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Monday, December 2, 2013

"The Yakima Plan is a taxpayer subsidy for irrigators" -Seattle Times guest editorial

The Yakima Plan is a taxpayer subsidy for irrigators

Taxpayers are being asked to pay for projects that would benefit irrigators in the Yakima Plan, according to guest columnists Brock Evans and Estella Leopold.

Special to The Times 

WHILE Puget Sound celebrates the removal of two old dams on the Elwha River, efforts are afoot to spend billions building two new dams in Washington state as part of the Yakima Plan.
The Yakima Plan was developed by a work group convened by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Washington State Department of Ecology, seeking a solution to the Yakima River basin’s water problems.
Salmon passage, wilderness protection, checkerboard land acquisition and some other plan elements deserve public support and funding. However, as state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, has noted, state taxpayers can’t afford to subsidize junior water-right irrigators with billions of dollars. “This just knocks the hell out of everything else we want to do,” Dunshee said to a Seattle Times news reporter recently, arguing that cheaper ways to address water needs could include better conservation.
More affordable options exist.
The work group’s plan includes surface water storage, modifying existing reservoirs, fish passage, groundwater storage and many other capital projects.
Who will pay? Taxpayers, fish and wildlife, and people who love these places targeted with destruction. But for irrigators, water is nearly free.
What will the taxpayers get? The Bumping Lake dam would drown magnificent ancient forests adjacent to the William O. Douglas Wilderness — a natural space comparable to the Olympic’s Hoh River Valley. The Wymer dam would drown scarce and precious shrub-steppe habitat.
Water would go unused except in water-short years — at first. But irrigation expands to use available water. Then we’ll need another dam, and another.
Drought may occur for years. Drained of water after the first drought year, the dams would stand as empty bathtubs with mud flats stretching for miles.
Dam construction and maintenance are money losers for taxpayers. The 2012 Green Scissors report on wasteful, damaging federal projects includes both proposed Yakima dams.
Nationwide, dams are largely built out. Many are deteriorating and in disrepair. We can’t afford existing dams, let alone new ones.
There are better, less costly ways to remedy the imbalance between water demand and available water, including the following four points:
• Yakima irrigators haven’t paid for costs of the existing five federal dams. Market forces need to play a greater role to curb water waste.
• Waste not, want not. Water conservation in the Yakima should be mandatory, not optional.
• Large volumes of hay, fed by federal water projects, are exported to Japan for racehorses.
• In a water-scarce basin and with looming food-security issues, water-sensible crop selection is essential. Finally, canals and ditches need to be lined and piped to stop wasting precious water.
The work group has been lauded as the union of longtime foes. Look more closely at the behind-closed-doors dealings. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Ecology manipulated the Yakima process to achieve their desired outcome: new dams. Process does matter. Lack of transparency corrodes integrity.
The public had 45 days up to Jan. 3, 2012, to comment on the agencies’ draft Yakima Plan. One day later, Jan. 4, plan proponents released a proposal for Congress to designate 41,000 acres of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest as two motorized National Recreation Areas. The Forest Service staff of the Cle Elum Ranger District was not even consulted.
The Yakima Plan process set many bad precedents for federal policies on forests, water, endangered species, off-road vehicle recreation, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
The many substantive and process flaws resulted in more than 30 conservation organizations’ refusal to support the Yakima Plan, including the Sierra Club, Audubon, The Mountaineers and many more. Many testified in the state Legislature’s hearings this year.
We need a new ethic for the lands and waters off the Yakima River, and far beyond. We cannot dam our way out of climate change and water shortages.

Brock Evans is president of Endangered Species Coalition in Washington, D.C., and former Northwest regional director of the Sierra Club. Estella Leopold, daughter of author and ecologist Aldo Leopold, is a Seattle paleobotanist.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sustainable Roads workshop rescheduled to 11/13

The Sustainable Roads Project has restarted since the shutdown of the Federal Government has ended.

The Everett public workshop meeting which was canceled on October 9th has been rescheduled for Wednesday, November 13th from 5:30 to 8:00 PM at Everett Community College, Jackson Conference Center.

