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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

King County Council approves AmAlps resolution

Just to let everyone know, today the King County Council unanimously approved a resolution favorable to the American Alps Project.  Thanks to the volunteers who attended the meeting to show support!

The Snohomish County Council also passed a unanimous resolution in March supporting the American Alps Legacy Project. Our thanks to Dave Somers, John Koster, Dave Gossett, Brian Sullivan, and Mike Cooper. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Impressions of the North Cascades back in print

I spoke with John Miles, Environmental Studies Professor at Huxley College of the Environment, WWU, yesterday, lamenting that his wonderful compilation of essays about the North Cascades had gone out of print. He reminded me that you can get one-off copies made by the "Espresso Book Machine" at any of its locations, but also announced that Village Books in Fairhaven was using their EBM to create their own imprint, Chuckanut Editions, and that Impressions is one of the first titles to be available on that imprint! It's "on the shelves now" at Village Books, or you can order a copy online. This is great news for all of us dedicated to conservation of this region! The book is inspired and inspiring.  CLICK HERE for more info and to order.

A sample of the Contents:
Scott Babcock: Ancient Aires and Rock Romancing (Geology)
Bob Mierendorf: Who Walks on the Ground (Archaelology)
Saul Weisberg: A Naturalist's View (Education)
Scott Brennan: Sitec and Tomorrow (Ecosystems)

John is also the author of Wilderness in National Parks: Playground or Preserve.

We'll close with one of his favorite quotes: 

"Whatever attitude to human existence you fashion for yourself, know that it is valid only if it be the shadow of an attitude to nature." -Henry Beston, The Outermost Househe Outermost House

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"If it ain't broke, why fix it?"

As we travel around the state, discussing the advantages of completing the North Cascades National Park, people are always asking, “why bother?” Isn’t everything okay now and if it ain’t broke, why fix it? This is a legitimate question that needs to be examined. It might be argued that the logging industry is not gobbling up national forests as much as in the past and this is somewhat true. Timber prices are fairly low now and much of the demand is being handled with private land.

The problems in the North Cascades that many see as the worst are not only old ones such as mining, maintaining habitat and connectivity for wildlife, and off-road vehicles but new ones that are being brought on by our changing environment. Small-scale hydro projects that many consider to be “green” are in fact likely to be developed in our more undeveloped mountainous areas, particularly near existing power transmission lines. The necessary construction of roads, power-line corridors, and unavoidable aquatic impacts, etc., is certainly a threat to our pristine forests. Due to changing climate, there is likely to be a large demand for water impoundments for crops, primarily east of the Cascade crest, and for drinking water reservoirs in the western areas near urban developments (think Middle Fork Snoqualmie). In fact, a proposal for a dam on the Similkameen River just east of the Pasayten Wilderness is now being circulated.

Besides these more obvious reasons for protecting more of the North Cascades is one that I like to think of as a long-term “sleeper”. That would be, in my mind, the inadequate availability of front country (close to the road) amenities that bring the public into contact with nature. By this, I mean, more fairly short, environmentally friendly trails, interpretive centers, nature walks, overlooks, campgrounds, wildlife viewing and the like that get people out of their cars. I feel that it is crucial in the long term, to get more of the public outside interested in the natural environment and away from the TV and video games. The North Cascades do not need advertising or promotional efforts from those of us that are already believers. The natural wonders that those of us reading this already know and love need to become just as loved by the rest of the public so that they can help us protect our favorite places.

-Marc Bardsley, President of N3C, in the Winter 09-10 issue of The Wild Cascades

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

N3C Photographer takes cover of Backpacker magazine with photo in American Alps study area!

Remember Ethan Welty? We blogged about his awesome photos of the North Cascades recently. He's an N3C member from the Climbing Club at UW. Well, one of his shots is on the cover of the May issue of Backpacker Magazine!
That's a fellow member of the Climbing Club studying the map. NOT lost, just identifying the peaks!

