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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Announcing the PNW Conservation Film Festival - Apr 17, 2015

Just got word that there's a Conservation Film Fest coming up soon at the UW!
Here's the Facebook page: http://bit.ly/PNWFF
April 17, 5pm, Kane Hall at UW,
 $10 donation at the door. Here's the program:

Black Ice (Drilling for oil in the Russian Arctic) When the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise set sail to protest the first ever oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, none of the people on board could have known what was coming to their lives.

Return of the River (Removal of the Elwha dams on the Olympic Peninsula) Over 100 years ago, dams were built on the Elwha River to provide electricity for the Northern Olympic Peninsula. When the dams went up, the salmon, the life sustainer for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the salmon could not. See the inspiring story of how the dams came down.

Gwich'in Women Speak (Gwich’in Women talk about their lives and their dependence on Arctic nature). The Gwich’in People have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years. Their women talk about the importance of the Arctic Coastal Plain and nature is to their lives.

If Wilderness Could SpeakOlympic Wilderness (features the sights & sounds of Olympic National Park) This films shows what you can see, hear, and experience in Olympic National Park wilderness.

The Meaning of Wild (shows the values & beauty of the Tongass wilderness in SE Alaska) The Tongass National Forest runs up most of the SE Alaska panhandle. You see its coastal border from the “Inside Passage.”

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chris Morgan supports grizzly recovery


Our "Beartrek" friend Chris Morgan wanted us to pass along his comments in support of the Grizzly Bear Recovery DEIS for the North Cascades:

I emigrated to the USA in 1997. Part of the appeal of this amazing country is something that many people here take for granted - it's WILDNESS. When I hike the mountains of my native home in the UK, there is something missing. Grizzly bears have not walked those hills for one thousand years. And with them went all sense of wildness. The window of opportunity to restore some of our wild planet has long been closed in most parts of the world. But it is different in Washington State. Here, the window is still open, and it is a moment in time we should grasp with pride and excitement. The grizzly bear will sit atop a suite of majestic carnivores that STILL call this home - wolves, lynx, mountain lions, black bears, wolverine….

But it's clear that the tiny number of grizzly bears thought to exist in the North Cascades can't recover without active help in the form of augmentation. The history of this most successful and historically widespread of the bear species shows that with a little support, recovery should be not only possible, but widely beneficial in so many ways. Their ecological and cultural roles are clear, but their economic, and spiritual roles should also be considered. Our future depends upon the types of wild places that grizzly bears represent. 

I've been fortunate enough to work on bear research, education, and conservation projects all over the world for the last 25 years. In 1994 and 1995 I captured, radio-collared and tracked grizzly bears by foot for 2000 miles over 2 seasons in the Canadian Rockies, learning from them as I went. I only saw a handful. Since then I've spent thousands of hours among grizzly bears in Alaska, and I've been lucky enough to escort some wonderful people to enjoy them first hand.
But my proudest work has been here with the creation of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (now Western Wildlife Outreach). We have worked since 2001 to bring an accurate understanding about grizzly bears and recovery to local communities of the North Cascades - in close partnership with state and federal agencies, and with the IGBC. But most importantly, with local community members. And wherever we go we find a very high level of support for grizzly bear recovery. Our rigorous polls tell us that local people think bears are an essential component of the North Cascades ecosystem (81% agree), that they were here before humans and have an inherent right to live here (76% agree), that they should be preserved for future generations (86% agree). 79% said they support recovery. The vast majority STRONGLY agreed with these statements. 

It's unfortunate that the vocal minority opposed to grizzly bear recovery muddies the water with inaccuracies and myth - something that the grizzly bear has faced since the days of Lewis and Clark. The economics also speak for themselves. Studies in Yellowstone have shown that people flock to the place to see grizzly bears - they are THE prime reward. The presence of grizzly bears there results in 155 local jobs and $10M per year injected into local communities. Research shows that people would pay even MORE than they already do to enter the park if they were guaranteed to see a griz. 

