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Tribes Praise Approval Of Aquatic Reserve Expansion At Cherry Point

Courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources
A view of Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, north of Bellingham.

In what's being praised by local tribes as a renewed victory for tribal treaty rights, Washington state's Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve is gaining 45 acres that were once left out for possible development. 

The reserve, located north of Bellingham, has cultural significance for the Lummi Nation, which requested the expansion. The 45 acres area T-shaped cutout that was originally left out of the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve to accommodate the proposed Gateway Pacific shipping terminal.

After the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for that project last year to protect treaty fishing rights, the Lummi Indian Business Council asked for the protection. Goldmark said the state Department of Natural Resources conducted a thorough technical and environmental review - and the choice was clear.

“Because this will improve habitat for the Cherry Point herring and other species and ensures Lummi and other tribes of their right to fish in their usual and accustomed places. This decision is in the public’s interest and protects state owned aquatic lands,” Goldmark said.  

He says over 5,000 comments came in response to the request, expressing overwhelming support for the expansion.  It means future developments in the area would have to show “no degradation” of the aquatic reserve.  

Following the announcement, the Lummi Nation issued a statement applauding the DNR’s decision. It called the decision “historic” and said the expansion permanently protects the sacred lands at Cherry Point, in the area that the Lummi people call "Xwe’chi’eXen."

“The expansion of the reserve today is just as significant to the Lummi people as the Corps’ decision,” said Jay Julius, council member of the Lummi Indian Business Council. “In May, we protected Cherry Point from a single project. Now it’s protected from any projects in the future.”

The Lummi's release included additional statements of praise from the Yakama Nation, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to