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Monday, June 28, 2010

Everett Herald editorial advocates for American Alps

Published: Sunday, June 27, 2010

Completing a worthy vision

The National Parks may well be America's Best Idea, as filmmaker Ken Burns declared in his recent PBS series. The North Cascades National Park may be one of its best-kept secrets. It's not that folks around here haven't heard of this majestic slice of natural beauty, which occupies nearly 685,000 acres on either side of Highway 20 east of the Skagit County town of Concrete. It's that most who have heard of it have never set foot inside. Highway 20 bisects the park, but none of it lies inside the park boundaries. Only one road leads from the highway into the park.

A tireless group of conservationists, led by the North Cascades Conservation Council and the Mountaineers, is pushing to make access a whole lot easier. That's part of a larger and very welcome effort, dubbed the American Alps Legacy Project, to expand the park's acreage by almost 50 percent. It would bring about 245,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land and 57,700 acres of the Ross Lake National Recreation Area into the park. It's all a matter of redesignating existing federal land; no private land is involved. Doing so will add needed protections to pristine streams, old-growth forests and sub-alpine lakes. And it will complete the original vision for the park, which came up short due to a series of political compromises when Congress created it in 1968. The Highway 20 corridor would become part of the park, with new entrances and visitor centers, along with 25 miles of new family-friendly trails. New visitor amenities would include waterfall tours, cultural interpretation sites and ecotourism viewpoints.

Some of the hearty souls who helped win the park's original designation, now in their 80s and 90s, are pushing the expansion effort. Among them are Laura and Phil Zalesky, both 86-year-old retired teachers from the Everett School District and two of the area's most celebrated conservationists. The Snohomish County Council has unanimously endorsed the idea. Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Dan Evans, who as governor helped spearhead creation of the park, is part of the campaign.

Expanding the park requires an act of Congress, and that part of the politicking is just getting started. First comes a summer of community outreach, during which the North Cascades Conservation Council and others will hold informational meetings throughout the area. They've been meeting with interest groups, such as hunters, to win support by ensuring that new boundaries are drawn in ways that minimize disruption of traditional activities. They also commissioned an economic impact study, which found that the expansion would lead to the creation of about 1,000 jobs, most of them tourism related.

With the National Park Service's centennial coming up in 2016, we can't imagine a more appropriate way to mark the occasion here than by improving on America's Best Idea, and letting more Americans enjoy it.

Volunteers, DNR working together in REITER FOOTHILLS 

Everett Herald - Saturday, June 19, 2010




Volunteers, DNR working together

When the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) temporarily closed off access to Reiter Foothills Forest last November, many of us in the off-road vehicle community believed it would never reopen. The ORV community has seen the permanent closures of recreation areas in the past and has had little experience working with a land manager willing to open areas.

But since November, volunteers from many different recreational user groups have put in hundreds of hours at Reiter, successfully restoring environmental damage and helping DNR plan and establish a entirely new trail system. Our initial fear that Reiter would never reopen has been replaced by pride in knowing that we are helping to create something that hasn't been done in many years. Prior to the November closure, Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark announced that he would reassess the area and open what could be opened by the summer of 2010. DNR has shown its commitment to reopen the area by promising to open the forest road known as Deer Flats Road to ORV use this month. Unfortunately, at this time, no trails are ready to open yet.

On June 10, representatives from the ORV and mountain bike communities met with Commissioner Goldmark and advised against reopening the road until trails are established and opened. We must keep our energies focused on the work under way and not have this progress undermined by the potential for illegal activities that could come with the road opening before trails are built. The ORV community needs more legal areas to recreate, and DNR is listening. Join other volunteers every first Saturday and third Sunday at Reiter so everyone has a chance to help DNR provide more ORV recreation.