The official caption: "Climber Brian Polagye reads peak names off his topo map as he stands on the summit of Wallaby Peak, Okanogan National Forest, Washington." - May 31, 2008

Wallaby is in the American Alps Study Area!

Ethan was interviewed, too, and you can read that on the Backpacker "Daily Dirt" blog HERE.

Another National Park--Olympic coast visit

Just a quick note that we visited one of our sister national parks last weekend--the coastal section of Olympic National Park.
Simply amazing. I've been going to the coast/San Juans regularly since the late 1960s. I've been going to LaPush twice a year every year since the early 1990s. I've never seen red rock crabs behave this way--indeed, I've spent many an hour/many a year in tide pools turning over rocks to hopefully see a "big" one (carapace the size of your palm) and usually finding very few. In recent years, most tide pools have been devoid of red rock crab entirely--a sign of changing ocean chemistry, I surmise(d). And then this--literally hundreds swarming about. We couldn't take a step without having to carefully look first--they were everywhere along a 100 meter stretch of beach. Nowhere else, this 100 meter stretch. From fingernail-sized to super-big, they were out and about on a rather warm spring day (65F).

And with most creatures that come with attitude, some of these guys(and gals) went with the "Captain Kirk" approach: claws first, and discussion later! Sweet! This one would put a serious hurtin' on your finger if you were silly enough to take it on!

Of course, that didn't stop the resident raccoons from enjoying the ready-made crab feast. Surprised that birds/gulls weren't taking advantage of the bounty.

We saw plenty of whales too, and of course eagles, seals and the usual. Best of all was the sound of the waves, the peace and quiet, and the time to enjoy all of it.

Wilderness coast and the opportunities offered, for humans and for every living thing, are profound. There is always something new to experience along the wild Washington coast-Olympic National Park, and I'm so thankful for the desire, energy and ability to explore. I'm also thankful for people like William O. Douglas and Polly Dyer (and a host of other conservationists) had the energy and foresight to protect these special places. The wild Olympic coast is truly a timeless place...

Middle Fork Giants

Brad Allen has created a great set of resources for those of us who love huge old trees. We've known there were a few of these overlooked during the 30s logging of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River and the Pratt River valleys, but Brad went to the trouble to map and inventory them, and has posted a lot of his info on his website:

In his book (the first chapter of which is available as a free download from his website) he credits a backpacking tour of North Cascades National Park, and especially of the BIG BEAVER VALLEY in one of the American Alps study areas, as his inspiration!

Here's Brad with one of the Middle Fork Giants, "A 250 foot Douglas fir with a 10 foot diameter base:"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hwy 20 to Re-open Tomorrow

It's a quaint annual ritual. "Tootsie" leads the caravan in her Cadillac, driving the first car over the passes when the highway re-opens every spring. The Seattle Times reports that her husband and father were life-long advocates for building the highway through then-virgin then-unprotected wild land from their place in Marblemount to Winthrop, culminating in the blasting and paving of a highway through the heart of the Wild Cascades. Of course, without that highway there might not have been an outcry to protect the remaining wild country up there, and maybe there'd have never been a North Cascades National Park. So perhaps we owe one to Tootsie and her forebears.

With the American Alps project we hope soon to "bring the Park to the highway," so perhaps in a few years when you drive over the top, following Tootsie, you can actually say you were in National Park! We think Tootsie would approve.

This from WSDOT:
Hi all,

    Just got the official "word" - The North Cascades Highway will reopen at noon tomorrow, Friday, April 16, 2010!

    The clean up is going well.  There are lots of new pictures and even a couple short "movies" from the helicopter that have been posted on the flickr site.

    I notified Tootsie Clark so those of you waiting in line tomorrow at the westside gate will get your cinnamon roll and coffee.

