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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cascade views from the Skagit

A day trip up into the Skagit delta netted some nice views of the Cascades late this afternoon:
Three Fingers (right, above), & Koma Kulshan (below)

Friday, February 26, 2010

NOW on PBS tonight: Hunting Wolves, Saving Wolves

The weekly PBS news program "NOW" features a wolf story tonight:

"Last year the Obama Administration removed federal protection from some of the wolves that had been restored to the northern Rockies under the Endangered Species Act. The move paved the way for controversial state-regulated wolf hunts."

Watch the segment here:


Wolf advocates strongly oppose the administration's decision saying the three states in the region, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming need a cohesive management plan that allows for a much larger wolf population. "It was very disappointing when Secretary Salazar in the Obama Administration, signed off on this rushed-through Bush administration delisting package for wolves," said Doug Honnold, a lawyer with Earthjustice, who is representing conservation groups challenging the government's decision.

The return of the gray wolf to the northern Rockies is considered to be the most successful wildlife reintroduction project in the history of the 27 year old Endangered Species Act. In 1995 and 1996, 66 gray wolves we relocated from Canada to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. Today there are more than 1,600 wolves in the region.

For its part the federal government says that just 300 wolves are needed for legitimate recovery in the region. "Wolves are back and there's plenty of them in plenty of places. They're never really going anywhere," said Ed Bangs, the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More than a dozen conversation groups have sued the Interior Department to return federal protection to the northern Rockies wolves. Some believe the result of this legal debate is a litmus test for the Obama Administration's overall approach to wildlife issues and the Endangered Species Act.

WTA publishes special geology feature

The latest issue of Washington Trails Magazine, published by the Washington Trails Association, has a colorful special section on Washington geology. It includes a lead essay on the overall geology of the state by N3C board member Phil Fenner, and a interview with Western Washington University geology professor Scott Babcock that will make you realize geolgists are actually a fun-loving bunch.

The next issue will feature stories of Cascade volcanoes and glaciers, including an article on the Hannegan caldera, northeast of Mount Shuksan in North Casades National Park.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Goldmark initiates creation of Blanchard Mountain NRCA

New Conservation Area would protect land in Skagit County forever

OLYMPIA – Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark today announced his intention of establishing a new Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) at Blanchard Mountain. This new NRCA would build on the “Blanchard Strategy,” a process initiated under the previous Commissioner of Public Lands to determine the fate of Blanchard Mountain. This new use would be consistent with the Strategy, but provide stronger, enduring protections for the area.

“Blanchard Mountain is a treasure for the state of Washington and needs to be protected in perpetuity,” said Commissioner Goldmark. “By creating an NRCA for 1600 acres on Blanchard Mountain and maintaining the balance as a working forest, we can ensure that area is available to the public for its amazing recreation opportunities, rich wildlife habitat and sweeping views for generations to come.”

DNR will begin the formal process to create the Blanchard Mountain NRCA in March. Replacement working lands will be purchased as funds are available. There is currently $5.5 million allotted by the Legislature for purchasing working forests in Skagit County.

“Maintaining the working lands base in northwestern Washington is important to keep small operators and the infrastructure for the forest products industry healthy,” said Commissioner Goldmark. “We will work with our partners in the Legislature in the coming years to fully fund the replacement of state trust lands to ensure that conservation and working landscapes go hand-in-hand.”

DNR’s Natural Resource Conservation Areas
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is currently the steward of 131,000 acres of conservation areas in Natural Area Preserves and NRCAs throughout the state.

Conservation areas (NRCAs) protect outstanding examples of native ecosystems, habitat for endangered, threatened and sensitive plants and animals, and scenic landscapes. Environmental education and low-impact public use are appropriate where they do not impair the resource values of the area protected. The program was established in 1987.

Habitats protected in NRCAs include coastal and high-elevation forests, alpine lakes, wetlands, scenic vistas, nesting birds of prey, rocky headlands, and unique plant communities. Critical habitat is provided for many plant and animal species, including rare species. Conservation areas also protect geologic, cultural, historic, and archeological sites.