Neil Stamp, Northwest Motorcycle Association
Tod Petersen, Washington Off Highway Vehicle Alliance
Rick Wygle, Wheelers of Washington
Arlene Brooks, Pacific Northwest 4 Wheel Drive Association
Jakob Perry, Rainier Ridge Rams
Stephen Morris, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance
Mike Kash, Reiter Trail Watch
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Holden Mine Proposed Public Meetings

The scene at one of the Holden tailings piles, atop former wetlands.
Photo: Phil Fenner

From: Robin O DeMario <>
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2010 08:03:51 -0700
To: undisclosed-recipients:;<Invalid address>
Subject: Holden Mine Proposed Plan Cleanup Fact Sheet
You had asked to receive information about the Holden Mine cleanup process.  Attached below is a Holden Mine Proposed Plan Fact Sheet and a news release about upcoming public meetings.  Robin

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
215 Melody Lane
Wenatchee, WA 98801

For immediate release:  June 23, 2010
Contacts:   Remedial Project Manager Norman Day, 509-664-9304 or Public Affairs Specialist Robin DeMario, 509-664-9292
Public meetings set to take comments on Holden Mine Site proposed Cleanup Plan
Wenatchee, WA—The USDA Forest Service, US Environmental Protection Agency and Washington State Department of Ecology have published a plan for the cleanup of environmental contamination at the former Holden Mine Site, located near Holden Village about 50 miles north of the city of Chelan.
The cleanup involves an inactive underground metal mine and mine waste piles in the Railroad Creek valley in the Wenatchee National Forest.
Public meetings will be held to inform the public about the proposed cleanup and to receive comments about the cleanup plan.  Public meeting schedule:

July 12
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest headquarters office,
215 Melody Lane, Wenatchee, WA
7:30 p.m.
July 13
Chelan City Hall, 135 East Johnson Ave., Chelan, WA
7:30 p.m.
July 14
Holden Village
8:00 p.m.
July 20
Hart Crowser Inc., office, 1700 Westlake Ave., North, Suite 200, Seattle, WA
7:30 p.m.

The public is invited to review the proposed cleanup plan and supporting documents on the web at, or at Forest Service offices in Wenatchee and Stehekin, Wenatchee Public Library in Wenatchee, Chelan City Hall Library in Chelan, Holden Village, Seattle Public Library in Seattle, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency office in Seattle and WA State Department to Ecology Yakima office.  
Written comments on the plan can also be submitted to or by mail to Norman Day, Holden Cleanup Project Manager, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, 215 Melody Lane, Wenatchee, WA 98801.
Cleanup will be accomplished under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Washington’s Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA).  
For more information about the proposed Holden Mine site cleanup plan, please call 509-664-9304.  

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to State and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.
Robin DeMario
Public Affairs Specialist
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
215 Melody Lane, Wenatchee, WA  98801
Phone:  509-664-9292
Fax:  509-664-9286
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For background on this issue, see our previous post:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Focus Group Meeting Report

A group of about 25 local advocates for preservation of the greater North Cascades met last night at the Mountaineers Clubhouse with the publisher and top staff of Braided River, the conservation publishing division of The Mountaineers Books, to brainstorm about the concept. Reps were present from groups like N3C/AmAlps, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Mountaineers Foundation, Mt. Baker Wild, Cascades Wild, REI, American Whitewater, Washington Wilderness Coalition, Seattle Audubon and North Cascades National Park.

All were in agreement that the project not only made sense, but offered a great opportunity to move our mutual agendas for preservation forward. Some random phrases taken from the flip charts included:

-Local communities and stories
-Refugia, Buffers, Corridors
-Succession of efforts, need to be general, long-term
-No one author or photographer
-Not just rocks and ice
-Headwaters of Salish Sea
-Front-country and families

One highlight was to be able to peruse a big collection of historic wild land advocacy books published over the years, including of course The Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland, that so inspired the move for a national park in the North Cascades in the 60s.

The Mountaineers and Braided River released a campaign announcement and contribution form, now online at:   You can just print it out and send it in with your monetary contribution!