    The reference I made to cinnamon rolls was not understood by some of those who get these e-mails, so here's the story:

    Tootsie Clark, the matriarch of Clark’s Skagit River Resort (near Marblemount), drives her giant old Cadillac up to the west side closure gate near Diablo, opens the trunk and serves fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and coffee to everyone waiting in line for us to open the gate.  It’s a tradition she has been carrying on for at least the 11 years I’ve been associated with the North Cascades Spring Re-openings.

    I'll probably send out one more of these when the gates actually open tomorrow - hopefully I won't need to be sending one anytime soon telling you that it's closed again due to avalanches!

    Have a wonderful spring.

    Jeff Adamson

Forest Service Ignores NEPA, Approves Stevens Pass Development Plan

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention! The US Forest Service did not adequately address NEPA*, cumulative effects and mitigation issues when it approved the Stevens Pass Master Development Plan to build a mountain bike park and new water treatment system on April 13th.

Despite our discussions with USFS to find approaches that would balance the company’s requests with the proper protection of the public’s National Forest land and resources, the plan was as approved shows no evidence of the Forest Supervisor including any of our suggestions as to how to handle the NEPA and cumulative effects issues. 

The approved additional development and human activity at Stevens Pass have a very real impact on wildlife - especially those that inhabit the higher elevations and those affected by climate change.  It appears the USFS is trying to segment this substantial expansion into smaller pieces so they can avoid the responsibility to deal substantively with these issues. We have until May 12 to file an appeal. Contact us at if you would like to be involved in meetings.
This is in contrast to the approach the NF took at Snoqualmie Pass, where we supported the final proposal that dealt with these issues directly and appropriately within an EIS.

The Forest Service has approved Phase 1 of the 2007 Master Development Plan for Stevens Pass Ski Area.  

The project includes the construction and operation of lift served downhill mountain bike trails and associated skill development parks.  A replacement water treatment system is also approved.

The cover letter and the Decision Notice including the Finding of No Significant Impact and a response to public comments is posted online at:

These documents describe in detail the decision and rationale including various required mitigation measures.

Thank you for your interest in this project.


USDA Forest Service
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Skykomish Ranger District

Sunday, April 11, 2010

South Fork Stilly--reprise

Last week I went up to the S Fork Stillaguamish River to enjoy our week of winter. As I noted last time, while the snow was welcomed news for all in this region, it was less than a "real snowpack", especially considering the low water content/lack of consolidation that a full winter of winter will bring. Well, since last week we've had another round of similar storms, and I'm happy to say we're coming in on a legit snowpack. Where last week there was about a foot of snow at 2,400', this week there was more like a meter. Upper elevations likely have more than two meters of snow in the past two weeks--just awesome!

The S. Fork Stilly is one of my favorite places to ski-tour: when the snow is good, it is a total world-class experience (having watched Olympic skiing in the Callaghan Valley in BC, I can say this ;-). And even if the skiing isn't perfect, the scenery surpasses most places in the world.

I call the above place "The Gathering". This is where the South Fork of the Stilly comes together--literally the gathering of a river that flows off these peaks and races straight to tidewater just 40 or so miles away.

Last week I didn't see another person all day--this time is was relatively crowded--saw a party of five climbers headed to Lewis Peak, and another couple snowshoeing about enjoying the lovely Spring weather. And of course Athena was with me--she on snowshoes. We had quite the workout (I skied about 10km). Of course, it was nice to be out first cutting track. Note the wind on the upper ramps of Del Campo Peak--at 6,610', this is the highest mountain draining the S. Fork Stilly (as you can see it goes from sea level to 6,610' in a short distance--gotta' love the North Cascades local relief!!).

Pretty easy to see why I frequent this place, eh? It's time to recognize places like this for what they're REAL value is: the source of clean water and a healthy ecosystem for all who call this area home.

Gratuitous extra photo below is a geologic gem known as the "Swauk Formation". Those lovely ramps are echoed on Del Campo and are E. dipping sandstone plates that have been uplifted and inclined. And such things are inclined to avalanche!