Media Contact: Aaron Toso, Director of Communications & Outreach, 360-902-1023 aaron.toso@dnr.wa.gov

Monday, February 22, 2010

DNR field day at Reiter Forest

View of Wild Sky peaks Gunn, Merchant and Baring from DNR field day at Reiter Forest
 2/20/10 - Photo by Karl Forsgaard

It's "Gun Day 1" in National Parks

Backpacker.com's "Daily Dirt" column online reports:

Guns Now Allowed In Most National Parks

This past weekend, all but 20 national parks began allowing guns
After years of wrangling, it finally happened: Guns are allowed in national parks where they don't violate state rules. That makes it okay for owners of shotguns, rifles, and handguns to possess their arms in all but 20 national parks and 551 national wildlife refuges.

The rule change was tacked on to a widely supported credit-card reform bill, and counts as a major victory for the NRA over gun-control advocates. Several influential groups, including the The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, argued against allowing guns in national parks, claiming problems with poaching would only increase. They also pointed to the comparatively low violent crime rate enjoyed by national parks visitors.

Getting guns in national parks has been a major trophy for the NRA for years; they claim that guns are useful tools and could help prevent attacks from both aggressive animals and humans in a place where help could be hours away.

So that's it—the debate is settled for now. Just don't go shooting or hunting to celebrate—it's still illegal to hunt or discharge firearms in national parks.

—Ted Alvarez

Friday, February 19, 2010

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival now open for sign-up!

The Othello Sandhill Crane Festival is a great excuse for those of us on the wet side to get over to the dry side of the mountains for a little space and serentity in spring when the shrub-steppe is blooming and the SANDHILL CRANES are migrating through the Columbia basin! This year CraneFest happens March 26-28th, and sign-up just opened. Call them at 1-866-sand-hil and leave a message, they'll call you back the same evening. The crane and owl-viewing tours are limited and fill fast, so jump in now for the best chance getting in on one of these transcendent experiences in the channeled scablands.

Check-out a slideshow from previous years:



Some highlights of this year's festival include:

  • Estella Leopold, daughter of Aldo Leopold, will speak on the "Postglacial Biogeographic History of the Puget Sound Area."
  • Paul Bannick, photographer and author of The Owl and the Woodpecker will give the presentation at the Saturday evening banquet.
  • Bob Carson, professor of geology and environmental studies at Whitman College, will present on his book Where the Great River Bends: A Natural and Human History of the Columbia at Wallula.
  • Gary Ivey of the International Crane Foundation will give the whole story of the cranes of the pacific flyway.
  • Bob Gillespie of Wenatchee Valley College will talk on native plants.
  • Mike Denny of the Walla Walla Conservation District will talk on Wallula Gap's "Life on an Island Desert." It's Mike's 13th year at Othello CraneFest!
  • Bruce Bjornstad will lecture on the Ice Age Floods and Channeled Scablands and lead a tour through the Drumheller Channels National Natural Landmark
Lots of other talks on topics as diverse as photography, botany and regional history run all day Saturday in the Othello High School. There's a half-day group bike ride, and a big childrens' area with lots of activities. Events will be listed on their website soon, but in the meantime the best bet is to call and leave a message, and when they call you back ask for tour dates/times, choose some and book those right away. They'll then mail you their program and you can arrange the rest. Get a jump on it!

It's the tours to prime crane- and owl-viewing locations that really make the event, of course, and they do fill-up fast as soon as they start selling tickets (as in... now!). So call them at
1-866-sand-hil  
and book it! Also note that Othello area lodging is scarce so you'll want to get that booked right away too!

And consider taking some short hikes in the North Cascades if you're crossing the passes on the way to and from Othello! WTA has some great ideas for hikes along the way.

Legendary Mountaineer and Conservationist Wolf Bauer to be honored by Senate 2/26

Feb. 18, 2010 *Legendary Mountaineer and Conservationist to be honored by Senate February 26*
*OLYMPIA* – Wolf Bauer, legendary mountaineer, kayaker, environmental educator and conservationist will be honored by the Legislature for his many achievements and for his 98th birthday on Friday, February 26 in Olympia. Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, will present a resolution acknowledging his contributions on the Senate floor at 10:00 AM. There will be a gathering in the State Reception Room following the ceremony so that people can meet this remarkable man.