My work as a TV host for PBS, BBC, National Geographic allows me the privilege of sharing the wonders of the wild with people, and the grizzly bear holds a special place in viewers' minds. Our films about them have held audiences of many millions captive all over the world. For good reason it seems. People find them irresistible and fascinating. In fact, it is VERY difficult for a reasonable person to argue that grizzly bears are a bad thing. The facts speak for themselves. But grizzly bears are wild animals, and CAN be dangerous - many people fear them for this reason. We should not shy from the truth, but merely place it in context, and treat people's opinions with respect and consideration. 

I'm clearly an advocate for the wild, and for me the grizzly bear is the clearest manifestation of wilderness alive in the world today. But I'm also pragmatic and fair. Steps towards recovery have to be open, transparent, communicated well, inclusive, and with consideration for those who might be at first deny the benefits of bear recovery. Social science has proven that effective programs are based on fairness, familiarity, and control - when stakeholders feel that they are being treated fairly, have access to knowledge to increase familiarity, AND feel that they have a sense of control in matters, then much can be accomplished. Education and outreach should be given the highest possible priority as a result. Not just teaching passive audiences, but engaging active communities in the process - buy-in will be key, and will result in true benefits for all. Outreach can help stakeholders and communities move with the recovery process, checking off practical and emotional needs along the way like the need for information on safety and sanitation, ecology and behavior, and the recovery process itself. Time is on our side to do this right, and open communication is key.

But beyond the practical considerations, grizzly bears keep a part of us close to nature. They represent the things we all need - clean air, fresh water, intact natural resources. Like us, they are demanding - but they are also our best ally on a rapidly developing planet. The restoration of this unique grizzly bear population represents a golden opportunity for bears, for conservation, for our world. Let's show the rest of the world that this corner of the United States is ready to do something special, and huge for the natural world that we owe so much.  

Whether we are ever lucky enough to see one or not, just knowing they are out there is a powerful tonic in a world that needs a little more nature. They teach us about ourselves, keep us humble, and are a part of our wild west heritage - perhaps THE most vivid part imaginable. If you don't believe me, just take a hike in the Scottish Highlands. 

Chris Morgan, MS Ecology
Ecologist, Conservationist, bear specialist
TV Host/Film Producer

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Wild Cascades, Winter 14-15, will arrive in members' mailboxes soon!


Here's a preview of the new issue of The Wild Cascades, coming soon to members' mailboxes and online in a few weeks. Want your copy hot off the press? Join NCCC!

Index-Galena road fix price escalates — Rick McGuire
Thinning proposed at Deception Pass and Dugualla State Parks — Dave Fluharty
Sustainable roads — the next steps — Ed Henderson
NCCC Actions, July 2014 – February 2015
Yakima Plan update — Karl Forsgaard
Public can’t afford to subsidize new water projects — John Osborn and Ken Hammond, The Spokane Spokesman-Review
Pratt River Valley and environs now in Alpine Lakes Wilderness — Rick McGuire
The original “starfish”
A rough winter for glaciers — Tom Hammond
Mother Nature, not the National Park Service, closed the Stehekin Road — Dave Fluharty and Carolyn McConnell
Driving to Stehekin — Ed Henderson
New dams and diversions — Rachel Paschal Osborn
Okanogan-Wenatchee Travel Management update — Karl Forsgaard
North Cascades grizzly bear EIS process launched
Morning Star additions and Reiter connections — Mike Town
The Corvid’s eye
Board members, Park managers discuss helicopters near Cascade Pass
Polly Dyer birthday
Holden Mine remediation to continue at least one more summer

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Public meetings on North Cascades grizzly bears announced

Conservation groups call for a show of support for restoring a Northwest native

Today, Feb 13th, the National Park Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the official start of a public process to plan for the restoration of a grizzly bear population in Washington’s North Cascades Ecosystem.

Conservation groups were thrilled that the announcement, part of the Grizzly Bear Restoration
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the North Cascades Ecosystem, marks the first formal step in the recovery of an important native species on the brink of disappearing in the Pacific Northwest. Public engagement is the next step in a three-year process that the agencies announced in August of 2014.

A public comment period will be open through March 26, 2015. Comments can be made during a series of open houses, online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEG, or via regular mail or hand delivery at: Superintendent’s Office, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 State Route 20, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284.

