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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bill Protecting Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area Passes Key Senate Committee

Posted by: Amber Benson

Today, Senator Murray announced that legislation she introduced that would expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and designate both the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic has passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Murray’s bill, S. 721, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act, would expand the existing wilderness by over 22,000 acres to include important lower-elevation lands and watersheds.

Senator Patty Murray introduced the bill in the Senate earlier this year along with Senator Maria Cantwell. The bill was introduced simultaneously in the House by Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-08), Congressmen Jay Inslee (WA-01), Brian Baird (WA-03), Adam Smith (WA-05), and Jim McDermott (WA-07).

“Today we have moved one step closer to new protections for the Alpine Lake wilderness area that will guarantee that this pristine environment is preserved as a legacy and natural resource for generations to come,” said Senator Patty Murray. “I was proud to join with Congressman Reichert to introduce this bill, and I will continue working until this important legislation is signed into law.”

“Washingtonians are now one step closer to enjoying an expansion of one of the most visited wilderness areas in the United States,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “In addition to promoting clean water and supporting diverse wildlife species, these additions will support the local economy by enhancing recreational opportunities.”

“With this approval by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we are closer to protecting additional wilderness and the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers,” Congressman Dave Reichert said. “I thank Senator Patty Murray for her leadership and diligent work on this bipartisan, consensus-based conservation effort. I’m pleased to see progress on our legislation continue, and will continue to partner with the Senator to protect these areas for generations to come.”

The existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1976 and is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country. It is one of the closest blocks of wild forests to an urban center in the country and provides diverse recreational opportunities. Key elements of the new Alpine Lakes legislation include:

  • Providing the protection of the Wilderness Act of 1964 for the lower elevation lands, which will bring a richer diversity of ecosystems, including deeply forested valleys, into the wilderness area and increase its overall biodiversity. The addition of these lower elevation lands also has the direct effect of protecting a broader array of outdoor recreational opportunities easily accessible for wilderness enthusiasts.
  • Designating the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic, which would permanently protect the rivers’ free-flowing character, water quality and outstanding recreation, fisheries, wildlife, geological and ecological values. This designation provides for many recreational activities including unique backcountry hiking, kayaking, and white water rafting that is unheard of so close to a major urban center.

Following a long-fought victory to create the Wild Sky Wilderness in 2008, Senator Murray continued a tradition of collaboration to help protect public lands. Murray held meetings with stakeholders and a public workshop early in 2009 to discuss the wilderness proposal and hear local community input on the legislation. Washington Wilderness Coalition played a key role in those meetings. As a result of those meetings, Senator Murray introduced companion legislation in the Senate, and both versions of the bill include the new addition of Wild and Scenic designation for the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

Having passed the full committee, the bill will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Roadless Champions

Posted by: Michael Lanthier

Last week myself and Conservation Director Tom Uniack joined roadless advocates from across the country for a Roadless Summit at our nation's capital. Organized by the Pew Charitable Trust, the summit included scientists, economists, faith leaders, local elected officials and representatives from conservation as well as hunting and fishing organizations. It was an opportunity to better organize the efforts across the country to ensure protections for the almost 58 million acres of roadless national forest land.

It was also an opportunity to thank the many roadless champions in the House and Senate who have been instrumental in working towards finalizing roadless protections. Thankfully Washington State has two leaders on roadless. Rep. Jay Inslee and Sen. Maria Cantwell have led the efforts to introduce legislation to protect roadless areas. To thank them they were awarded Roadless Champion boxes with their picture (similar to the Wheaties box) at a breakfast reception. You can send a personal thank you to Cantwell and Inslee HERE.

While in Washington DC we met with our Washington State delegates to talk about current and future opportunities to protect our state's national treasures. We were joined by Tom O'Keefe from American Whitewater, a key ally from the recreation community.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wilderness Visions-30th Anniversary Dinner & Auction A Success!

Posted By: Lisa Syravong

Washington Wilderness Coalition celebrated our 30th Anniversary by hosting our 6th Annual Dinner and Silent Auction on Thursday, November 12, 2009. The event was well attended, with 135 guests and volunteers who gathered in celebration of the work being done to protect wilderness in Washington State. Held at the Shilshole Bay Beach Club in Ballard, guests enjoyed Northwest beer donated from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, wine from Chateau Ste Michelle and a delicious dinner catered by Apulent Catering.

