Whispering Firs project receives critical funding endorsement

An effort to protect nearly 10 acres adjacent to Whispering Firs Bog gained a boost last week, when a panel ranked it one of the state’s most important conservation projects for funding in the upcoming legislative biennium.

A committee working on behalf of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP), a state funding program, ranked it first in one of its funding categories and third in another — making it one of the strongest contenders for funding next year, said Tom Dean, head of the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust.

“I was shocked. I was completely stunned,” he said. “Evidentally, they liked it.”

The project would add considerable protection to

Whispering Firs Bog, a nature preserve sheltering a rare sphagnum bog, considered one of the region’s most imperiled ecosystems.

If the land trust and the Vashon Park District, which are jointly applying for the state grant, are successful, they would be able to purchase nearly 10 acres off of Vermontville Road S.W., bringing the size of the Whispering Firs Bog preserve to nearly 19 acres.

The two entities are seeking $400,000 to purchase the two adjacent five-acre lots, properties that were identified by land trust organizers 20 years ago as critical habitat in need of protection.

But Dean said that while the rankings are fantastic news, other issues dog the effort — including the fact that budget hawks in the state Legislature may try to dismantle the WWRP program altogether.

“This fund is very much in danger,” Dean said. “It’s going to be a huge battle for us to get this program appropriated, and now we have a horse in the race.”

The land trust is holding a community celebration, Salmon Chanted Evening, at 5 p.m. Saturday at Fisher Pond. Call the land trust at 463-2644 for tickets.

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