The public open houses will be held at:
  • Tuesday, March 3rd in Winthrop from 5-7:30 p.m. at the Red Barn Upper Meeting Room
  • Wednesday, March 4th in Okanogan from 5-7:30 p.m. at the Okanogan PUD Meeting Room
  • Thursday, March 5th in Wenatchee from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Chelan County PUD Auditorium
  • Monday, March 9th in Cle Elum from 5-7:30 p.m. at the Putnam Centennial Center Meeting Room
  • Tuesday, March 10th in Seattle from 5-7:30 p.m. at the Seattle Pacific University Bertona, Classroom 1
  • Wednesday, March 11th in Bellingham from 5-7:30 p.m. in the Bellingham Central Library Lecture Room
Conservation organizations such as NCCC urge the public to attend these meetings and share their support for restoring this vital native species!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Creating Ideal Trails" in The Mountaineer

"In the last issue, in our column Trail Talk, we ran an article about the overcrowding of trails. In this issue, we are giving two members of the North Cascades Conservation Council (NCCC) a chance to respond. Like all of our articles, the opinions expressed in these columns are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent views of The Mountaineers. With that, we are excited to encourage fellow members of the outdoor community to discuss and even debate their views (in a friendly fashion of course). After all, the wild nearby is not just something that we explore once in a while. It’s a place in our hearts that we cherish, love and protect."

Read the article by NCCC's Ed Henderson and Rick McGuire by clicking HERE.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"The Wild Nearby" book's companion website

The North Cascades: Finding Beauty and Renewal in the Wild Nearby from Braided River has a companion website, with links to conservation and other proposals for the area. The website is http://www.wildnearby.org -check it out!


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Sunday, December 21, 2014

PRATT WILDERNESS and SAUSAGE MAKING

PRATT WILDERNESS and SAUSAGE MAKING

Commentary on the Alpine Lakes Wilderness expansion and other, less attractive aspects of the NDAA public lands riders, in the Cascades and elsewhere

After years of work by NCCC, the Alpine Lakes Protection Society (ALPS) and others, Congress finally passed legislation to add the Pratt River valley to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness on December 12 2014. It was the final stop of a long journey, not without its ups and downs, especially at the very end.

The effort to save the Pratt valley got its start back in the late 1980's when the Forest Service announced plans for a very big timber sale there. The lower parts of the Pratt valley were railroad logged in the 1930's, and have now grown back over the intervening decades into naturally regenerated, diverse forest. That forest has been growing noticeably nicer in the decades since NCCCers started going there. Ever year it looks better than the year before.

View down the Pratt River valley (photo by Harry Romberg)


A certain amount of old growth was left behind in the Pratt valley, mostly on upper slopes that were uneconomic to log during those Depression years. The Forest Service sale in the late 80's proposed to cut old growth above the "bathtub ring," the line where the original logging stopped, where second growth forest below meets old growth above. The second growth has a finer textured appearance than the old growth forest above, though the effect is getting less noticeable over time as the second growth gets bigger and more like the old growth. "Bathtub ring," a term coined by Harvey Manning, describes how these kind of valleys (another is the North Fork Skykomish,) look, since the old growth / second growth line can often extend all the way around a valley. Some of the second growth (below the "bathtub ring,") was targeted for cutting as well.


Volunteer conservationists went into action to save the Pratt as soon as the sale was announced. Len Gardner, later to be president of the Alpine Lakes Protection Society, and a longtime NCCC member, was joined by Don DeWitt, a forest lover, and Linda Winter, now a forestry PhD, and by Jim Stevenson, a native of South Carolina who became a defender of northwest forests.

The "Pratt River Coalition" attracted wide support. This was when the timber juggernaut that had deforested so much of the National Forest landscape was beginning to run out of steam. People were upset at what had happened to their National Forests, which had been tremendously overcut. The Pratt sale was scraping the bottom of the barrel, going back in for a second pass at a valley that had already been largely, but not entirely, cleaned out.

