MAY 2023 NEWSLETTER | Friends of Clark County in SW Washington
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May 2023

Save the Date for Dinner with Friends
  Lea Bain, FOCC Community Engagement Manager

Dinner with Friends is set for the afternoon of August 13th at Coyote Ridge Ranch in La Center.

FOCC’s Annual Dinner with Friends will feature local live music, silent auction, dinner, and beverages. The food will be delicious, the setting beautiful, and the company even better.

Friends of Clark County is proud to share with you the vision of a thriving place to live, work, and play – now and for future generations. At this precipice of great change here in this spectacular region, we need your help to keep Clark County beautiful and livable through conservation, advocacy and education.

Your support enables FOCC to continue planting these seeds for responsible growth. 
Ticket sales and more information to come! We hope to see you there.

Are you interested in sponsoring this year’s event or have an item you would like to donate to this year’s silent action? Let us know!

Can Local Land Use Policy Save the Bees?
   Mo McKenna, FOCC Board Member 

We’ve all heard the slogan “Save the Bees,” but what does it actually mean? And what can we actually do to save them? And what on earth does it have to do with something as wonky as local land use policy?

Well, today, let’s tackle answering all those questions and help move your knowledge beyond the bumper sticker!

What do we mean when we say “Save the Bees?”

No, we don’t mean honey bees. While honey bees have been in the news lately because of a disease that leads to hive collapse and resulting challenges in pollination of all sorts of crops including apples, almonds, wine grapes, and lots and lots of other fruits, the most common honey bee is a European species – Apis mellifera. Honey bees are reared and farmed just like chickens or pigs. 

When we say “Save the Bees,” we mean our native bee species. In Washington State, we have 8 species of bees that are of particular concern because they are highly effective pollinators, and because populations are on the major decline: the frigid bumble bee, the golden-belted bumble bee, the half-black bumble bee, the yellow bumble bee, the Morrison bumble bee, the western bumble bee, the American bumble bee and (my personal favorite name) the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee. 

Bumble bees are incredible pollinators! They have long tongues, they can fly in cool weather, fly earlier in the day and later in the evening, and fly in stormy conditions, and they do a very cool thing called “buzz pollination,” which causes them to dislodge more pollen from the flower. 

Unfortunately, more than one-quarter of all bumble bees in the US are at risk of extinction. Washington state lists the Morrison, western, and Suckley cuckoo as species of concern. 

So how, exactly, do we save them?

Great news – there is action we can take to save them! Washington State is the first state to have a strategy to save our local bumble bees. Compiled by some smart folks from the state alongside the Xerces Society, the Forest Service, the BLM, WA Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a report called “Strategy to Protect State and Federally Recognized Bumble Bee Species of Conservation Concern” was published in February 2023. It outlines conservation strategies for our state. In the report they identify Clark County and surrounding areas as a “medium priority” region for their conservation efforts based on probable populations. 

Bumble bees need a few basic things to survive:

  1. Foraging habitat – a diversity of native flowering plants throughout the season – different flower colors, shapes, sizes, and bloom periods (sounds pretty right?!). This includes native trees and shrubs and ideally has lots of early and late flowering plants. The foraging habitat needs to be pesticide free and herbicide free (no Roundup).
  2. Nesting and overwintering habitat – undisturbed ground with messy bits such as downed wood, rock piles, moss, leaves, needles, rodent and (the dreaded) vole holes. Summer is the most important time for leaving a nesting habitat alone. If you need to manage noxious weeds, do it between November – February
  3. Maximize habitat connectivity – This, my friends, is where local land use comes in. 

Local Land Use Policy and Native Bees

We often hear about the negative impacts of habitat fragmentation for animals that walk on four legs: deer, coyotes, beavers, racoons, mountain lions, etc, but bumble bees also need interconnected habitats. Wildlife corridors that include native flowering plants help bees connect to more habitats with food. Open fields with native species shouldn’t be seen as unproductive or underdeveloped, but rather bumble bee habitat. We need to limit the footprint of impermeable surfaces such as roads and parking lots as we develop (those parking lots can go underground!), and new developments and HOAs can install and approve landscaping that is bee friendly by choosing diverse, native varieties of plants. It is possible to develop in such a way that includes bumble bees in our future. 