Stay tuned for more info here and anyone with an interest in contributing their writing and/or photography, just leave a comment here and we'll get back with you!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Early Winters Headwaters, June 2010

Harvey Manning once said that to really experience the mountains, or actually anything in life, it is best done “at human speed”. That is, to best appreciate something, do it at the pace of a walk, not at the pace of mechanization, be it a motor bike or an airplane. He noted reality tends to become a blur when engaged in mechanical travel, and to this I agree. I take that concept a step further, preferring to spend at least two nights in a given place to really get to know it. Since I began my backcountry travels and explorations, I have determined that getting to a summit isn’t the reason to go to a place, the reason to go is to BE in that place. And to best understand even a sliver of that locale’s reality requires at least two cycles of the sun.

A mission of better understanding the where’s, the what’s and the why’s of the American Alps Legacy Project provided the impetus to watch the sun twice rise and set on the Washington Pass area: Liberty Bell and Early Winters Spires—the headwaters of Early Winters Creek, a principal tributary of the Methow River; and the headwaters of Bridge Creek, a principal tributary of the Stehekin River.
Truth be told, this is only the second time I’ve ever been to these icons of the Methow Mountains because I prefer REAL Wilderness. The proximity of Highway 20 diminishes the backcountry experience due to increased machine noise, and of course the large number of people the road brings to this otherwise remote and spectacular landscape. And so I have avoided the area save a trip 15 years ago in November when the temperature hovered around 10 degrees below zero F.

This time, I’d be one of those using the road for quick access—you see, I’m in the worst shape I’ve been in since 2002 (car-bike accident) thanks to a cool, wet Spring. So a short hike was called for—indeed, the healthy snowpack, my physical ability, fine weather, and American Alps research combined to make this a very attractive alternative, despite the crowds I would see, and the motor bikes I would hear. How silly of me to have not visited Early Winters more often in early summer…

Many in the NCCC are opposed to overflights of National Parks and other protected areas (notably Wilderness, but not confined to just those two), and so it was a couple weeks ago that some of us overflew Washington Pass as part of an aerial evaluation of the American Alps areas of interest. It was a wonderful experience, but it went so fast. Too fast. On this visit, it took less than 45 minutes of humping my full pack over snow-covered slabs to say aloud “This is so much better than the overflight”—nothing like having multi-hued (mainly salmon colors of red, orange and gold) spires of Golden Horn batholith rising thousands of feet straight up to the sky.

I love high country exploration in June: tons of snow, overland travel is usually easier, water is easy to come by, bugs are suppressed, peaks are dramatically contrasted (color, texture and appearance), the sounds of water and life roaring near and far, and the ability to camp in otherwise un-campable areas.

The peaks of this area are profoundly spectacular. Much like the Dolomites of the European Alps, or dare I say the Concordia area of the Himalaya, the (GH batholith) rock formations are remarkably vertical and colorful. And not just one or two peaks—there are several waves of mountains, indeed, all of the Methow Mountains—that exhibit the unique character that makes this place World Class, and worthy of recognition as National Park or Wilderness. Even though Liberty Bell and Early Winters Spires get all the publicity due to the highway wending along their bases, the real beauty is in the integrated landscape—the relation of high peaks and low valleys that create, then distribute life-giving water. So many rivers! The Twisp, the Bridge-Stehekin, the Early Winters-Methow, the Granite-Skagit. My favorite, and what I came to appreciate the most over the three days (because of the three days) was the collection of Early Winters Creek below the fangs of Kangaroo Ridge.

I learned that the S end of Kangaroo Ridge actually forms the headwaters of the Twisp River. The pine forests along the base of the crags were that much greener thanks to the snow and the color of the rock. I actually glimpsed the geological process that laid down this rock 47 million years ago—the direct connection between far away Golden Horn, and Wamihaspi (the peak I was living on), and Silver Star many miles to the East. This whole realization, recognition and awareness came to me in the first day I was there—I love the time machine aspect of the North Cascades.

I was camped at 7,400’, a mere 400 vertical feet from the summit, debating whether to summit on the first day, or wait until Saturday. I had intended to camp in a nice flat basin, but avalanche danger was actually high, so (thanks to snow) I was able to camp on the craggy ridge that connects S Early Winter Spire and Wamihaspi. I have pictures of the summit area of Wamihaspi “before” and “after” avalanches swept the mountain Friday afternoon between 3PM and 7PM—and with a huge cornice looming over the basin, it was a good campsite.