Now living in Anacortes, Mr. Bauer is famous as a literal and figurative trailblazer for outdoor sports in Washington State. He began skiing with the Mountaineers club as a boy scout in 1929. In 1936 his team won the famous Patrol Race, an 18 mile dash between the Mountaineer lodges at Snoqualmie Pass and Stampede Pass in 4hrs, 37 minutes – a time that has never been beaten. In 1935 he and Jack Hossack made the first ascent of Ptarmigan Ridge on the North Face of Mount Rainier. In 1948 he founded the Washington Foldboat Club which became the Washington Kayak Club in the 1960’s. He helped design the modern fiberglass kayak and the sport of kayaking. His hand-drawn guide to Washington waterways is still used by kayakers to this day.

Bauer has founded and guided numerous outdoor groups including the Mountain Rescue Council and the Washington Environmental Council. As the leading shore resources consultant in the Northwest, he drafted the Natural Shorelines Act which was incorporated in the Shorelines Management Act of 1971. As an engineer he worked to restore the shorelines on many Puget Sound beaches including the lighthouse in West Seattle and at Golden Gardens.

His proudest achievements have been his work with State Parks. He led the fight to preserve the Green River Gorge. In 2009, State Parks renamed the lodge at Flaming Geyser in Wolf Bauer’s honor. His love for the rivers and shorelines, the mountains and trails of Washington have inspired generations of outdoor enthusiasts.
Mr. Bauer stays active by walking his neighborhood and hiking the trails of nearby Washington Park in Anacortes.

He welcomes interviews. Please contact Lynn Hyde with the Mountaineers to make arrangements. She can be reached at 206 619 4427 or _parkehyde@comcast.net_ .
*What: Senate honors Wolf Bauer, *_*Senate Resolution 8689*_
*When: Friday, February 26 from 10-11:30*
*Where: Legislative Building, State Reception Room * # # # For more information: Chase Gallagher, 360-786-7326 For interviews: Sen. Kevin Ranker, 360-786-7678

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Look for us on March 3rd at the UW Conservation Colloquium and UW Climbing Club

N3C and the American Alps Legacy Project will have a table at the upcoming UW Conservation Colloquium, Wednesday March 3, 1-5PM in the UW HUB Ballroom.
The Conservation Colloquium is sponsored by the UW Conservation of Living Systems Graduate Program within the College of the Environment. For questions please contact conscoll@uw.edu.

Afterward, at 6 pm, American Alps will present to the UW Climbing Club at their monthly meeting.

Asarco's unlikely boon to the environment - from Crosscut.com

Crosscut.com author Daniel Jack Chasan reports there that "$10.8 million [of the Asarco bankruptcy settlement] will be used to clean up Monte Cristo and other old mining sites in northwest and eastern Washington." Those sites include Holden and Azurite mines as well, deep in the heart of the North Cascades, surrounded by wilderness. Diligence will be required to assure that the mine cleanup operations in the North Cascades are done in ways that do not do further harm to the sensitive environments there. Also, it's a good reminder to do everything we can to seek changes to the 1872 Mining Law that permitted (or you might say even encouraged) these environmental disasters.

The Asarco bankruptcy boon resulted from a remarkable stroke of serendipity -- the price of copper went up as Asarco was reaching a final bankruptcy settlement, and rather than "a few pennies on the dollar," the settlement became, just at the end of last year...
the biggest environmental bankruptcy settlement in U.S. history: $1.79 billion. "This is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," [Kevin Rochlin of the EPA] says. "We are all pinching ourselves."
Read the full story of the settlement at: http://crosscut.com/2010/02/18/science-environment/19603/

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Grant award from the Tulalip Tribes!

N3C's Executive Director, Jim Davis, announced today:
I received notice this past weekend that the American Alps project has been awarded a grant from the Tulalip Tribes.  Tribal support for American Alps is particularly encouraging.


Many thanks to the Tulalip Tribes!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Polly Dyer's 90th Birthday Bash


Well over two hundred people gathered at The Mountaineers clubhouse at Sand Point on Saturday February 13th to celebrate Polly Dyer's 90th birthday. Over the course of about three hours many people shared their memories of and stories about some of the multitudinous conservation battles that Polly has been at the center of for well over half a century.

