County Council promptly endorses advisory panel’s year of research work

WHATCOM ­— The county’s Agricultural Advisory Committee wanted county government to add more protection of certain rural lands as a boost for keeping farming strong.

A 2019 update of the existing Rural Lands Study, wrapped up last May, was presented to the County Council’s Natural Resources Committee on Sept. 24, and then was approved by the full council already that evening

An original Rural Land Study was approved back in 2007. It identified areas of the county that are rural in nature and zoning, but have good soils and are used for active agriculture.

This is in addition to some 87,000 acres across Whatcom that is truly zoned for Agriculture, with greater restrictions on uses to deter their conversion to non-farmland uses. The county has long had a policy goal of protecting at least 100,000 acres for agricultural use “to maintain the necessary land base to support an economically viable agricultural industry.”

But Rural 5- and 10-Acre pieces can help toward that goal and should be protected as well, county planners and the citizen advisory committee say.

The update now identifies 22 rural areas totaling 28,449 acres that have “high agricultural value” and could be the focus of more protection. That’s an increase from before, and those areas also have on them the potential of 2,092 dwelling units — development that would be an inhibitor to agriculture.

The largest rural tracts identified are: Ten Mile, 4,633 acres; Guide-Aldrich, 4,596 acres; Grandview, 3,682 acres; Loomis Trail, 3,142 acres; Harksell, 2,992 acres; East Badger, 2,098 acres; and Custer, 2,058 acres.