Resident honored for gravel pit fight

By KATHY KORENGEL

Herald Writer

GRANITE FALLS — Granite Falls photographer Bruce Barnbaum is known around the nation for his other-worldly photographs of canyonlands and cathedrals.

"I try to photograph the world I’d like to see," Barnbaum says of his work.

But it’s his almost decade-long fight to make his own neighborhood more into the world he’d like it to be that has earned him recognition from a statewide environmental group.

Barnbaum recently received an "Environmental Hero Award" from the Washington Environmental Council.

The council bestows the awards annually on "citizens who have acted, often at great personal sacrifice, to protect the environment for all of us," according to a council press release.

The group has handed out the annual awards since 1995. Barnbaum, and four other award recipients from throughout the state, were honored at a ceremony FridayN.

Barnbaum was recognized for his efforts in leading a grassroots campaign to halt the construction of CSR Associated’s gravel mine in Granite Falls.

Although the members of the Stillaquamish Citizens Alliance eventually lost their fight, their efforts did lead to a reduction in the scope of the project and greater environmental controls than first proposed, said Esther Bartfeld, who nominated Barnbaum for the award.

"There’s always a number of people in these kind of battles, not just one," Bartfeld said, "but there’s always one (like Barnbaum) that holds it all together, that makes the Herculean effort to let people know what’s going on and to work with everyone involved."

Barnbaum, sitting in his lofty, A-frame home on the Mountain Loop Highway about seven miles east of the 425-acre CSR Associated quarry, which began operation in January, said he was ambivalent about receiving the award.

"I would have rather had a victory than the plaque," said Barnbaum.

"We did have an impact though," he said.

Because of citizens’ concerns, the total amount to be quarried was reduced by 40 percent, the lifetime of the operation was cut by two-thirds, larger buffer zones were placed around the mining area, and fewer trucks travel the area’s roads than first proposed.

Barnbaum and other members of the citizens alliance may have lost that fight, but he said he hasn’t given up. He’s requested results of groundwater monitoring from the CSR site, which so far he’s been denied, he said.

Although Barnbaum dug in his heels on a local battle, he said it’s his concern for the environment at large that motivates him.

"Everywhere we’re doing things wrong and no one seems to care," said Barnbaum, citing evidence of global warming, a growing hole in the ozone layer and shrinking animal species as symptoms of the sickness.

He said he has a relevant axiom: He can treat others poorly and they can treat him poorly or he can kill them and they can kill him, but the rest of the world keeps turning.

"But if we destroy the environment, we all go together," Barnbaum said. "We depend on the environment."

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