Courtesy of Moment Films

Whatcom Land Trust & Rand Jack Celebrate 40 Years of Conservation

Since 1984, Whatcom Land Trust (the Trust) has worked to protect and steward Whatcom County’s special places for future generations of all species. Adventures Northwest readers have likely experienced that impact without realizing it—perhaps while hiking, biking, or exploring in one of the 19 Whatcom County public parks created with the help of Whatcom Land Trust over the past 40 years. Lookout Mountain Reserve, Stimpson Family Nature Reserve, Teddy Bear Cove, and Galbraith Mountain are just a few. The Trust has also been responsible for preserving Canyon Lake Community Forest, Lily Point, Nesset Farm, Point Whitehorn, Squires Lake, and, most recently, Governors Point.

“Stimpson has been embraced by the community, it is a real sign of possibility, of hope.”

Thanks to a dedicated Board of Directors, hard-working staff and volunteers, and an abundance of community partnerships, the Trust has now protected more than 26,000 acres of land through conservation easements, land ownership, and facilitation in Whatcom County.

Washington State artist, conservationist, educator, and attorney Rand Jack, who helped co-found Whatcom Land Trust forty years ago, remembers that the Trust “looked to protect a variety of land—particularly natural areas—that would provide [access] opportunities and protect habitat for animals that were here long before we were.”

Rand has long believed that protecting these natural places is critical, “where people can visit and enjoy and appreciate the land. It’s really hard to convince people to protect something if they’ve never seen it or experienced it.”

Early Roots and Relationships


Courtesy of Moment Films


In March 1983, nearly 50 people gathered in the basement of the Dutch Mothers Restaurant in downtown Lynden, Washington, to learn how a land trust might preserve Whatcom County’s agricultural heritage. After obtaining 501(c)(3) non-profit status, the first official Board of Directors meeting of the Whatcom Land Trust was held in November 1984.

The initial vision was to protect agricultural land to support local farms and farming infrastructure. According to Rand, the Trust quickly broadened its horizons to prioritize protecting parks to ensure public access for future generations. Relationships with landowners and partners were rooted in transparency, integrity, and respect. 

The very first County park the Trust helped establish was Teddy Bear Cove–a popular beach with a trail winding through coastal forest and bird habitat to saltwater shoreline and tide pools.

“When it went up for sale, the Land Trust was able to step in and put out a fundraising call to its supporters, raising enough money to acquire the property,” remembers Board Member Chris Moench, who has served the organization since 1990. “And that was done in conversation with the County Parks Director at the time, Roger Despain. We agreed the County would end up purchasing Teddy Bear Cove from the Land Trust. But the Land Trust was able to act quickly, and that was key to preventing development. Now it’s a beloved county park, and the Trust holds a conservation easement.”

Stimpson Family Nature Reserve. Photo by John D’Onofrio

Stimpson Family Nature Reserve was another early success. When the Stimpson family first approached the Trust, they entrusted Rand with the process of determining how to conserve the family’s land. “It was a long process,” he remembers, “and I think that now the Stimpson family is delighted with what’s happened. Stimpson has been embraced by the community, it is a real sign of possibility, of hope. I don’t know of any other park where you just walk this every day for a week, and you will not see a piece of trash.”

“Conservation for the community, by the community…” is written on the sign marking the entrance to Stimpson Family Nature Reserve. That phrase represents the Trust’s commitment to community-focused conservation and honors the ongoing and unique partnership with Whatcom County Parks and Recreation.

“I think a lot of what makes the Trust really engaging for people is that you’re developing a relationship with them,” Chris observes, “while working toward conservation goals.”Moench recalled the process of working alongside the Clark family to create a conservation easement that protected Clark’s Point, just south of Fairhaven in Chuckanut Bay, from further development.

“My strongest memories from the whole engagement around Clark’s Point were sitting down with Doug and Peggy Clark and talking with them, asking questions about their relationship with Clark’s Point,” Chris recalls. “They purchased Clark’s Point, and eventually, they had three children, each of whom were allocated a little piece on the point to build their house. One of their children, Patrice Clark, really drove the family’s commitment towards conservation and embraced the concept of a conservation easement with Whatcom Land Trust.”

Due to the property’s prominence, The Clark’s Point Conservation Easement, created in 1990, was a turning point for the Trust. As Rand puts it, “Everybody in Whatcom County pretty much knows where Clark’s Point is. If you can protect Clark’s Point, you’re an organization worth paying attention to.”

Scaling Up in Recent Years


Governors Point. Photo by John D’Onofrio


As the Land Trust has continued to grow and protect more properties, they have worked to align conservation strategies with other community groups like the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA), with the Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Indian Tribe, and with other government entities working toward shared conservation values.

In 2018, Rand was awarded the first Bellingham Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Land Trust took on its largest land protection initiative yet—the Skookum Creek Wildlife Corridor. Consisting of 2,200 acres of forest, uplands, wetlands, and riparian habitat surrounding two miles of Skookum Creek, this initiative protected a critical cold-water source for the South Fork Nooksack River. In recent years, water levels in the South Fork have become too low and too warm to support salmon populations. Multiple long-term research projects showed that different active forest management practices can result in more available water in the watershed. The Trust aims to implement these management practices in the uplands of the Skookum Wildlife Corridor to increase the flow of clean, cold water into the South Fork.