Where to Start

If you are ready to do your part on behalf of the bees, you can:

  1. Get involved with local land use policy as part of the Growth Management Act and comprehensive planning process. Right now, decisions are being made about how much open space will be available for our wildlife, including our native bees.  Riparian areas and corridors provide areas that allow bees to disperse and migrate.
  2. Plant native plants. Lupine, thimbleberry, sunflowers, spirea, goldenrod, snowberry, Oregon grape, currants, and willows are just some of the beautiful flowering species that bees love! The Pollinator Partnership has produced a very valuable guide for our area. 
  3. Talk about bees. One of the most important things you can do is talk to your neighbors, or folks at your church, or your co-workers, or your friends about bees. Tell them about why bees are so important and what we can all do to help Save the Bees! Folks are most likely to form a new opinion when they are talking to someone they trust. 

2023 Legislative Session Recap
       Jackie Lane, FOCC Board Member

Two bills that our friends at Futurewise were championing this year passed, hurray! 

  • HB 1181 was signed into law, adding climate change considerations into the Growth Management Act (GMA). This requires Comprehensive Plans to include considerations both for Climate resilience (think wildfires, flooding, heat, sea level rise…) and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and Vehicle Miles Traveled. It also directs various state agencies to address these issues as well.  
  • HB 1110 is aimed at increasing middle housing. It will allow fourplexes and duplexes in most neighborhoods in most cities. 

Unfortunately, HB 1517 – Transit Oriented Development – never made it out of committee.

The legislative process and the road to passage for any bills is long and arduous. A lot of calls and letters made passage of the 2 bills possible! Thank you to all who helped out. And for bills that didn’t make it this time, we know that sometimes it takes a few tries. Let’s hope 1517 does better next session!

Comprehensive Plan Update

As noted in our last newsletter, the County hosted information sessions on the Comp Plan update in late March. These can be viewed on CVTV’s website.

Population Forecast

The County selected the population growth numbers to be used in planning for growth. Against the advice, if not pleading, of the cities, the County Council chose not to go with the most-likely ‘medium’ number provided by the Office of Financial Management (OFM), and instead went with the number the Business Industry Association (BIA) pushed, which was higher than medium although not the highest number originally proposed by Karen Bowerman and Michelle Belkot. 

As a result, the County will plan to a 2045 population forecast of 718,154 people, versus the midrange number of 698,416. 

It is worth noting that those in the building industry and Council who favored the higher numbers used a look back of only the last few years, whereas OFM looks back 20 years. That span includes bust as well as boom cycles. OFM also noted that death rates are rising (we are getting older), and birth rates are slowing (people are waiting to have children), offsetting our high in-migration rate. 

Freight Rail Dependent Uses (FRDU)

The county held a work session on Freight Rail Dependent Uses on May 17. While this is not technically part of the Comp Plan, it will significantly affect land use in the county and is worth keeping an eye on. The presentation can be found here.

A little background: some years ago the County attempted to side-step the GMA and zone Ag Land in Brush Prairie (eg., Lagler farm) for rural industrial (I believe it was for an asphalt plant). The County lost on appeal. The legislature was implored to fix that. Ta Da, FRDU was born. House Bill 5517 in the 2017/18 legislative session allowed Freight Rail Dependent uses on ag and resource lands. It only applied to short line railroads in Clark and Okanogan counties. (Okanogan is not using). Language in the bill is unclear about what ‘adjacent’ means. Also, while some read it ‘as sewer can’t be extended outside the UGA’ others see it differently. This legislation opens up ‘Railroad Industrial’ development along the entire rail line, outside of Urban Growth Boundaries, from Vancouver to its terminus in Chelatchie. 

This was all on hold due to dueling lawsuits between the County and Eric Temple (PVJR railroad owner). The lawsuits were settled, and the County signed a new, generous, contract with PVJR. Much of that track is in very poor shape, but the RR Operator has been getting the county grants (from the state) to do track bed and bridge repairs. 

The May 17 work session was to catch the council up on where we left off and get guidance to Staff on how to proceed.  Several of the Councilors are extremely enthusiastic about development along the rail. 

The FRDU project page can be found here.

Our calendar of upcoming county meetings relating to land use can be found here.

Some key upcoming events include hearings on the Housing Options Study code changes – The Housing Options Study focuses on land use changes to increase housing options within the Vancouver Urban Growth Area (UGA) – aka unincorporated Vancouver. In July there will be work sessions and public hearings on the Employment Projection, another key data point for the Comprehensive Planning process. 

