Petition drive launched to ask state to deny Glacier a lease

Opponents of Glacier Northwest’s plans to expand its mining operation on Maury Island are gathering signatures in an effort to dissuade Public Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland from granting the mining giant a lease to state-owned tidelands at the site.

Preserve Our Islands, a Vashon-based group, People For Puget Sound, headquartered in Seattle, and at least two other conservation groups have begun a petition drive urging people to voice their opposition to a state-issued lease. Glacier may build its controversial 305-foot barge-loading pier only if it receives a lease from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which Sutherland heads.

Sutherland, a Republican, is running for a third term as the state’s public lands commissioner. Peter Goldmark, an Okanogan rancher who boasts a strong conservation record, is running against him.

Mike Sato, a spokesman for People For Puget Sound, said his organization has long opposed Glacier’s proposed expansion of its mining operation, saying such a move could harm Puget Sound’s ecosystem.

Protection of the ailing inland sea has moved to center stage in recent years, as more and more evidence has emerged suggesting it’s in ill health. A key component of the protection efforts, Sato noted, is “to preserve what’s good.”

“Here we are going in and screwing up something that is good,” he said of Glacier’s plan to barge more than two million tons of sand and gravel a year across Puget Sound. “It doesn’t make any sense. And we want to call attention to the fact that it doesn’t make any sense.”

Amy Carey, who heads Preserve Our Islands, said the Vashon-based group decided to start the petition drive to give residents throughout the region a chance to be heard on what has become one of the Puget Sound’s most controversial conservation issues.

“Glacier has requested to use public land. The dock would go on public land. Citizens should have an opportunity to have a voice ... in how their lands should be used or not,” Carey said.

The groups hope to garner 5,000 signatures on the petition, which is available online at both POI’s Web site and People For Puget Sound’s Web site. The Washington Environmental Council and Washington Audubon, both also a part of the effort, will likely issue alerts to their members later this month, officials at both organizations said.

According to the petition on POI’s Web site, the Maury Island Aquatic Reserve “is the crown jewel of Puget Sound.” Sutherland, the petition goes on, “will be making the decision to approve or deny this lease request. Please join us in telling Commissioner Sutherland to put an end to this preposterous proposal.”

DNR officials said Sutherland and his staff are reviewing Glacier’s request for a lease using a set of criteria established a couple of months ago, when Glacier received one of its last permits from a regulatory agency.

“These are very specific criteria that have been established, and that evaluation is under way,” said Patty Hensen, a spokeswoman for the agency. “I don’t know anything about the petition, but I would assume it will not alter the thoroughness of our evaluation or the criteria we’ve already established.”

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