A number of approaches were tried in the effort to spare the Pratt. Then-congressman John Miller, representing the 1st congressional district in North Seattle, introduced a bill to designate the Pratt River as Wild & Scenic. After a long controversy, and much publicity, the Forest Service decided to back down. The sale, with its thirteen miles of new road and new road bridge across the Middle Fork Snoqualmie, was cancelled. It could be looked upon as one of the dying gasps of the timber beast that had for so long devoured the National Forests. 

The effort to stop the Pratt sale sparked a realization in the conservation community that not just the Pratt, but the entire Middle Fork Snoqualmie valley, was worth saving. The valley had been allowed to become a sort of "no man's land," effectively taken over by shooters, dumpers, squatters, and general nastiness. A concerted campaign began to consolidate ownership, close off spur roads and clean up the squalid, muddy, garbage strewn messes at the road ends and elsewhere.

The Pratt campaign grew into the Middle Fork campaign, which has enjoyed great success over the years. The valley is now 98% publicly owned, and nearly all of the state DNR land in the lower valley has been protected in Natural Resource Conservation Areas, the state's near-equivalent of Wilderness. Many new trails and facilities are planned or have been built, including a new campground, the first in the Northwest in decades.
Map courtesy of Alpine Lakes Protection Society: www.alpinelakes.org

Even though the Forest Service cancelled the big timber sale in the Pratt, there was always a strong desire to permanently protect the valley by adding it to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and prevent any new timber sales. In 2007 the Pratt valley was located in the 8th Congressional district, represented by Congressman Dave Reichert of Auburn. Reichert took an interest in the Pratt and the Middle Fork, and in 2007 he introduced a bill to add the Pratt to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

A couple of years after Reichert's bill was introduced in the House, Senator Patty Murray, fresh from her triumph with Wild Sky, joined Reichert and introduced a companion bill in the Senate, with the addition of Wild & Scenic status for part of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie river.

In taking up the cause of protecting the Pratt, Reichert set himself apart from most Republicans of today, harkening back to an earlier era when Republicans were conservation leaders. Reichert took on the prevailing ideology of his party. He received no help from his fellow Republican Doc Hastings, who was chair of the Resources committee that controlled the bill's fate, until the very end. Reichert deserves credit for keeping at it for over seven years and seeing it through. He also deserves credit for breathing back some of the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt into the Republican party.

Patty Murray also continued her own tradition of taking on conservation efforts and seeing them through, done right. The Wild Sky Wilderness, signed into law in 2008, protected over 100,000 acres, much of it prime lowland forest. It also protected over 25 miles of salmon streams, a first for Wilderness in the Cascades. Protecting the Pratt was a natural follow-on from Wild Sky for her. 

The Pratt bill passed the House, and the bill passed the Senate, but never in the same Congress, until just now. In December 2014 the bill was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, a "must pass" vehicle that was loaded up with all sorts of things that had nothing to do with defense.

Some provisions attached to the NDAA were very bad indeed from a conservation view. A mine in Arizona was fast-tracked for Rio Tinto corporation, over the strenuous objections of Native Americans. 70,000 acres of prime lowland old growth forest in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska was handed over to Sealaska Corporation for liquidation, a terrible blow to that lovely area. Close to home, language was inserted to allow a Wilderness boundary change in order to build a new road ten miles up the upper Stehekin valley. Fortunately, no money was appropriated for what would be a very expensive road to construct, so that battle, at least, is not yet over.

No one asked NCCC, ALPS, nor any other conservation group we know of, whether or not we wanted the Pratt Wilderness included in the NDAA. It was put there without our knowledge, and no one deigned to ask our opinion. NCCC joined a number of other conservation organizations to ask that all public lands provisions be removed from the NDAA, so that their merits could be individually assessed before being passed into law, but to no avail.

Lawmaking has often been compared to sausage making. Both processes can be hard for sensitive individuals. Both can be downright offensive at times. NCCC would have preferred a "no action" alternative, even if that meant not getting the Pratt wilderness additions at this time, but we were not given that choice. Congress makes the laws. It is good to see the Pratt valley finally achieve permanent protection, and very unfortunate to see many other harmful provisions enacted. One the whole, the NDAA rider package was a net loss, and a big one, for conservation and public lands. All we can do is recognize the good parts, and continue to oppose the bad parts, and keep working on the issues like the Stehekin road where there is still hope.