Even a succession of speakers over three hours were barely able to scratch the surface as far as relating Polly's remarkable history, and her encouraging effects on those around her. One after another, people talked about how Polly had managed to pull off one or another conservation coup, many of which had been regarded as impossible dreams until Polly came along.

Polly has always had the gift for quietly transforming things once thought impossible into things not only possible, but real. All across the landscape of the Northwest, place after place now colored dark green on the maps got that way because of Polly. It's hard to think of anyone else who has played more of a role in protecting more places than Polly. For longer than many of the people in that room on Saturday have been alive, wherever there has been a conservation gathering, you have been able to count on seeing the "Marmot" license plate parked outside somewhere.

Polly's onetime employer at the U. W.'s Institute for Environmental Studies, Gordon Orians, related how Polly, as one of his most productive full time employees, seemed to accomplish more, not just when at work but also when away, than anyone he had ever known, something he could not scientifically explain. His only hypothesis was that Polly was actually a set of twins, or more likely, triplets, since she seemed to be everywhere and do everything. He is still pondering the mystery.

It's probably fair to say that everyone in the room had one, or many, Polly stories that could have been told. Tim McNulty of Olympic Park Associates related how as a young apprentice tree hugger, he once followed Polly through corridor after corridor, and down into labyrinthine subterranean passages somewhere far below the U.S. Capitol, finally winding up in the staff room for one of the Congressional Interior committees. Everyone there knew and respected Polly. McNulty went on to learn that one of the more powerful weapons at his disposal when things weren't going well politically was to simply say, "you know, I don't think Polly would like that...." after which, more often than not, things would start looking better.

The passage of years hasn't slowed Polly down one bit. Polly is continuing to take on tasks that would wear out people half her age. The bio-diesel powered car with the "Marmot" plates can be seen in place after place. Wherever there is important conservation work being done in Washington state, there you will find Polly Dyer.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Polly Dyer's birthday party this Saturday (February 13th) at 1:00 at the Mountaineers Building

This is a reminder about Polly Dyer's birthday party this Saturday (February 13th) at 1:00 at the Mountaineers Building at 7700 Sandpoint Way in Seattle.  See you there.


In recognition of the body of Polly’s life work, Congressman Inslee made a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives.  That statement is now a part of the Congressional Record.

The Congressman had hoped to attend the event on Saturday, but a scheduling conflict prevents him from participating in the event.  He asked if staff could attend in his place to read the short congressional statement and present Polly with the document.

Ted

TED WILLHITE
Economic Recovery Coordinator
Office of U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-01)
 

We also have a Proclamation from King County Executive Dow Constantine, and a Proclamation from Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, because February 13 is Polly Dyer Day!
 ---------------------

And consider this: "Polly Dyer... undertook a 1400+ mile Alaska bike trip in 1949 along with her friend Dixie Woodburn, both on 3-speed Schwinns" 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wolves and Reef Sharks: Top Predators in Wild Lands and Coral Reefs

