Forum: County’s environment losing out to unchecked development

The county’s natural beauty has been clear-cut, leaving behind impacts to habitat and communities.

By Jessica Salazar / Herald Forum

Snohomish County’s ongoing favoritism toward developers neglects residents, exacerbates crime, and decimates natural habitats.

It’s been more than two years since I first raised the alarm with a commentary in The Herald, and yet, the devastation not only continues but has intensified. Is Snohomish County government simply tone-deaf, or is it purposely ignoring the impassioned pleas of its constituents? The cries for change have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, as county leadership remains apathetic to the gut-wrenching concerns of our neighbors.

Let’s not mince words. What was once an oasis of natural beauty has now become a hotspot for illicit activities, drug deals, abandoned vehicles and even a recent suicide — thanks to the irresponsibility of both developers and our local government. How much more of a wake-up call do we need?

Not to mention, the looming threat of an entire tree canopy — comprising significant trees, mind you — being clear-cut with what can only be described as a brutal lack of remorse. The consequences to our watershed and local wildlife don’t even seem to warrant a second thought from those in charge. And, just to add insult to injury, these properties are not even secured properly, creating an open field for lurking dangers to our children.

We’re not asking for the moon and stars here. We want some basic standards upheld; the same standards that apply to you and me. If I tried to clear-cut my own property, there’d be hell to pay, but developers get a free pass? It’s time for the county to wake up. Require the property owners to secure their properties, protect at least some of the invaluable natural assets, and for heaven’s sake, listen to your tax-paying residents. We’re not just statistics on a census report; we are the lifeblood of this community.

Don’t mistake our frustration for irrational emotionalism; we’re talking about foundational community and environmental principles that benefit us all. The tagline of “paying taxes” may sound trite, but it’s at the core of our social contract. We contribute to the collective good, and in return, we expect our basic needs and securities to be met. This isn’t a high bar; it’s the lowest possible rung of responsible governance.

To say we are at a breaking point is an understatement. We have watched the heart of our community erode under the weight of decisions made behind closed doors. It’s time for transparency, accountability and genuine public engagement. Elected officials are, after all, supposed to represent the interests of the community, not just a select few with deep pockets.

The story we’re telling today is not just about our local area; it’s a microcosm of a broader systemic issue that demands immediate attention. For too long, short-term gains have been prioritized over long-term sustainability, at the expense of both people and the planet. If our leadership doesn’t take urgent, corrective action, they shouldn’t be surprised when the community takes matters into its own hands.

We need real change, not platitudes or empty promises. Our environment, our communities, and indeed our lives depend on it.

Jessica Salazar lives in Silver Lake.

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