NCCC encourages everyone to advocate for the responsible decommissioning of the unnecessary and environmentally damaging, crumbling roads on our national forest, as well as the responsible maintenance of roads whose important uses include connecting people with nature. 

In the current issue of The Wild Cascades, Ed Henderson describes the Sustainable Roads Project:

Following up on the fall 2012 meeting at REI (see TWCWinter 2013), the Forest Service staff of the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest (MBS) is conducting a series of workshops to gather public input on the maintenance of the road system on that national forest. Faced with budget cuts that will dramatically reduce the number and miles of roads it can afford to maintain, the MBS staff is calling on the public to help determine which roads should be maintained and which should no longer be kept up.

The Forest Service is responsible for more than 400,000 miles of roads on the national forests throughout the nation. There are over 20,000 miles of road on national forest land in Washington State, 2,500 miles of which are located in MBS. Almost all of them are decades old and in poor condition. Nationally there is a multi-billion dollar backlog of deferred maintenance on national forest roads. Crumbling roads are responsible for washouts, erosion and landslides. The recent washout on the Cascades River Road in the North Cascades National Park and mudslides that closed state Highway 20 twice this summer forcibly remind us that roads are but temporary fixtures in a dynamic mountain landscape.

MBS candidly admits that these roads were build for the short-term goal of “getting the cut out.” That is, to provide access for cutting down trees and hauling the logs away. The roads were never intended to afford access for recreation and other uses for many years into the future. With the decline of logging, the trees having been cut down, subsidies for maintenance have been severely reduced. MBS estimates that it will only have funds to maintain about 25% or 628 of its 2,500 miles of roads.

The Sustainable Roads Project is part of the response to the federal 2005 Travel Management Rule. The Rule mandated that all national forests develop a Motor Vehicle Use Map and create a sustainable roads strategy. Based on its Minimum Roads Analysis, MBS produced its map in 2009. The final strategy, due to be completed by 2015, will inform future decisions as to which roads to maintain and at what level. Decisions on the closure of individual roads will require the normal NEPA evaluation.

To involve the public in developing the strategy, MBS has been holding a series of eight public workshops. Through September 24, seven workshops have been attended by over 240 people. Each workshop begins with introductory remarks, followed by background explanations and instructions. Participants, seated in groups of six, are asked to identify as many as eight destinations each in the forest that are important to them. Then they are instructed to mark with color-coded hi-lighters the roads on the national forest they use for access to these areas. The roads and areas are both marked on a large map for the group and individually reported on separate worksheets.

Each group of participants then discusses and responds to three major topics.
1. What are the consequences of a reduced road system?
Not surprisingly, the loss of motor vehicle access heads the list, followed by a wide range of both positive and negative effects. These range from negative economic impacts on rural communities as a result of reduced visitation, crowding on the remaining accessible sites, and loss of fire protection to the reduced introduction of invasive species, improved wildlife habitat and increased opportunities for non-motorized recreation.
2. What criteria should be used when analyzing the road system?
The participant groups have responded with a strong element of realism. The first criterion mentioned is a cost-benefit analysis, followed by consideration of the local economic impact, the importance of the area accessed, and the on-going maintenance cost. Environmental effects, both positive and negative, must be considered, many participants say.
3. What are some strategies and opportunities for maintaining the road system?
While many schemes for raising money have been proposed, more pragmatic ideas include “Adopt-a-Road” partnerships between local groups and the Forest Service for particular roads and lowering maintenance criteria on some roads to allow more miles to be kept open.
The workshops also provide an opportunity for the participants to identify problem roads and roads they believe should be closed.
Not part of the workshop discussions is the fate of the remaining 75% or 1,972 miles of MBS roads that will not be maintained. There appear to be three options:

The roads may be closed to motor vehicle traffic and blocked with gates, with the option of being reopened at some future date.

The roads may be decommissioned with culverts removed, natural drainage restored, the driving surface removed and native vegetation planted. These roads would be removed from the inventory and never restored. Decommissioning will require a NEPA process.

After the workshops close, you can express your views on the Sustainable Roads blogs on the MBS website. As of September 26, more than 627 people had posted comments on the future of forest roads.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Wild Cascades - new issue now available online

The new Summer-Fall 2013 issue of The Wild Cascades is now available on our website!

