History, politics, people of Oly WA

To Berd Whitlock: Triage sucks but its real

Berd wrote over at the Olympian:

There are some substantial differences between the battle between a Citizen’s Group and the Port of Tacoma over Rocky Prairie; and the battle between Citizens’ Groups and the City of Olympia and Developer Triway Enterprises over the downtown Olympia “isthmus.” But there are a lot of similarities. Similar sets of logic apply to the situation here in Olympia, as compared to the situation in Rocky Prairie. Despite the differences, the best decision in the local Olympia case might very well be to pull the property off the market. City Council has the ability to enact a moratorium ordinance on the currently passed rezone. That would provide time to figure out how to go about creating a truly wonderful and novel park feature – a park feature that would accent the natural beauty that exists in such quantity here in Olympia. Would that be the right move to make? Seems so to me.

The main difference in terms of environmental restoration between the isthmus property and the Rocky Prarie property is that the isthmus property is more expensive and matters less.

Not to say that the isthmus property doesn’t matter at all or that the cost is impossible to get to to buy it and restore it, its just the Rocky Prairie property is current undeveloped, is still ecologically connected to other large pieces of habitat. The isthmus properties, though easier to find on a walk from my house, would be islands of good habitat among bad.

A regrettable, yet real, concept being kicked around in restoration circles is called triage. Basically, with the limited resources we have to put towards species and habitat restoration, we have to choose what to go after first.

Here’s a basic primer on the debate and another and a response to it.

So, if I had $100,000 to spend on saving some land from development, I’d spend it at Rocky Prairie first, then figure out where to go from there.

By the way, God bless you for being out there tonight.


  1. einmaleins

    You should post that on olyFORUMS too!!

  2. Anonymous

    Feel free to post a link, but I don’t like to cross post.

  3. Robert

    Sorry it took me so long to get back to you on this, Emmett.

    Well, it might just be possible that this issue is so contentious—that it has risen to a point of tendentiousness—where people are just simply entrenched. The heels are dug in. Nobody is budging. I don’t know if that’s the case. I hope it’s not. I know you’re not debating the merits of the rezone here, but the appeal of the pro-rezone argument is very real (even for me) until I begin to take into account the arguments of those who oppose the rezone.

    It’s cut and dry for me. The rezone is an affront toward the public interest.

    Okay, now to address something in your post. You write that the isthmus property matters less. From a purely scientific and ecological point of view, you’re right. And considering the potential of preventing development of 141 million dollar McMansions in rural undeveloped areas of the county, the proposal has some potential to do some very real good (ecologically/environmentally.) Of course, those McMansions might already be built. Or there might not even be a market for the property. Given the recent litigation by the park proponents, this whole deal is up in the air.

    There is potential real environmental benefit from developing the isthmus property into housing, but your right, ecologically speaking the Rocky Prairie is probably important. But the isthmus issue is not only about ecology. It’s also about society.

    For me, it’s an injustice, because it harms public views of the Capitol Campus, and of Puget Sound.

    This is a simplified version of my position, but that is the basic gist of it.

    It’s too bad that the City Council didn’t have the sense to seek a public referendum via an advisory vote on the rezone issue. It would have saved a lot of time, money and energy.

    And given the potential for electoral blowback from the perceived injustice and failed decision making process, this Council may have made a mistake.

    Hey, as far as being out at the Oly FOR peace vigil – I love it. Really, it’s like church for me. A spiritual experience.

  4. Emmett

    I’m glad your one of the few in the isthmus debate that clearly states your views in terms of society. They might not be the winning opinions, but they’re your opinions and that matters.

    Just on one of your points (ecological vs. societal), I would hope we lived in a society that made decisions based on ecological concerns. I’m one that believes the better treatment of the natural environment leads to better societal conditions. Not in a total sense though

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