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Supreme Court sends Ferry County back to the drawing board on GMA plan - Won't accept science from "retired" wildlife agent

by Joel Kretz


Ferry County, WA - You get what you pay for, the state Supreme Court told Ferry County. The Supreme Court sent Ferry County’s Growth Management Act habitat protection plan back for more work after concluding on a 7-2 vote that the free services of a retired wildlife agent aren’t the “best available science.”

“The information used to support the county’s listing does not pass the smell test for (best available science), regardless of how it’s defined” according to Justice Mary Fairhurst who wrote the majority decision.

The decision means the state's poorest and most sparsely populated county must spend more time and money writing a new plan to protect species that may or may not exist in the County.

In a strong dissent, Justice Jim Johnson pointed out that the state wants the county to prove a negative, that certain animals don’t exist there. It’s much like requiring habitat for Bigfoot, a mythical Northwest legend he said.

Ferry County Commissioner Mike Blankenship took it a step further. “We’ve had more Bigfoot sightings than we have lynx, much less woodland caribou or pelicans or pygmy rabbits. It would make more sense to set aside land for Bigfoot than some of these other species.”

Blankenship pointed out that while the retired wildlife biologist donated his work for the county, he was well respected and highly credentialed. Justice Fairhurst dismissed his conclusions as “more similar to speculation or surmise” than science while litigant Concerned Friends of Ferry County pointed out that free advice is available from state biologists.

I’ve got to ask the question, why is free advice from a state biologist more valuable than free advice from a retired state biologist? Is it because current state biologists are generally more susceptible to agency agendas and potential funding sources than the more independent retired state biologists tend to be? With the state biologists recent record as lynx experts, do we really want those folks making the decisions about how we use the less than 20% of Ferry County that’s still in private hands? You know those state biologists that got popped for planting lynx hair in the woods from a stuffed lynx are still available. I wonder if they have any Bigfoot hair on hand? 

Copyright Joel Kretz 2005 


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