It'll be two national parks in the next two weeks: first LaPush-Olympic National Park for some minus-tide coastal action, then the following week to enjoy those avalanches in North Cascades National Park.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Rising Star Photographer opens Online Gallery of Cascades Photos

Ethan Welty, a recent UW graduate, created an online slideshow of some of his most inspiring photos from his recent years exploring the North Cascades. Keep an eye out for Ethan... the next Art Wolfe? He did much of his climbing with the UW Climbing Club, an American Alps partner organization.

Here are links to his online gallery:

Sunset over Mount Baker viewed from below the summit of Mount Shuksan, North Cascades National Park, Washington.
Ethan recently won first place in the International Conservation Photography Awards, in the student category, for his "Sun Through Forest Trees," a photo you'll see on his web gallery. And of course, Ethan's a member of N3C! 

Contratulations, Ethan!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Conservation victory: 7,000 acres along Hoh River permanently protected

Seattle Times reports big land acquisition along Hoh River -- compare this to the American Alps Project that requires NO new land acquisitions! It seems that it should be easier for AmAlps since we aren't trying to buy land!

Salmon in the Trees

Event Notice: Salmon in the Trees – Mountaineers Ctr, Seattle – Apr 27, 7pm

On Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mountaineers Program Center at Magnuson Park in Seattle, Washington, Amy Gulick, award-winning nature photographer, will share the images and stories from her new book Salmon in the Trees: A photographic journey through Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest. Salmon in the Trees tells the remarkable story of the Tongass National Forest, where trees grow salmon, and salmon grow trees. The Tongass is one of the rarest ecosystems on Earth – Gulick portrays a hopeful story of a national treasure worth conserving.

This free public presentation is sponsored by Braided River, The Mountaineers and Alaska Wilderness League. For more information on this event please visit:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 – 7:00 p.m.

Mountaineers Program Center
Magnuson Park
Seattle, WA

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Winter in a week--reprise

Scroll back a couple pages to see my note about the appearance of winter (finally) over the past couple of weeks--nice photos too. What, does the Seattle Times read the blog and then write articles? This ran today...

Heh heh. Sounds like another round of precip/snow coming in later this week--guess I'll have to do more "field surveys" (read, time to go skiing again)!!

Eagle-cam up and running

OK it's not in the North Cascades, but this eagle-cam will make you feel like you're sitting in a bald eagle's nest and it's easy to imagine that it's in the upper Skagit instead of on Vancouver Island. It's live video with sound, not just a sample image now and then like most webcams! (A project of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Historylink links

A contact at Historylink wanted to point out that there are currently 3 profiles of eminent Northwest conservation activists on their site:
 The Zaleskys of N3C, mentioned in a previous post:
   ...and also:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Winter in a week! or Spring brings Winter

Well, what we didn't get for four months, we got in a week. That is, the past 9 days or so have featured real winter weather, dumping more than a meter of snow above 4k ft, and more than a foot at the relatively low elevation of 2,400 (at least in the S. Stillaguamish headwaters.

While the water content/snowpack of the recent storms is not what it would be if we had had four months of real winter, it still looks nice and goes along way to making hydro-electric operators and ratepayers happy, fisherman and fish happy, and farmers happy too. Dr. Pelto and I had hoped March would "come in like a lion"--sure glad April is roaring--let's keep it going for another 6 weeks (not unheard of in our North Cascades)!

Oh, it makes us ski-touring types happy--this is only the second time all "winter" that this area has been ski-able. Headwaters are a special place, and S. Fork Stilly is one of my favs. Amazing that there's a mega-lopolis (Seattle - Vancouver) within a couple of hours of this place--I didn't see another human all day...

Note this area is not part of American Alps, but it is unprotected, and part of a Wilderness conservation effort known as "Cascades Wild". It is just getting going, and NCCC is an active participant in that effort as well! As evidenced by these photos, the area is worthy of federal recognition...
My earlier blog about the perils of such a low snowpack are still valid, but this past week has sure made the outlook better, and if we do get a few more weeks like it, we may actually have a bit of snow on the glaciers this summer.

