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Protecting Historic South Whidbey Farmland - wclt. · PDF fileProtecting Historic South Whidbey Farmland ... of apples and cornhusks. ... utilize and love the trails that the park

Jun 10, 2018




  • Protecting Historic South Whidbey Farmland

    F A L L 2 0 0 8 N E W S L E T T E R , I S S U E # 4

    Ray Gabelein drives his Chevy pickup down a path and pulls into a pasture. Thats Daisy, and theres Oreothe one with the white stripe, he says as he stops the truck. Ray is referring to his cattle.

    As he jumps out of the truck, the cows know whats in store and affectionately move toward him, waiting for their treat of apples and cornhusks. Like three

    generations of Gabeleins before him, Ray is a farmer who feels a strong connection to this land and his way of life.

    The Gabeleins are one of several families who have farmed on Whidbey Islands Useless Bay area over the past century. Dairy barns and other farm structures between Highway 525 and Useless Bay still show where each familys small farm

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    startedand where some ended. The Gabeleins established their farm in the 1900s and raised beef cattle, dairy cows, and crops like potatoes, grain, and hay. Ray carries on the family tradition and farms much of this land.

    Two years ago, when Ray and his siblings inherited their parents farmstead, they knew they would not be able to farm all of it. They began to worry about what would happen to this land they and their parents loved so much. Of particular concern was one 54-acre parcel adjacent to Deer Lagoon. The land south of the parcel was already developed and it seemed it would be only a matter of time before developers would eye the Gabelein property as the next place for the neighborhood to expand. Ray knew he didnt want to lose the lands open space, farming heritage, or wildlife habitat. Its a unique place, he says. Not only is this one of a few places on the south end of the island that has prime farming soils, [but] when you get down here, you really get away from it all. You dont realize youre next to dense development.

    Through a casual conversation with then Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton, Ray was introduced to the Land Trust

    see SOUTH WHIDBEY FARMLAND on page 2 >

    If you could travel back in time to Coupeville in November, 1978, youd find a community celebrating a victory to preserve the land they called Ebeys Prairie. A proposed development within the prairie brought citizens together to find a way to prevent their cherished landscape from disappear-ing. Through collective action, grassroots organizing and hard work, they came up with the idea that a national reserve would best preserve the character and agricultural use of the prairie while keeping the land in private ownership.

    A National BirthdayEbeys Reserve Turns 30!The Whidbey Camano Land Trust is proud to carry on the work of land protection in the Reserve. Right now, the Land Trust is working with nine willing landowners to acquire conservation easements on 380 acres of prime and productive farmland in the heart of Ebeys Reserve. In this issue we introduce some of these projects and explain how we will use more than $4.5 million in federal, state and local grant funds that we secured to purchase conser-vation easements that will forever protect prime farmlands.

    The Useless Bay conservation easement will protect 54 acres of farmland that also provides invaluable wildlife habitat near Deer Lagoon. Photo: MARK ShEEhAN

  • About WCLt

    MiSSioNThe Whidbey Camano Land Trust protects our islands natural habitats and rural lands in partnership with landowners and the broader community.

    CoNTACT iNFoRMATioN765 Wonn RoadBarn C-201Greenbank, WA 98253(360) 222-3310 phone(360) 222-3510

    oFFiCERSCharles ArndtPresident, Coupevilleivan MillerVice President, Camano IslandLarry HarrisSecretary, FreelandKathleen LandelTreasurer, Langley

    BoARD MEMBERSBasil Badley, Camano IslandMarty Behr, Langley Joani Boose, LangleyDavid Brown, SeattleTom Cahill, FreelandJohn Edison, Camano IslandBarbara Libby, Camano IslandTodd Peterson, ClintonSteve Raymond, ClintonLeigh Smith, Coupeville

    STAFFPatricia Powell, Executive DirectorElizabeth Guss, Dir. of Outreach & DevelopmentSandy Rubini, Operations ManagerJan Graham, Membership CoordinatorChris Hilton, Land Protection SpecialistCheryl Lowe, Land StewardDanielle Rideout, Program Associate

    P A G E 2 F A L L 2 0 0 8 N E W S L E T T E R

    and soon became aware of conservation options. This fall, a conservation easement will be placed on the 54-acre property to protect it as both working farmland and wildlife habitat.