Of course, you can always get your copy first, a couple of weeks before it's posted on our website, by joining NCCC!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NCCC co-founder Phil Zalesky has passed away.

We regret to inform you that NCCC co-founder Phil Zalesky passed away yesterday. 

HistoryLink File #9368
Zalesky, Phil (b. 1924) and Laura (b. 1924)
Phil and Laura Zalesky began lives in 1924 that included early poverty, but became enriched through their marriage in 1945 and intertwined with some of the most important Pacific Northwest environmental efforts of the twentieth century: creation of North Cascades National Park, defending Olympic National Park, and protecting the fragile wetlands of Snohomish County.      


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Do It Yourself - Build a National Park

By the late Patrick Goldsworthy, co-founder of NCCC. (First published in NCCC News, February 1959)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Patrick Goldsworthy: An appreciation [Seattle P-I]

Patrick Goldsworthy: An appreciation


Dr. Patrick Donovan Goldsworthy was present at the creation of the Northwest’s conservation movement, back in the days when horn-blasting logging trucks lined up outside wilderness hearings, and the Wenatchee National Forest supervisor greeted a delegation of early greens with the words:  “Just what do you people want?”

Goldsworthy, 94, died in Seattle on Sunday.
“Pat always impressed me as one of the true gentlemen of Northwest conservation,” said Tim McNulty, a Sequim-based author and longtime activist in Olympic Park Associates.
By Joe Sebille
A grizzly bear in the North Cascades National Park, the first confirmed sighting since before the park’s creation in 1968.  Dr. Patrick Goldsworthy, who crusaded to establish the park, died Sunday at 94.  The first hike he took in the “American Alps” was to Cascade Pass, just below where this picture was taken.

Goldsworthy was a gentlemen, but relentless in his advocacy.
He helped establish the first Sierra Club chapter in the Northwest.  In 1957, he helped found the North Cascades Conservation Council, the most uncompromising voice of Washington conservation.  The N3C fought an administrative battle for creation of a Glacier Peak Wilderness Area in 1960, then turned to Congress for passage of the North Cascades Act in 1968.
The landmark legislation created a 684,000 acre North Cascades National Park complex, along with adjoining Glacier Peak and Pasayten Wilderness Areas totaling nearly one million acres.  It was a seminal moment for protection and preservation of the “American Alps.”
When U.S. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall came to Seattle for the 1962 World’s Fair, Seattle attorney/conservationist Irving Clark, Jr., invited Goldsworthy to a Bainbridge Island beach party honoring Udall.
“Now Pat,” he admonished Goldsworthy, “Stewart Udall is a busy man.”  Clark gently suggested that Goldsworthy let Udall relax and hold off lobbying for a national park in the North Cascades.
No way!  Armed with maps, Goldsworthy positioned himself just inside the door of the beach house.  He waylaid Udall, took him into the study and laid out the case for a park. Goldsworthy, lugging topographical maps, became a familiar figure in Washington congressional offices.
Six years post-Bainbridge, Goldsworthy stood with Udall at the White House while President Lyndon Johnson signed the North Cascades Act into law.  He received a pen used by LBJ to sign the act.
Goldsworthy was a participant in one of the national conservation movements most wrenching battles.  He was a director of the Sierra Club when, in 1969, the club board voted to oust visionary but autocratic executive director David Brower.
Brower had brought national attention to the “American Alps” with publication of the Sierra Club book “North Cascades: Forgotten Parkland.”  He gave national circulation to a film, “The Wilderness Alps of Stehekin.”  He helped defeat a massive mining project proposed for the heart of the Glacier Peak Wilderness, with a full-page New York Times ad headlined:  “An Open Pit Visible from the Moon.”
But he spent money the club did not have, and went around its directors.  Goldsworthy was a diehard Brower defender, and left the Sierra Club board afterward.
In professional life, Goldsworthy was a University of Washington professor who spent a career researching protein biochemistry.  He was raised in Berkeley, California, weaned on early Sierra Club outings, and came north to Seattle after World War II service in the Army Medical Corps.
The atmosphere for conservation, at the time, was not friendly.  A famous Seattle Times editorial lampooned conservation advocates as “mountain climbers and birdwatchers.”  An Olympic National Park superintendent allowed illegal logging on park lands, supposedly taking trees that endangered visitors.
Goldsworthy went out to the park, photographed the destruction, and helped halt the logging.  He was active in Olympic Park Associates, which became a model for N3C.
The conservation community was never/will never be satisfied.  The North Cascades Act was followed in 1976 by creation of a 393,000-acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  The million-acre Washington Wilderness Act of 1984 created a Mt. Baker and Boulder River Wilderness, and protected 179,000 acres east of Lake Chelan.
Yet, even in his 90′s, Goldsworthy continued to press his latest cause, expansion of the North Cascades National Park to embrace ecosystem rather than political boundaries.  A now-sympathetic Times pictured Goldsworthy and longtime fellow activist Polly Dyer on a hike up the Baker River, just outside existing park boundaries.
Along with 101 Hikes guidebook author Harvey Manning, Goldsworthy belong to a group that called itself the Elderly Birdwatchers Hiking and Griping Society.  It did 39 hikes, of which Goldsworthy participated in 23.  Woe unto the motorcycle-riding Forest Service backcountry ranger who encountered the “Birdwatchers.”
Goldsworthy retired from the University of Washington in the early 1990′s, but never really retired from the N3C.
If you want to see his legacy, lift your eyes unto our hills.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cascade Pass work party this Saturday CANCELLED!