“Protecting the Skookum Creek Wildlife Corridor was made possible by all of the community members and partners that were involved in the process. We were able to work with the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe, the private timber company Weyerhaeuser, the Conservation Alliance, and with Trust donors to make this happen,” explains Interim Co-Executive Director and long-time Stewardship Director Jenn Mackey. “It’s really a representation of the larger community effort to recover salmon populations and all the species that depend on them while developing healthy, functioning hydrology in the Nooksack River System.” 

Point Whitehorn. Photo by John D’Onofrio

The Trust is also collaborating with the Nooksack Indian Tribe, Whatcom County, and Evergreen Land Trust on another large landscape project affecting the South Fork Nooksack River. The Stewart Mountain Community Forest is slated to bring 5,500 acres of forestland into local ownership so it can be managed for the benefit of the local community. The project will enhance watershed health and improve water quality and quantity, promote an ecological forestry-based economy for living-wage jobs, increase biodiversity, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat while expanding community access for cultural uses and non-motorized recreation. The Trust purchased the first 550 acres on Stewart Mountain in October 2022 and is currently working with project partners to purchase the remaining land.

Projects like Skookum Creek and Stewart Mountain are responsive to current community needs and are centered on intentional, inclusive community engagement. Collectively, the protection and management of Trust properties significantly impact habitat health and connectivity, river system function, and climate resilience.

Carving Birds and Conserving Land 


Photo courtesy of Whatcom Land Trust


To celebrate 40 years of conservation efforts, the Whatcom Museum, in close partnership with the Whatcom Land Trust, is presenting an exhibition of Rand Jack’s carved bird sculptures, Carving Birds and Conserving Land.

From Whatcom County cedar butternut to catalpa wood, maple burls to yew wood to curly redwood, Rand artfully carves nut hatches and rufous-sided towhees, dippers and kingfishers, ravens and woodpeckers, owls and falcons, herons, sandhill cranes and shorebirds. Most of the wood used is locally sourced from friends or gathered from his forested property in Whatcom County. 

Rand is driven by his excitement and fascination when cracking open a stump to discover the unique characteristics of the wood’s interior features. “I saw that the curvilinear shape of birds was the ideal way to display wood. Carving birds combines my love of birds and wood. The graceful shape of birds, honed by evolution, is an ideal place to display the grain patterns, color variations, and richness of wood—combining two of nature’s creations. After 40 years of bird carving, I am still excited when I open a block of wood to discover what is inside. Sometimes I spend a whole day just trying to guess how to best locate a bird in a particular piece of wood,” explains Rand. “Carving a bird makes me try to understand what that kind of bird really looks like and then make subtle adjustments to accommodate the habituated expectations of the human eye.”   

Rand notes that his perspective on natural systems, conservation, human impacts, and birds has been significantly influenced by his extensive travel about the world, almost always with his wife, Dana. 

After law school, Rand, Dana, and Lorita, the parrot, spent six months in a Volkswagen camper van, driving on virtually every passable road in Central America. Since then, he has explored some of the most exotic places in the world. He has trapped and banded birds in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon Basin and Skagit County, lived in Nepal for a year, trekking into remote areas of the Himalayas, tracked lemurs in Madagascar, canoed the Zambezi River, and walked a safari in Zambia. He’s sea kayaked the west coast of Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlotte Islands (now Haida Gwaii), and parts of central Alaska. He and his family have also explored a good bit of the USA. Rand’s own 40-acre backyard in the Mt. Baker foothills is protected by a Trust conservation easement.

Carving Birds and Conserving Land brings together 20 of his sculptures, all tucked into and around the bird displays in the museum’s John M. Edson Hall of Birds in Old City Hall. It illuminates how Rand puts into practice—through his artistic pursuits and his work with the Trust—his commitment to conserving and stewarding the natural world and making it available for responsible use by those who live here and visitors seeking the beauty of nature.  

Photo courtesy of Whatcom Land Trust

Carving Birds and Conserving Land will be on exhibition at the Whatcom Museum (Old City Hall) through October 27.

Claire Johnston serves as Whatcom Land Trust’s Communications Director, where she helps grow a conservation-minded community. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Science and Resource Management from the University of Washington. When Claire is out of the office, you can almost always find her on a trail accompanied by her dog, Chowder. Learn more about the Whatcom Land Trust here.

One comment

  1. Michael Griffith

    Rand Jack and I have been friends for over 70 years, growing up and attending public schools together in Louisiana. This fine article only touches on one aspect of his life of caring, compassion and public service. He mentored and motivated countless young people as a Professor at Western Washington University. He cultivated a group of special friends deep in the mountains of Nepal where he supplied time, talent, and treasure to them. He has been deeply respected and important to a large group of us over the years. He is indeed a special person who I am proud to know.

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