Here is the "before" shot--note the avalanches evident in the pic with the tent compared to this...

A good campsite became better thanks to my decision to summit on Saturday and stay two nights. Yes, I had considered bailing after one day, but just knew there’d be more to see, learn and experience by exercising some patience and “living at human speed”. As expected, I did see many many people. The advent and proliferation of ski technology has opened up the backcountry as never before. I visited with people from age 20 to age 60+, all out enjoying the North Cascades, and all quite proficient skiers. I think I counted 25 skiers over the weekend, and a few hikers/climbers too. Everyone supports the idea of increased protection for this area—some thought it was already Wilderness or Park.

The summit was more difficult than I figured. The huge cornice spanning from the true summit to the lower E summit was pretty exciting visually, some three to four meters high, especially on approach crossing steep snow that had been scrubbed by avalanches!

Indeed, the summit was so steep that I was turned back about 100 vertical feet short, but not so short that I did some extreme mixed climbing, hands seeking holds while my feet churned in near-vertical patches of snow, triggering avalanches that tumbled and roared down the cliffs below my feet…
Unnerving sounds to be sure, especially knowing that if the entire snowfield let go, I’d be tumbling right along. Nothing like the perspective a mortality-reminder (read: fear) those moments offer!
So I settled for the lower E summit and took in sweeping views from across the entire North Cascades. Wave after wave after seemingly endless wave of snowy peaks in every direction.

Once again I was impressed with how much farther the mountains extend to the E beyond what I consider the far E portion of the range! [see notes from 2007 Golden Horn visit] I was also impressed with the diversity of terrains, mountains, valleys and all the living things supported by this great range. The realization that the Twisp, Stehekin, Methow and Skagit Rivers radiate away from virtually a single point (Copper Point, just S of where I was, but not on the Skagit) was worth the trip alone.

Back at camp, I napped for a couple hours, mainly to keep out of the blistering sun. As with Friday, most everyone was gone by 5PM, or on their way out, and I was alone for the evening. Sadly for them, not a single party spent the night up in the high country, at least not human…
Not long after I returned to my favorite viewing perch, I saw a mountain goat about a kilometer away. I got all of my photo stuff going, cackling about how great the telephoto shots would be with the rugged peaks beyond. I snapped about 10 photos, then lost sight of the goat. Next thing I knew, Nanny was walking right in to camp, and there would be no need for telephoto anything. It was great—almost as if Nanny knew exactly where to stand to maximize the photo.

About 30 minutes later, along came her two kids—a yearling male and female. I’m not sure if the presence of so many people has resulted in these goats knowing to visit in search of mineral licks/lose their fear of humans, but Nanny seemed comfortable with me after a short time, and the kids eventually accepted me as well, at least with Nanny around. They ended up staying with me (or is that me with them) for about 16 hours—for only the third time in my life I was fortunate enough to live with mountain goats.

Like 2001, Nanny wanted nothing to do with the kids, and was quick to give them her horns if they tried to get close to her. Tough love in a tough landscape, for sure. It was fun, even humurous to watch the little ones spar, giving each other the horns. The male was usually the aggressor, but finally the young gal stood up for herself and gave him a good butt or two! Heck, the little guy even approached me (I was sitting down eating—better than teevee!), coming within a meter, and stamped his left front hoof to get me to move!
The youngsters (yearlings) were especially rambunctious--long after Nanny wandered off for the night they kept trying to come in to the tent. It got to the point I had to yell at them to "Go to bed!!" about 1:30 in the morning. Small though their horns might be, that's not a fun wake-up poke. Nanny's horns are a whole different story--she tried to get close a couple times, but I prefer my nature encounters to be bloodless, so I let her know I’d protect myself.