You may have been glancing at the weather forecasts and wondered about this Saturday up at Cascade Pass. So have we! After discussing with the National Park Service, we've decided to cancel this Saturday's planned work party at Cascade Pass. Sorry, but it just didn't make sense to try to go up there in the pouring rain with snow already on the ground up at the Pass.

We may be fortunate enough to have warmer weather that melts the snow up at the Pass, followed by a clearer, warmer weekend in October. If so we may try to do this then and we'll send another email notice a few days in advance.  If the snow at the Pass doesn't melt but the weather is fair, we might also consider a native vegetation planting work party at a lower elevation near the Environmental Learning Center at Diablo Lake. Please email us at if you would be interested in participating in a rescheduled work party.

Until then, enjoy your Autumn, try to get out and enjoy the North Cascades, and stay warm and dry!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Join an NCCC work party and see Cascade Pass

Join an NCCC work party and see Cascade Pass

Saturday, September 28
meet at 9:00 AM in Marblemount at the Native Plant Nursery, next to the Wilderness Information Center (the Marblemount Ranger Station - click here for a map). 

Join other NCCC members and friends for a National Park Service work party on Saturday, September 28! Beginning at 9:00 am at the Ranger Station in Marblemount, we will be working with the National Park Service staff, packing subalpine plants up to Cascade Pass, and planting them in an old trail that is being decommissioned at the Pass. We can also provide work at the Cascade Pass trailhead parking area for anyone who does not want to hike up to the Pass. As you may have heard, the recent Cascade River Road washout was quickly repaired and the Road is open to its end. We will meet at 9:00 AM in Marblemount at the Native Plant Nursery, next to the Wilderness Information Center (the National Park Service’s Marblemount Ranger Station - click here for a map).  Bring a bigger pack if you have one, for carrying plants; the Park Service will also provide packs. We will load plants there, then carpool to the Cascade Pass trailhead, then hike with the plants up to the Pass. Other questions? email us at

This should be scenic, rewarding and fun!
As you may know, NCCC has a long history of revegetation efforts at Cascade Pass, which historically had been heavily damaged by overuse by the time North Cascades National Park was created in 1968. NCCC members Joe and Margaret Miller invented the methods that the Park Service now uses to restore fragile alpine meadows. The native plant nursery in Marblemount is even named after the Millers! So not only will you visit a beautiful place and help restore it, you'll be walking in the footsteps of NCCC founders.