Friday, April 2, 2010

N3C Senior Members Phil and Laura Zalesky featured in online bio at HistoryLink

Philip and Laura Zalesky, N3C board members, have a lot of good stories to tell of adventures and conservation action. Now much of their story has been collected and published online, free, at!

Watershed Restoration Initiative for Washington State National Forests

Washington State Dept. of Ecology released this guide to how to deal with one of the worst impacts of logging -- the "legacy roads," which were left behind by logging operations and continue to "bleed" sediment into streams and perpetuate landslides in cuts and fills. 

Photo of a typical culvert washout, from the report. Note the person wearing a red hard-hat at the bottom of the picture, for scale.


N3C co-authored the report along with 18 other groups. It's available online at:

6 Steps to a Solution:
  1. Increase funding in 2011 to meet the need.
  2. Right size the system. Identify a minimum road system.
  3. Prioritize the work: Target projects to get the biggest bang for the buck.
  4. Create green, local, family-wage jobs.
  5. Dedicate adequate monitoring funds to the Forest Service.
  6. Provide adequate Forest Service staff to support project partnerships.

Snohomish County passes American Alps Resolution

Snohomish county recently passed Resolution 10-002 in favor of American Alps "Expressing the Council's Support for the Preservation of Currently Unprotected Areas of the Cascade Mountain Range." See the full document HERE.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hwy 20 clearing stymied by avalanche

This just in from WSDOT re the clearing of Hwy 20 through the North Cascades:
The highway is cleared, guardrail to guardrail [from Early Winters on the east] all the way to Blue Lake (between Washington and Rainy Passes).  About 1:30 this afternoon, a slide came in down Liberty Bell chute #3 and dumped 8 to 10 feet of snow across both lanes.  Needless to say, the avalanche crew is heading back to Stevens Pass - they'll be at Liberty Bell on Monday, so the maintenance crew can clear it again (and the rest of the new snow on the highway.)
WSDOT has a Flickr photostream so you can watch your tax dollars at work and get some glimpses of the scenery. Here's a sample:

The whole story of the Irate Birdwatcher film

The Irate Birdwatcher - a rose by any name

Issaquah Reporter Editor

The clearly stated purpose of the film itself is to remind us all why the conservation of these areas is so important, and why champions of nature like Manning must be remembered and thanked by continuing efforts to preserve and maintain what limited areas of unspoiled beauty we have left.
For those few not familiar with the “Issaquah Wildman,” as he was known, Manning was a charismatic outdoorsman, author of trails guides, and one-time editor of Mountaineer books. It was he who first used the term “Issaquah Alps,” and he co-founded the trails club there that has since picked up where he left off.
But he is known particularly as a dogged and colorful advocate of many wilderness areas and trails, including the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, Little Si, Big Si, Rattlesnake Mountain, Tiger Mountain, Cougar Mountain, the North Cascades National Park, and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. He was also instrumental in getting the Washington Wilderness Act of 1984 passed.
Though most hikers today, myself included, often take it for granted that these are places free from the threat of development, this was not always the case, and it is thanks entirely to the, often unpopular and misunderstood, efforts of people like Manning that this future feels at least somewhat secure.
When he died in 2006, he was mourned, far and wide. In his home town of Issaquah, they built a life-sized bronze statue of the man.
“So long as there are ancient forests wanted by loggers, wild rivers wanted by dammers, and flower meadows wanted by miners, the crusade must continue to put more hikers, more defenders, more crusaders on the fragile land,” Manning once wrote.
It is sentiments like these that we hear in “The Irate Birdwatcher,” given voice by actor Earl Prebezac and illustrated by the stunning videography of Robert Chrestensen.

 CLICK HERE for the full article!

NOTE - this article appears to mis-state the TIME of the showing today on KCTS-9 as 10:30 AM. KCTS's schedule shows it as 10:30 PM