As the four of us watched the sunset together, eyeing the last two climbers scampering back down to their automobile, I was moved to consider once again why I do what I do: it takes AT LEAST two nights in a place to get to know it—I am so humbled and thankful for the opportunity. I’m sure glad I stayed that “extra” night, and will certainly return to better learn and know this place that needs our recognition and protection.
There has been much hand-wringing about the change in land-management for this area. Certainly there would be changes—that’s the whole point. Super-fund mine cleanups are underway within miles north and south of this area. Even folks with dogs are up in arms. Fact is, I believe most dog owners would prefer to experience goats and other wildlife in THEIR habitat—the alpine area that is the last remaining place in which wildthings can exist.
One would think being able to take your "best friend" along to 99% of
places in the woods is a good trade in exchange for the permanent protection of the remaining 1%--especially considering the opportunities offered by the North Cascades landscape! Hunting is another important aspect of this effort. Proper hunting has value for family and culture alike, and will be respected in most places. Of course, I’m confident the goats prefer a hunting-free National Park..

Braided River announces new book project on The North Cascades Campaign!

Braided River is a publishing subsidiary of The Mountaineers, a partner with N3C and others in American Alps. They recently announced a new book development project about adding protection to the North Cascades:

The Mountaineers has a long legacy of conservation in the Pacific Northwest.  Beautiful coffee table photographic books published by Mountaineers Books have been held up on the Senate floor, hand delivered to U.S. Presidents during legislative debates, and have been instrumental in galvanizing people to become engaged in public policy debates.
Cascades that many people believe to be inside the national park boundaries or federally designated wilderness areas remain unprotected.  We must do all we can to protect and preserve these valued lands before they are irreversibly lost to resources extraction, power development, and motorized recreation.

The Mountaineers and other conservation groups aim to finish this work, and expand the park to protect scenic landscapes not included in the original designation.
The book will be just the beginning of a robust campaign that will include events, media, exhibits, and more—all based on magnificent images and stories of this magnificent landscape. The Mountaineers will collaborate with numerous regional grassroots organizations, and plans to craft the book so it will be a useful media tool for the overall campaign. Publication will be in 2011 or 2012.

Contributions to this campaign help us doubly to reach our goal since every dollar donated up to $50,000 is generously matched by the Conservation Committee of The Mountaineers.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Papers Please" for hikers? Actually, worse than that!

We just got a letter from US Customs and Border Protection warning of fines and jail for those crossing the US-Canadian border at other than official Ports of Entry (Sumas, Oroville, etc). Although this was directed at PCT hikers, it also affects those who might plan to drive down to the Hozomeen area from BC and cross into North Cascades Park, or vice-versa. It's the first time we've heard of active enforcement like this at this popular spot!

Read the letter HERE.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Holden Mine cleanup/remediation update

Holden Mine Update, June 2010.
While the NCCC focuses efforts on moving the American Alps Legacy Project forward, important events and projects continue apace across the greater North Cascades. One of the most important projects underway right now is the cleanup and remediation of the Holden Mine site on Railroad Creek, a major tributary of Lake Chelan, draining the highest non-volcanic peak in all the Cascades.
Like the Azurite Mine/Gold Hill mine cleanup plan within the American Alps area, the Holden cleanup plan is many years in the making--choices made and plans drawn now will impact the health of a key North Cascades drainage for decades, even centuries to come. A recent article which appeared in the Lake Chelan Mirror* calls to mind some disturbing images, and more importantly, some disturbing news. Anyone who has visited Lucerne on Lake Chelan during low pool times (winter), or hiked around Holden has seen the sickening orange/red/yellow multi-hued mining waste that has poisoned Railroad Creek and stained the water course. The article speaks of plumes of this mining poison plainly visible as it enters Lake Chelan during high flows of Railroad Creek. More distressing is the impact on all living things in the area: the ecosystem is significantly damaged. The 1997 Department of Ecology report on the impacts of Holden Mine on Railroad Creek is heartbreaking for anyone who has wandered a wild mountain stream, especially in the North Cascades:

