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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

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