The presence of wolves in Yellowstone changes the patterns of movement of elk enough that it influences the course of streams.  The sea otter example is a classic.  The sea otters live in kelp beds, and eat urchins among other animals.  If the otters are removed, the urchin population explodes, they eat the bases of all the kelp, and what is left is called "urchin barrens."  I remember Grand Canyon had too many deer, they ate all the low branches on fir trees and killed any young trees, all because all the cougars had been shot.  The thing I'm into is reef sharks- on super remote reefs, there are huge numbers of reef sharks, and that has a huge effect on the other fish.  They have just discovered that places with more big predatory fish have less coral disease.  Where there are predators there are fewer little butterflyfish, and some of the butterflyfish eat coral polyps, and apparently transfer disease from one colony to the next, spreading the disease.  Those beautiful reefs you snorkeled and dove in Hawaii are radically different from a natural reef.  No sharks, tons of little fish.  They used to have "shark eradication" programs in Hawaii , killed thousands of sharks.  Reef sharks that wouldn't hurt a flea.
    Aldo Leopold recognized the problem, and Robert Paine named it.  Paine is at UW, and he is more famous for naming "keystone species."  Both came from his studies of the starfish on rocky coasts that control mussel populations- the starfish can stand only so much dessication so they can only get so far up on the rocks.  Above that the rocks can be covered with mussels, but below that there are few if any.  Remove the starfish and a few years later the lower rocks are covered with mussels.  The top predator controls the ecosystem, so it is a keystone species, and its removal causes a trophic cascade.  UW Zoology is where Paine is, and he does research out on a tiny island called "Tatoosh" off Olympic Penn. where nobody else except the lighthouse operator goes.
      The big problem is that humans love to remove the top predators, cougars, wolves, sharks, you name it.  So even our national parks and wilderness areas are not pristine in at least one important way, they lack their top predators, just totally missing chunk of the ecosystem.  Now you see what I'm fighting for on reefs, to get something even moderately close to a whole functioning ecosystem.  When a piece of the machine is missing, driving it like it is in good repair could be trouble.
-Guest post by Douglas Fenner, Coral Reef Ecologist, Dept. Marine & Wildlife Resources, American Samoa. Also see his article at: http://www.sharksavers.org/en/education/sharks-are-in-trouble/399-loss-of-large-fish-on-coral-reefs.html

"If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering."  Aldo Leopold

Also see this related item from High Country News, in an article on wolves in Colorado...

Biologists have long recognized the power of predators in ecosystems. In the 1930s, Aldo Leopold, who advocated wolf extirpation early in his career, began to realize that the killing of predators had helped create what he called "the modern curse of excess deer and elk." In 1980, ecologist Robert Paine coined the term "trophic cascades" to describe the ripple effects of predators on herbivores, and herbivores on plants. Researchers continue to investigate and debate exactly how trophic cascades operate, but they find these so-called top-down effects at work throughout the natural world: Predators ranging from mountain lions to otters to sea stars have dramatic impacts on the ecosystems they inhabit.”

An Enviro-Revival in the "American Alps" - Away.com

Away.com, an adventure and eco-tourism site, featured American Alps in a write-up on their blog recently! Check it out by clicking HERE
The North Cascades, they say, is the nation's best undiscovered gem.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Terror/Pinnacle/Triumph

Last Saturday was the ideal day for a spin up Hwy 20 (the future "North Cascades Parkway") for a look at the peaks. From the top of Thunder Knob, these peaks to the NW were in their glory, though with a lot less snow than usual for this time of year. Glancing at the map, they are probably in the Terror/Pinnacle/Triumph group, but I'm not certain. Anyone who can ID the peaks, please enter a comment! The tree in the foreground is a lodgepole pine, rare on the west side of the Cascades, but found here on this bald glaciated outcrop.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

WSDOT Reports on Opening of Hwy 20

I drove to the west side gate at the Ross Lake trailhead on Saturday and there was absolutely no snow. Ditto at the top of Thunder Knob (stay tuned for some photos). It got me to wondering if they might open the highway a little earlier than usual this year. Well...

This just in by email from WSDOT:
Hi all,

This is a “spring fever” e mail.  Yes, this “El Nino” winter has been pretty mild (especially compared to last winter’s January highway washouts when we had 200 state routes closed at one time!) 

I’ve gotten a couple of e mails asking if the North Cascades might open early.  If I were a betting man, I’d say yes. I could see it opening earlier than the last 40 year average, but probably not anything approaching ‘05’s March 10 opening. (The chart shows what happened that year – we were open 16 days and got clobbered with snow that closed the highway for another 10 days.)

Year-Open
2009 04-24
2008 05-01
2007 04-26
2006 05-01
2005 03-10 then 03-26 to 04-04 (temp. closure)
2004 04-08
2003 04-14
2002 05-07
2001 03-22
2000 03-30

See the Closure History web page.

(And, anticipating some of your “annual suggestion” e mails – WSDOT cannot legally set up a betting pool for an opening date…as much fun as it might sound!)

So, here’s the plan:

The Avalanche crew tentatively plans to go up the last week in February to do the reopening assessment. (That’s about their normal timing.)  

While we're always being urged to open the highway as soon as possible (preferably by the opening weekend of fishing season), I've also gotten e-mail from some recreation providers who ask we not open early (before Easter) because when we do, it costs them business! (I guess we’ll never please everyone!). 

