low-impact recreation use. This dual purpose calls for an entirely different approach than that which applies to the single-purpose-dominant intent of other critical areas.
It may well be that the best protection of the Forest Lands could be attained by removing the ACFL entirely from the Critical Areas title of the Anacortes Municipal Code (which would greatly expedite CAO update adoption by the City Council).
However, there should be a clear understanding that the public will demand that a new Code chapter dedicated to ACFL protection will be expeditiously created under a different Code Title —probably Title 18: Environmental Protection. There are professionally qualified individuals in the Anacortes community who would be happy to assist in that process.
The Planning Commission has expressed that they don’t believe the few individuals who have spoken up asking for meaningful protection of ACFL represent broad public opinion. They need to hear from the public, forcefully and politely.