Cascade Pass plant restoration is an NCCC success story, so come help us continue the good work, and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the North Cascades!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Seattle Weekly reports on fisher reintrouduction

"Good news for those who care for endangered species, or just those who like to know there is an abundance of small, furry animals running around in our woods: we’re bringing back the Pacific fisher (hopefully)."  more...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Input sought on Sustainable Roads on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

MBSNF is conducting a study of their road system with a view to declining budgets which will only allow them to keep open about 25% or 623 miles of the current 2500 miles. MBSNF is making an effort to involve the public users of the roads in identifying those roads that the public believes are important to be kept open for recreation.

NCCC friends - please attend one of the meetings below and express a strong preference for environmentally responsible road closures and decommissioning. There are another five public meetings, Tuesday in Issaquah is next. If you can't attend a meeting go to the website linked below and give your input!


Tell us what roads are important to you and why at one of the upcoming meetings. Please RSVP to, space is limited. 
Give your input online at


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

NCCC member is Artist in Residence in NCNP this summer

Here's how NCCC member Ethan Welty describes his work in North Cascades Park this summer:

Precipitous granite faces, tree-drenched valleys, lofty alpine basins host to most of the glaciers in the lower 48. Although within sight of Seattle, the North Cascades comprise one of the most intact, inaccessible, and least visited wildlands in the contiguous United States. Raised in Seattle, I am thankful to have once called these mountains home. Standing among them, my intellectual and aesthetic fascination for the natural world converged and found a voice. Among them, I aspired to become a mountaineer, a glaciologist, and a photographer.

Although I now live in Colorado, I return often to celebrate the mountains that first inspired my camera. My goal, which will surely take a lifetime, is to assemble a spatially comprehensive, photographic portrait of the shy and beautiful range. On my last visit, I focused on landscapes lying just outside the National Park, hoping to assist American Alps Legacy Project in their battle to expand Congressional protection in the region. This summer, as artist-in-residence at North Cascades National Park, I train my camera on the rugged landscapes lying both within and beyond the park, researching and photographing as many objectives as time allows. In late August, I plan to share my experiences and my craft in an evening slideshow and in a one-day photo workshop (dates and location to be determined).

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Keepers of the Beat" N. Cascades glacier film now online!

The North Coast & Cascades Science Learning Network (SLN) is pleased to announce a new film on glacier monitoring. "Keepers of the Beat" features Dr. Jon Riedel, NPS glaciologist at North Cascades National Park showing how and why he takes the pulse of glaciers. The title refers to the fact that glaciers respond to environmental conditions and keep a record of their past history, the "beats" of time. 

Glaciers in all Northwest national parks are shrinking fast. “Keepers of the Beat” shares Dr. Riedel’s findings, ties in related work at Mount Rainier, and explains how the projects are linked together. In the film we see the scientists going about their work and we also learn of their personal motivations and concerns. “Keepers” is 18 minutes long and streamed in HD video at

“Keepers” and the other short videos at the site are products of the SLN, a National Park Service program serving all the Northwest national parks. Its mission is to encourage park research and to disseminate results of  that research. Please contact the program’s director, Dr. Jerry Freilich, for more information (, 360-565-3082).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Wild Cascades, Spring 2013 coming soon!

Here's a preview of what's to come in the current Spring issue of The Wild Cascades!
(If you're a member, your copy will arrive in about a week. If not, join NCCC and we'll mail you a copy!)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Meet the new NC Park Supe at REI on 6/14!


Explore Your
North Cascades National Park

(it's closer than you think!)
meet the new Park
When:  Friday June 14, 4:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Where: REI flagship store, 222 Yale Avenue N, Seattle
Hosted b
y:  North Cascades Conservation Council (NCCC)
  • Chat with Karen Taylor-Goodrich, new Superintendent of the North Cascades National Park Complex.
  • Meet outdoor enthusiasts, catch up with NCCC members, board members, and volunteers, as you meet other Park staff.
  • Update your summer outdoor recreation plans as you learn more about hiking, backcountry camping and trails, mountaineering, wildlife (wolves! bears! wolverines!) and other natural and cultural resources from Park staff.
 A North Cascades National Park information program will be presented at 5:00, 6:00 and 7:00 PM, with plenty of time in between for complimentary food and beverages, meeting National Park staff and NCCC board members.
Left: Karen Taylor-Goodrich, NPS photo
Above: Mt. Logan from North Fork Bridge Creek, Philip Fenner photo (c)2012