Further resources

  • Please make sure you are following Friends of Clark County for announcements, newsletters, action alerts, forums and more. 
  • Campaign for A People’s Clark County, WA is the effort of a local resident and member of Alliance for Community Engagement seeking to partner with other individuals and community organizations, including those serving young people and under-represented groups, to generate interest in the update. Please “Like” their page and share with your community. 
  • The League of Women Voters of Clark County is also following this closely, and has a blog specifically focused on Land Use.

Farmer’s Corner – 2023 Clark County Farm Survey
          Mo McKenna, FOCC Board Member & Local Farmer

Preserving farmland here in Clark County is critical to our mission at Friends of Clark County. We also work to ensure access to local food by educating people about the urgency of developing a resilient local food economy that supports local farmers and ranchers.

We are asking farmers to complete our 2023 Clark County Farm Survey that intends to:

  • Better understand the current state of farming in Clark County
  • Gather information about the issues Clark County farmers are facing so that we can be better advocates
  • Learn more about how farmers would like to be engaged on key issues that impact farmers such as land use, comprehensive planning, and county commissions
Please complete the survey by Friday, June 2nd, 2023.

Are you a farmer? Please complete the survey!
Do you know a farmer? Please send them this survey!
Don’t know any farmers? Find a local farm or farmers market

The Value of Engagement
       Jan Kelly, Friends of Central Vancouver (FOCV)

For those of us who have been watching the County lately, we know that the County is working on its every 10-year Comprehensive Plan Update. This is a blueprint of sorts that will define our growth for the next 20 years.

Many prospective buyers will refer to the “Growth Management Plan” prior to buying a home, or property in which to build a home. Questions such as what will be built, where and how far away are key questions to be answered prior to making a decision of this magnitude.

Watch the County Council and Planning Commission meetings. Many of those meetings will have the pertinent issues on the agenda. The County has already decided on the math to be used to forecast our population growth and while many will disagree with the number the County approved, we must remember that governing is a science of compromise. Hopefully some facts guide the decisions; the out-come is almost always a compromise.

We are discovering that the County has made lots of exceptions to the Growth Management Plan.  The question is why do we have a plan if we are not going to be governed by it? In my opinion, there have been exceptions made for the developers, as an example, to build what they want, where they want. It is past time for the public to let its opinion be known. The sooner each of you can make your views and opinions known, the better.

Growth needs to be planned for and the process managed. New housing developments should have schools also planned within the new developments. There should also be shopping opportunities, like food, fuel, public transportation, parking, with streets wide enough for parking on both sides and still two lanes of drive through traffic. Where are the green spaces being built within the developments? Where are the parks for children to play in?

In short, if we, the residents of Clark County do not oversee those that govern our County, who will? Ask yourself if those who you leave the oversight to have your best interest at heart?

My counsel is this: become engaged in the process. Let your opinion be known. If the Clark County Councilors limit your speaking time (3 minute limit at public hearings), write letters to the Columbian, to the Reflector, to Clark County Today. Write letters to the County officials, to the state legislators and to the federal agencies if so warranted. If you do not know the addresses, visit the Friends of Central Vancouver web site. Make sure to look under the document download on our navigation bar. Then look at the letter writing campaign. Our web site contains a lot of information on how to respond to County activity. Be a part of the solution –  not simply a bystander.

An Observer’s View of Growth Management in Clark County
     Jim Bryne, FOCC Board Member

Clark County has been involved with growth management since the mid-1990’s.  In the first Community Framework Plan(1993), surveys were conducted that allowed citizens to express their preferred approaches to growth.  They were identified in a “Hometown” concept, expressing the following:

  • Preservation of open space;
  • A compact development pattern with employment, shopping, and a choice of housing located close to each other;
  • Preservation of rural lands;
  • The potential for development of alternative types of transportation, including light rail.

These goals remained the same, throughout subsequent versions of the plan. Councilors should conduct a series of surveys to determine just what citizens want and are these original goals still valid.  I believe they  still are what most citizens of the county support.

Instead, in the last thirty years, Clark County has been allowed to develop in a laissez-faire manner and continues to this day.  Developers claim land that was once designated for industry, should be re-zoned commercial, and the OFM numbers designated by planning professionals are too low, and should be raised to please the development community (BIA#’s).  Why would County councilors have the audacity to believe they know better than the experts in the OFM and Department of Commerce.  Why would they choose numbers designed to benefit one component of community – development.  What has happened to our trees, roads, parklands, fishing, greenspace, and overall quality of life.  Is it as good as you remember?  NO!