    Representing his family, Ray has worked with the Land Trust to develop a conser-vation easement that will stand the test of time. I wanted to make sure there was enough flexibility in the easement to al low someone to work the land; agricultural uses should be the primary use, Ray said. The easement will reduce the number of home sites from six to one, allowing the landowner the option to build one home on the property and continue to use the property for a variety of farming uses.

    The easement will be the first of its kind for the Land Trust. It will be held by both the Land Trust and Island County. The Land Trust applied for and received funds for the project from Island County Conservation Futures and the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Farmland Preservation Fund. Under a cooperative agreement with Island County, the Land Trust will manage and monitor the conservation easement.

    In addition to agricultural value, the Gabeleins property has significant wildlife value. The property lies just east of 420

    acres of protected wildlife habitat: 379 acres at Deer Lagoon protected by Island County and 40 acres of tidelands owned by Washington State Parks. The area is a complex and unusual ecosystem ranked as a high protection priority by federal, state, and local agencies. It is the most extensive estuarine marsh on Whidbey Island and its combination of fresh and salt water creates a variety of habitats attractive to wildlife, including tidal marshlands, brackish ponds, small islands, grassy fields, and brushy uplands. Over 170 species of birds use the site, including many that are rare or declin-ing in number.

    The farmed fields and wetlands complement each other, creating a vital habitat area. The fields provide places for diverse species of birds to nest, perch, hunt, and forage. Ray recognizes this relationship and, as he looks at ducks sitting in the pond, he recalls: My dad used to look out here and say how this should be a preserve. He can list the different species of birds he sees here every day, including bald eagles and five different kinds of hawks. Many people do not realize how much wildlife is here, he says. We see river otter, muskrat, coyote, rabbits, raccoon, deer and mink.

    The Gabeleins history and vision for the future of this land reflects what many other Land Trust members value on our islands. Rays parents, Raymond and Eva Mae, made the farm a success by laboring long and hard, logging during the day and farming at dawn and dusk to provide for their family. They knew the value of their land for the food and nourishment it provided. They understood the inter-dependency of farming and wildlife. Ray believes strongly that demand for locally grown food will increase and this land will serve an important role in meeting that demand. Meanwhile, the community ben-efits because the conservation easement will keep the 54 acres in open space and provide wildlife habitat.

    Years from now, when he looks out his window on land cared for the same way his parents cared for it, Ray is confident that he will reflect on this conservation ease-ment and think: That was a good move.

    SOUTH WHIDBEY FARMLAND > continued from cover

    Ray Gabelein carries on his familys tradition of farming and raising cattle. Photo: StAff

  • P A G E 3 F A L L 2 0 0 8 N E W S L E T T E R

    boARD SpotLight

    Name: Larry Harris

    Joined Board: 2008

    Whidbey islander Since: 1996

    Profession: Teacher and School Administrator

    Larry Harris was elected to the board of directors at the beginning of this year, but he is not a newcomer to either the Land Trust or the board. When he moved here from Whatcom County, Larry joined the Land Trust to get involved with his new community and served on the board from 2002 to 2004. He is now secretary of the board.

    Larrys professional background is in education and he has taught both domestically and internationally. During his years of teaching abroad, Larry has seen what happened when no one recognized the beauty of the land and took care of it.

    For more than ten years, Larry owned, managed, and stewarded 175 acres along the Nooksack River in Whatcom County where he raised cattle. When he sold this property, he placed deed restrictions on the land to minimize development.

    Today, Larry offers the board many talents, including an institutional history with the Land Trust and experience with board governance and decision-making. Having served as an elected official (Whatcom County council member) and on other non-profit boards, Larry believes he will be able to help make wise decisions for the Land Trust.

    Larry, his wife Betty Azar, and their dog Maisie live in Freeland.

    Why People Care About Land Protection

    Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Edward O. Wilson, a biologist at Harvard University, proposed a theory that people have an innate love for nature and a biological need to connect with it. This biophilia makes them want to care for land and wildlife. Wilson offered considerable evidence for this concept and discussion about it con-tinues today among scientists and social scientists. But whether or not the theory is correct, we know one thing for sure: Our members value the land for many reasons and in many ways. We hear from two:

    A Sad Return Leads to ins

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