Another note - I checked that last "El Nino" year for Stevens Pass and found we had almost no avalanche control and low snow accumulations until March when we got hammered with almost 200" of snow. (By way of comparison - there's about 79 inches on the ground today and the total accumulation for this season, so far, is only 225 inches.)  (Again, by way of comparison, last year’s season total was about average = 434”).

Expect another one of these updates when they do the assessment in about 3 weeks.

Happy Winter!

Jeff Adamson  509.667.2815 (24 hr.)  adamsoj@wsdot.wa.gov

WSU Reports on Research into North Cascades Archaeology

From the current issue of WSU's Washington State Magazine comes this fascinating report about the research of Bob Mierendorf, long-time North Cascades Institute field instructor and former NCI board member. (Note that Mierendorf teaches a class at NCI every July.)
"[Bob] Mierendorf has spent the last couple of decades trying to convince the archaeological establishment that pre-contact Northwest Indians did not confine themselves to the lowlands, but lived in the North Cascades and frequented the high country. When Mierendorf first started working at the park, Cascade Pass was one of 17 archaeological sites identified within it. Since then, he has identified nearly 300 more. Forty-five of those sites are located between 4,000 and 7,000 feet."
 Bob Mierendorf, Park Archeologist for North Cascades National Park Photo: Zach Mazur
Read the full article with photos at http://wsm.wsu.edu/s/index.php?id=764

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fog Silence

A short trip into the middle elevations near Mt. Pilchuck this Sunday reminded me of how wonderfully silent the ancient forest can be when it's wrapped in a fog blanket. The fog got thicker as the afternoon went on and by the time I was on my way back I could hardly see across the lake at all - I could clearly see the ridge on the far side when I got there a few hours earlier. The lake had a skim of ice on it, which blended nicely with the fog to take away the sense of distance. The huge cedars around me seemed to absorb the mist.

Stopping occasionally, I could pick out small sounds at some distance, since all the "background noise" was completely gone thanks to the fog. An animal pawing the ground, then over the other way the hoot of an owl. Silence is an immersive experience, and one that's getting more and more rare every year with the advance of motorized civilization from all directions into lonely places like this. It's worth preserving.
A very quiet lake in an unfortunately very un-protected part of the National Forest in the North Cascades.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Briefing with Larsen Staff


Jim Davis (L) and Marc Bardsley of N3C briefed Jill McKinnie, the district director for congressman Rick Larsen on the American Alps Initiative earlier today. Democracy at its best!
Posted by Picasa

Everett Mountaineers presentation a huge success

Tom was on his way to a Florida vacation but sent this after giving an American Alps presentation to the Everett Mountaineers just before leaving:
...the presentation went very well--largest crowd at an Everett Mountaineers meeting in years.  Many, many NCCC and AmAlps brochures were taken.
 Thanks, Tom!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reiter Workshop Announcement from DNR

We had a great public workshop on January 13 in Monroe.  More than 100 people attended to learn what kinds of volunteer opportunities are available at Reiter, to share their ideas about where to do restoration and where to locate trails, to sign up to be part of a work group, and to get trained to help with citizen patrols.
If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, you can still sign up to volunteer and/or share your ideas with us.
Please send your response electronically to reiterfoothills@dnr.wa.gov, or mail a hard copy to David Way at 919 North Township, Sedro-Woolley WA 98284. 
Training to participate in citizen patrols through our forest watch program is taking place in late January.  The training course was very popular and the first session is completely full (60 people signed up).  We will offer future training sessions and let you know when those opportunities become available.
Field Days Scheduled
Join us for a field day to learn about how things are progressing at Reiter with restoration and trail development and to share your ideas.  Field trips are scheduled for February 6 (restoration), February 20 (motorized trail area), and February 27 (non-motorized trail area), beginning at 10:00 a.m.  We will send participants more detail as to location, etc, closer to the field dates.  Please contact us at reiterfoothills@dnr.wa.gov to sign up – and let us know your contact information (phone and/or e-mail) and which date you would like to join us.  The deadlines for signing up for the field days are a week prior to each field day - January 30th for the February 6th  field day, February 13th for the 20th filed day, and February 20th for the 27th field day
Progress in the Field
Work continues in Reiter Foothills Forest. At a work party on January 17, more than 40 volunteers showed up, along with three donated tractors, four off-road rigs, and four small trucks to haul wood chips to stabilize stream areas.  Volunteers helped with the following projects:
·       Picked up garbage dumped on Forks of the Sky State Park.
·       Began restoration efforts on three main stream crossings.
·       Began restoration efforts at the northern end of Reiter Pond.
·       Hauled wood chips to restoration project locations.
·       Began restoration on several hundred feet of impacted trail surface.
It was a very successful work party.  Folks are excited to get out and help restore impacted areas in hope of getting the Reiter Foothills open as soon as possible.  The majority of the volunteers were members of Reiter Trail Watch and other 4x4 recreationists.
Thank you to everyone who showed up for the workshop and for the many on-the-ground work parties. We can’t do it without you!
Candace Johnson
Assistant Region Manager, State Lands
Northwest Region
Department of Natural Resources
360-854-2803

