“Thanks for making my lifetime dream come true!”
Those were the amazing words Harry Case wrote on a card he gave the staff of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust after he donated a conservation easement on 176-acres of forest on South Whidbey Island. The donation, valued at more than $1.5 million, gave up future development rights on the property. Without the conservation easement, the mature conifer forest could have been clear-cut and subdivided into 35 home sites.
Case, a Seattle resident who spent 40 years as a trombonist with the Seattle Symphony, made the donation to ensure that his beloved property will remain a forest forever. His dream began in the early 1940s when Harry was young and witnessed terrible logging practices on property near Glacier Peak in the North Cascades.
“Enough of this,” he remembers telling himself. “I’m going to get a piece of property that will never be logged like this one.”
In 1946, when he was just 18 years-old, he bought the 176-acres off Lone Lake Road on Whidbey Island in a tax-foreclosure sale. He was the same age as most of the trees on the property.Since then, Case has selectively logged and carefully managed the property to create a healthy, diverse and mature forest.
Over the past six decades, whenever he could arrange a couple of days off, Case came to Whidbey Island to implement his own ideas of how to manage a forest properly. Until a few years ago, he did much of the work himself, cutting trees, pulling them out with a small tractor, and planting hundreds of new trees. He started selectively harvesting the property in 1956 using his draft horse, Toby, to retrieve downed trees. He loaded the logs onto his 1941 two-ton Ford pickup and drove it to the local Waterman Mill in Langley until the mill closed in the mid-1960s. After that he delivered the wood to an Everett mill.
Shawn Connor, Case’s grandson and forest companion, studied forest ecology at the University of Washington. Six or seven years ago, after Shawn shared data about the effects of carbon dioxide on the atmosphere, Case decided to practice carbon sequestration by preserving his forest as a way to help offset the devastation of the world’s rain forests.
“We are digging a grave for civilization with all this carbon dioxide in the air,” Case said. “If we are going to save the environment, little people are going to have to do something. The government isn’t going to do it.”
With the help of the Land Trust, Case has achieved his lifetime dream: He has protected his beloved forest – forever. We will continue to oversee the conservation easement to ensure that his vision for the property is properly implemented in the future.