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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Desecration on a new level--heli skiing owners destroy ancient trees

What price,  Recreation?

North Cascades Heli-Skiing (NCHS) cut down at least fifty trees, up to 275 years old, in the pristine headwaters of the Methow River high on the north side of Silver Star Mountain, in violation of the USFS permit and their own operating plan.

The owners of NCHS seem to have taken this terrible action to provide more skiing opportunities for their clients (though they claim it was for "safety").  Simply put, and in my 30 years of experience in the North Cascades:  if it's not safe, don't go there.  Certainly don't modify the landscape.
Instead, Paul Butler and Ken Brooks not only went there, they cut down and killed dozens of trees.  Very, very old trees.  Trees that have been living there since the Continental Congress was forming.

This is not a successful business model in the Methow Valley, the North Cascades, or ANY of the ethics with which I was raised and respect.

Contact Paul Butler, Ken Brooks, and most importantly, the US Forest Service Okanogan National Forest, and tell them what you think.  I think the selfish operators should be shut down (read:  grounded) for at least one year.  Probably better for the duration of the current permit.

Address to write letters to the violators:
Mr. Paul Butler
North Cascades Heli-skiing
PO Box 367
Winthrop, WA98862
Address to write letters to the Forest Service:
Jennifer Zbyszewski, Acting District Ranger
Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest
Methow Valley Ranger District
24 W. Chewuch Rd.
Winthrop, WA 98862

Photos courtesy Matt Firth

Saturday, September 29, 2012

From our friends at the Northwest Geological Society, a topic of interest to the North Cascades generally:
October 9th Speaker Program
Speakers: Paul Kennard, Regional Geomorphologist, Mt. Rainier National Park, and Chris Magirl, Research Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Tacoma
Title: Goats to geoducks: Landscape response to climate change from the summit of Mount Rainier to Puget Sound
This debris flow is in lower Colonial Creek
Abstract: Mount Rainier is an active volcano, and is considered the most dangerous mountain in the United States, because of its proximity to major cities. However, it is the more “everyday” risks such as floods, debris flows, and river aggradation (or filling) that are posing unprecedented challenges to people and roads at Mount Rainier National Park, and to the downstream communities.
Because of vast amounts of sediment sloughing off the mountain, Mount Rainier’s rivers are aggrading - that is, the river beds, on average, are rising by natural processes. Recent aggradation has more than doubled in the last 10 years (to over 3 feet/decade). This means that for the same size storms, the flood potential is ever increasing, since the “capacity” of the river channel is reduced, as the channels fill in.
Ongoing glacial recession has exposed large volumes of oversteepened and very unstable sediment, promoting increased numbers of debris flows, compounding the flooding problems. Debris flows are destructive, sediment-laden slurries that move downhill by gravity. In areas affected by debris flows, large rivers near developed areas have aggraded an astounding
38 feet since 1910, and almost 6 feet in a single year. The park has had at least 16 debris flows since 2001, and there were multiple debris flows in 3 streams that had not had debris flows in hundreds of years. In 2006, there were 10 debris flows in two days, resulting in extensive damage to park roads and campgrounds, and closing the Park for 6 months.
To add insult to injury, climate change is expected to increase storminess, and further escalate debris flows and flooding.
Stream flow records at Mount Rainier show a striking rise in the occurrence of large floods. Specialists predict further increases, as glaciers continue their rapid retreat due to global warming, making this a major management concern at Mount Rainier National Park.
Location: Talaris Conference Center, 4000 NE 41st St., Seattle, WA
Oct 9, 2012
5:30pm: No-host social hour
6:30pm: Buffet dinner
7:30pm: Speaker program
All are welcome to attend —
reservations are required
if coming for dinner.
Reservations here

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pika project report

In the upcoming issue of The Wild Cascades, look for a report on the 2012 Pika Project in North Fork Bridge Creek valley of NCNP. Here's an excerpt:
North Fork Bridge Creek, upper valley near our base camp
The goal was to locate four or five  “patches” where temperature loggers had been installed on talus slopes known to be pika habitat, and install recharged loggers for another year’s monitoring. A pair of the little sealed metal units are put in each spot, one on a surface rock under a set of wind and sun shields that look like a stack of inverted plastic pie pans, tied to the rock they sit on, and the other dropped about 24” into a nearby gap between boulders, where it’s cooler.
Roger Christoperhsen, NPS Biologist, anchors a data logger
That combination gives  biologists the most useful temperature info about the surface and at some depth where the pika were likely to be this time of year. As long as we could find exactly the same locations, the new readings would be consistent with those taken in prior years and the data would be useful. Any variation of sensor locations would leave the study results open to criticism, which in these days of climate research – well, let’s just say there’s no room for any “benefit of the doubt” in that field!
Two researchers perched on a boulder in search of pika sign

NOTE: Current funding may not be adequate for replacements of any hardware that fails. Also, having the volunteers needed to install and retrieve the loggers and survey the talus fields is crucial. Your donations and volunteering can make all the difference!
To contribute to the Pika Project, contact
North Cascades National Park,  360-854-7200
More general info:
North Cascades Institute, 360-854-2599
For more photos, visit
More information:

[For the official research summary, see]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Members: check your email for the latest Catalyst!

Members: you'll be getting a new Cascade Catalyst from NCCC soon! Watch your email!

Non-Members: wish you got a copy too? Join us! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nice send-off for Chip Jenkins

Congrats to Chip Jenkins for his promotion to Deputy Regional Director of NPS. We wish him the best, and as part of that we made an appearance at his send-off party last Friday.

Here, David Fluharty, NCCC Board member (and nearly a founder), says a few words of praise for Chip:

David confessed that NCCC had historically been NOCA's "harshest critic and fondest admirer," and named Ross Lake NRA, Stehekin River Corridor, High Lakes Fisheries Management as issues where Jenkins deserves special praise for his outstanding conservation focus during his tenure as NCNP Superintendent.

Best of luck in your new position, Chip, and thanks again for all you did for the North Cascades!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Announcing a National Park Service work party Oct. 6th

On Saturday October 6, NCCC members and friends will volunteer on a National Park Service work party, improving the landscaping at the entrance to Colonial Creek Campground.  Meet there at 10 AM.  Work will include removal of invasive weeds.  The Park Service will waive overnight camping fees for volunteer workers.

Monday, September 3, 2012

American Alps Legacy Project made the FRONT PAGE of the Sunday Seattle Times!

It is great to see that the American Alps Legacy Project made the FRONT PAGE of the Sunday Seattle Times!  Scroll down a few pages to see my article "On the Outside Looking In" to see just how arbitrary the boudaries of the Park are, and how they can be improved to be more ecosstem/watershed-based.

The long-awaited Linda Mapes article:

I will submit an update from the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project 2012 field season in the coming days.  Note we just had the driest August ever recorded (SeaTac)--not conindicentally, it was also one of the three warmest in the North Cascades...