Letter: Don’t allow developers to be only voice in growth

Editor,

I read that one of the oldest native madrona trees on the north end is being cleared for a McDonald’s expansion. Maybe just one old tree, but I can think of no greater metaphor for the crossroads this island is facing.

As development pressures intensify to a fevered pitch, it’s time we prioritize the natural character and integrity of this beautiful island before we turnaround to see it paved.

We all see the yellow clear-cut signs popping up along healthy forest stands, announcing the Whidbey we know is about to look a lot different.

First the slash loggers, then the cookie-cutter suburban developments and commercial outcroppings. The rolling contrast is in the paper everyday: Oak Harbor Farmers Market permanently shutting down while corporate-owned WingStop chain builds a central feeding location.

This is not a dig on good wings, but a question of what we want Whidbey to be in the coming decade as this “progress”’ ripples down our island.

As family farmers, we rely on the island’s healthy habitats to support our food system. Healthy forests mean healthy pollinators, invasive-plant repression, erosion control, raptors for rodent and disease control and critical aquifer-recharge to name just a few.

Healthy habitats support public health and there is no reversing course once the scrape-n-build developers move through.

As a small farm that partially relies on agri-tourism to survive, we’ve yet to hear a tourist visit the island wishing there were more big-box stores and fast food eateries. They come for the same reason many of us live here, because we offer something different.

We support our main-street businesses and value the natural character of this special place.

We residents have a choice in how this goes and it’s time to get involved. Right now, the loudest voices in the room are the off-island developers who see Whidbey as a cheap and profitable platform for their bottom line.

Let the people who live here carry more weight in these conversations. This need not be partisan or even controversial.

There are many things local and county officials can do to better incentivize preservation of natural habitat, across the board. That needs to happen now, in a comprehensive way. Example, if there were a robust conservation incentive, clear cuts would be less appealing and even McDonald’s would find a way to protect that heritage tree in its expansion.

Please contact your local and county representation to let them know what you expect and demand protection of what we value.

Jake Stewart

Clinton

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