John Muir

Although the term "American Alps" seems in common parlance to refer to areas in or near to the North Cascades National Park, we offer up here an item from what might normally be called the "Central" Cascades. But there are many who use the "North" Cascades name for everything north from Interstate 90. Indeed, there are those who go so far as to define the Columbia River as the starting line. All food for thought, and further discussion. But to the matter at hand:


Few people are aware that John Muir, possibly America's foremost connoisseur of and advocate for trees and all forms of wild beauty, visited the Snoqualmie valley in about 1890. Muir spent his life in nature's grandest “temples,” but was nonetheless quite impressed by the maple forests he found in the Snoqualmie. In one of his lesser known writings, released after his death in a collection called “Steep Trails,” he describes what he saw:


Not even in the great maple woods of Canada have I seen trees either as large or with so much striking, picturesque character. ...(They attain) a height of seventy five to a hundred feet and a diameter of four to eight feet. The trunk sends out large limbs toward its neighbors, laden with long drooping mosses beneath and rows of ferns on the upper surfaces, thus making a grand series of richly ornamented interlacing arches, with the leaves laid thick overhead, rendering the underwood spaces delightfully cool and open. Never have I seen a finer forest ceiling or a more picturesque one, while the floor, covered with tall ferns and (salmonberry) and thrown into hillocks by the bulging roots, matches it well. The largest of these maple groves that I have yet found is on the right bank of the Snoqualmie River, about a mile above the falls. The whole country hereabouts is picturesque, and interesting in many ways, and well worth a visit by tourists passing through the Sound region, as it is now accessible by rail from Seattle.”


Almost all of the rich bottomland forests seen by Muir were cleared for hop and other farms in following decades. But luckily, more old maples have survived than almost any other tree species in the Snoqualmie region, particularly in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie valley where Ice Age lakes left behind large deposits of clay. Douglas fir, the “money tree” prized by early day loggers, doesn't much like clay and thus was scarce in parts of the Middle Fork. Bigleaf maple is not so particular, and grows just fine on clay. Thus many of the clay areas in the valley were largely bypassed by early logging, since maple wasn't worth much in money terms, especially during the Depression years when much of the valley was logged.


Thanks to those quirks of geology and economics there are still a large number of impressive old maples in the Middle Fork, probably more than anywhere else in the Cascades, many of them much like those described by Muir. A number of fine old specimens can easily be seen along and near the Middle Fork road about five to seven miles in. Other notable places to see large old maples are Seattle's Seward and Discovery Parks, and King County's Three Forks Park north of North Bend. Too bad there aren't many more.


At the Mountains to Sound Greenway's Annual Dinner in December 2009, Washington Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark signed an order designating 10,270 acres of state lands as the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Resource Conservation Area. Although millions of acres of mountains have been protected in Washington, very few large low valleys have been. The setting aside of such a large chunk of the Middle Fork, a rare piece of “prime real estate,” was a remarkable act. In so doing, Goldmark protected many of these old maple woodlands, and hopefully they, or their successors, will be just as impressive a century from now as they are today. It's probably fair to say that John Muir would have approved.