"Results show the Holden site is having a devastating effect on the water quality and aquatic life of Railroad Creek." Since the 1960s, when scientific measurements began above and below the mine on Railroad Creek, and to this day, the numbers of invertebrates drops notably from more than 3,000 above the mine to 50 below and 361 where the creek meets the lake. Fish are few and far between in the more than TEN MILES of Railroad Creek between the mine and Lake Chelan. Elevated levels of zinc, copper and iron. Mine drainage has high concentrations of iron, manganese, copper, zinc and aluminum, as well as lead and other metals. Downstream from Holden, those concentrations increased from a factor of three to ten. The water is so contaminated, it doesn't meet state drinking water regulations.
It is believed that it will be more than two hundred years, and likely more than three hundred years before heavy metals stop leaching in to the drainage. So a proper cleanup now is important…
As this edition of TWC goes to press, there are public meetings being held in Holden, Chelan, Seattle and Wenatchee to get comments from the public on the preferred cleanup plan, so called “Alternative 14”. Alt 14 is a compromise between The US Forest Service, the mining companies (Rio Tinto and Intalco) and Holden Village. Surprisingly, the Holden Village Board of Directors took a most disappointing position opposing the best clean up option (Alt 11, favored by the USFS), and instead favored a more expedient, less thorough clean up job.
Make your voice heard on which alternative you prefer. More importantly, inform yourself about issues happening in our North Cascades. The USFS has put forth preliminary alternatives for cleanup of the Azurite Mine in the American Alps area on the headwaters of the Skagit River (Canyon Creek/Granite Creek). Comment on that too, as every note, email or phone call matters to the fate of a healthy, vibrant North Cascades.
*Please see the Lake Chelan Mirror website for their recent article.

For background, see "The Holden Mine Cleanup Problem" on p. 4 of the Spring '09 issue of The Wild Cascades [PDF]

Biodiversity--why it's important, and...

Biodiversity--why it's important, and how protected landscapes contribute to it.

Here's a great article on why things like American Alps make sense. Federal legislative protection for this landscape means more opportunities for everything (including people) to live better, live longer and live stronger.

Nice work on this, Sandi Doughton and University of Washington!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We would do well to remember the "good old days" of "getting out the cut" - it's why American Alps seeks to add so much low-elevation forest to NCNP!

For anyone who did not experience it, it might be hard to imagine just how strong the logging juggernaut was. Every year from 1950 to 1990, Congress appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars to build roads on the National Forests. Valleys up and down the Cascades had roads punched into them, and millions of acres of ancient forests fell. The highways were filled with loaded logging trucks, usually carrying only three or four giant logs. It was common to see one's favorite places transformed into clearcuts. Had it gone on, there would now be little or no old growth left standing in the North Cascades outside of the National Park and Wilderness areas.

But it didn't go on. Thanks to efforts by a number of conservation organizations, led by the Pilchuck Audubon Society, and supported by NCCC, lawsuits were filed to protect spotted owls and other old growth dependent animal species. It seemed impossible at the time, but the logging juggernaut ground down not to a halt, but to a shadow of its fearsome former self. The Northwest Forest Plan radically reduced logging levels. Most of the valleys had roads pushed into them and some of their forests felled, but the timber industry didn't manage to get it all. Old growth forests can still be found in the North Cascades. Many adjacent to North Cascades National Park are in the American Alps study areas, prime candidates for permanent protection.
This chart depicts the cut levels on the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest from 1970 to 2006. The reduction in those levels is the greatest conservation triumph in the history of the North Cascades. Although there are still many threats to the forests of the North Cascades, the wholesale liquidation of old growth has been stopped for now. NCCC plans to do all it can to insure that the line on the chart stays at rock-bottom, and the American Alps Project will protect many acres of low-elevation old growth that survived the onslaught, from Baker River to Big Beaver, Thunder Creek to the North Fork Cascade River.

-Excerpted from "Timber on the MBS" by Rick McGuire on the N3C website at

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Recreation questions answered

A new "FAQ" about Recreation issues is posted on the American Alps website, check it out!

North side of Easy Pass, currently outside national park protection and inside the American Alps Study Area