Preserving a natural legacy

A wooded bog. A 90-something investor and 80-something co-developer playing by the rules. All around, neighbors and biologists in Gore-Tex, fearing the scrape of a backhoe. Roll back the fog, the echo of barking bloodhounds, and you have a Northwest Gothic.

Mark Twain would seize on the narrative of Hooven Bog: A rare type of wetland that musn’t be threatened by development. But in Twain’s time, wetlands were laughed off as “swamp land,” and “hydrology” and “marine ecology” weren’t part of the vocabulary. Two men invested in swamp, and now they’re told by meddling naturalists in Gore-Tex that it’s too precious to touch?

The Hooven Bog crystallizes multiple currents: from property rights to urban growth to ecology and sustainable development. As The Herald’s Noah Haglund reports, Hooven is a rare peat bog dominated by sphagnum moss and an acidic environment that supports plants and a variety of bladderwort unusual for the lowland Puget Sound.

“The bigger picture is we’re just picking away at them and we’re losing these unique habitats,” said Randy Whalen, 57, a bog neighbor who is leading the charge to prevent development. “The reality is this is one of the last that’s left of a type that we used to have a lot of. This is almost like a museum piece.”

Investor Rodney Loveless, 88, and development partner Robert Dillon, 90, hope to build five luxury homes on the south end of the bog, northeast of Woodinville. Loveless and Dillon submitted their application only a couple weeks before changes were made to the buffer zones for natural, critical areas, and their 2012 grading permit is under appeal. With the new rules, only one home site can be built. Now, it seems, plans are throttled. The building permits have expired, and the tangle of delays stretch on. The developers likely are on the wrong side of natural (and human) history on this one.

There is a solution that upholds private-property rights and aligns with the public good: a willing buyer/willing seller deal. The best mechanism is a conservation easement, a legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or nonprofit land trust that permanently limits development to preserve conservation values. County Executive John Lovick would make a strong, positive impact elbowing for the Hooven Bog as part of the county’s Conservation Futures Program. The fund played a pivotal role preserving Mukilteo’s Japanese Gulch. It also could be key to saving Hooven Bog, a natural legacy for generations to come.

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