The County is focused on increasing growth while our roads, prisons, law enforcement, and schools are neglected.  The Growth Management Act requires “Concurrency”.  That means growth cannot proceed until the supporting infrastructure is in place.  This has not been the case in the 2019 lifting of the Urban Holding Area at 179th Street.  Multiple developments have begun and are proceeding without the accompanying roads, schools, and freeway interchange being started.  This is not growth management.

County Councilors need to hear from you.  You need to say what you want the County to be like in the next 20 years.  Developers are counting on your apathy and that you are too involved with the issues of your daily life, to express your feelings.  Councilors work for you – give them the feedback they need. Tell them what you want. You know the development community already has their ear.

The Great Migration is Underway! 
       Mo McKenna, FOCC Board Member

Millions of birds are flying across our night skies each night on their great migration north – traveling the Pacific flyway to their summer homes. Audubon societies across the country are encouraging residents to go “Lights Out” in order to ensure that birds aren’t thrown off their migratory path by light pollution. 

Outdoor lighting can be designed to support bird migration. Portland Audubon recommends to “Make sure your exterior light fixtures are well-shielded and not overly bright. Select warm LED bulbs that are under a 3,000 Kelvin rating. During migration seasons, draw blinds or curtains to reduce light spill that contributes to sky glow.” 

The International Dark-sky Association has recommendations for lighting that reduce light pollution AND can still keep your property safe. You can make our skies safer for birds today by talking to your spouse, your neighbors, your contractor, your boss, or your local businesses about installing bird safe lighting. 

Read more on the Portland Audubon Blog.

Private citizens can do much to improve the night sky for birds, but municipalities and counties can incorporate lighting codes into their development policies.  The Ridgefield Junction is an example of poor lighting practices.  Rather than direct light beams down, the whole sky is lit up.  One can barely see the stars.  It is time to incorporate “dark sky” practices into our commercial light schemes.

GiveBIG Sping Photo Contest Winner
  Lea Bain, FOCC Community Engagement Manager

Our first GiveBIG was a success! Thanks to the Board match, we raised over $5,000. We appreciate every single donor; for it is folks like you who will stand up with us for the sound land use policies we need.

The Spring photo contest winner, a 25 year Clark County resident originally from Eugene Oregon, Lisa Henry took up photography to document her children as they grew up. During the pandemic, she branched out to landscape & macro while enjoying the beautiful outdoors in our immediate vicinity.

This image was captured in February after a muddy little hike up the west side of the creek to the Yacolt Falls (also known as Big Tree Falls, as it is on Big Tree Creek flowing to the East Fork Lewis River). 

Just this year, FOCC won a battle with Clark County at the State Growth Management Hearings Board and WON! Litigation is expensive, but because of your generous contributions we were able to file this successful challenge. The Growth Board’s decision has been appealed, so this battle is not over yet.

If you missed the opportunity to donate this Spring, worry no more! Our donation site is open all year long. Please donate what you can today.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the fun. To see all the photos submitted, click here.

Helping Kids Plant Their Own Seeds of Responsible Growth
       Lea Bain, FOCC Community Engagement Manager

Well they were technically Sunflower and Zinnia seeds provided by the great MoMo Flower Farm, but one can hope!

The 30th anniversary of the Clark Public Utilities Home & Garden Idea Fair was a success and we were happy to be a part of it. The show featured over 150 vendors, plant sales, beautiful landscape displays and fun for the whole family. 

For our booth, children (of any age) were welcomed to plant a flower seed and take it home to then watch grow. Over 100 children got their hands in the dirt to learn how to plant a seed and almost all walked away with a huge smile. 

And, of course, we were able to have countless conversations about the upcoming Comprehensive Plan Update and the importance of sound land use policies. Almost 50 attendees signed up for our newsletter and many of those expressed interest in volunteering with us!

Are you interested in volunteering with us? From event support, data entry, to writing testimony, we need your help. Please fill out this form or email me at 

Saturday, June 24, 2023 | 10 AM to 4 PM

Family-friendly, free outdoor event complete with a farmers’ market. Festival visitors will be able to talk with pollinator experts, identify native bees, pick up pollinator-friendly plants and seeds and tour on-site gardens.

Clark Public Utilities Operations Center
8600 NE 117th Ave.
Vancouver, WA 98662

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We envision a flourishing Clark County thriving with local farms, healthy forests, clean water, protected wildlife habitats and neighborhoods that are vibrant and diverse with parks and natural areas accessible to all. We cannot do it without you.

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Ridgefield, WA 98642-0156

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