WWC was pleased to welcome David Dicks, Executive Director of Puget Sound Partnership, as our keynote speaker. Mr. Dicks is leading the Partnership in an ecosystem-based approach that includes a clear focus on upper watersheds being vital to the restoration of Puget Sound.

Also in attendance were honored guests: Representative Norm Dicks (WA-06) and Suzie Dicks, and staff representatives from Representative Jay Inslee (WA-01) and Representative Dave Reichert (WA-08) who attended on behalf of the Representatives.

The event featured a keynote address by David Dicks, introduction of our new Board President, Barak Gale, by outgoing President Ted Whitesell, awards presentation, an inspirational, reflecting video featuring interviews by Doug North, Jon Owen & Ken Gersten.

The 30th Anniversary, marked the hard work and dedication of our co-founders, the late Karen M. Fant and Ken Gersten who began in 1979 with the idea of creating an organization to focus solely on protecting wilderness on public lands. To honor this, our history volunteer, Denise Ottoson, wrote a 30 page history of the organization.

WWC was pleased to present two awards this year. The Karen M. Fant Award was awarded to Connie Gallant, a Conservation Activist from Quilcene, WA. Connie Gallant was honored for her tireless work to protect the peninsula's treasures. Connie is an active member of a number of wilderness organizations, including the Olympic Forest Coalition where she serves on the board as Vice-President. Connie received an original black and white framed photograph donated by Steven Fey of Steven Fey Photography.

The New Conservation Voices Award was presented to Tom O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director of American Whitewater.
Tom is an expert in aquatic ecology, bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge to the conservation community. He has worked with WWC on several ongoing campaigns, including the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation and the Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative. Tom also received an original black and white framed photograph, donated by Steven Fey of Steven Fey Photography.

We were honored to have so many notable guests, members and supporters of WWC to gather in honor of the work being done to protect wild lands around the state. A very special thank you to our staff, Board of Directors, auction committee volunteers and the more than 15 volunteers who gave hours, and months. We would like to especially recognize volunteers Charla Sullivan and Kendra Wendel for their hard work in planning the auction throughout the year.

Thank you for celebrating 30 years of wilderness protection with Washington Wilderness Coalition!

Photo By: Adam Sanders, Frank Blau Photography

Friday, October 30, 2009

Roadless News: Is Obama Administration Upholding Promises?

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Earlier this year the Secretary of Agriculture created a "time out" on development in roadless areas, a step towards keeping the promises of President Obama to uphold the 2001 Roadless Rule. However, is the Obama administration now moving backwards on roadless protections? takes up the question:

"This interim directive will provide consistency and clarity that will help protect our national forests until a long-term roadless policy reflecting President Obama's commitment is developed," Vilsack, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, said at the time.

Now it appears the administration is backing away from that directive, if only a little.

This month, the Agriculture Department returned to the Forest Service the authority to undertake certain projects in roadless forests without the secretary's approval.

To read full article CLICK HERE.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Senator Murray on Alpine Lakes Legislation

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Taking a step towards permanent protection of the Pratt and Middle Fork River Valleys, Senator Murray (D-WA) submitted testimony at a hearing of the Public Lands and Forests subcommittee urging her colleagues to support the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (S. 721).

“Today’s hearing is another step forward toward expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area and adding new protections for our rivers,” Senator Murray said. “Conservation and preservation of our natural resources reflects the values I grew up with here in Washington state and I want to leave the same kind of legacy for my grandson and for future generations to enjoy. That’s why I was proud to join with Congressman Reichert to introduce this bill, and why I will continue working for this important legislation.”

For Senator Murray's Press Release CLICK HERE.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Call on Obama administration to stop new Tongass logging

Posted by Michael Lanthier

WASHINGTON—The Pew Environment Group and 10 other conservation organizations called on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today to stop two controversial timber sales in roadless areas of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, one of the last intact temperate rainforests in the world. The groups asked Vilsack to honor President Barack Obama’s commitment to uphold the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which was issued to protect 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forests, including the Tongass.

An ad running today in [the Capitol Hill newspaper] Politico points to the planned Central Kupreanof timber sale in the Tongass, America’s largest national forest, which would log old growth trees and build 15 miles of new roads in roadless areas. The draft plan would mean a loss of more than 5,000 roadless acres and cost taxpayers more than $6 million to build roads associated with the project. A final plan for the sale is expected to be released within the week. A second logging proposal would build roads in the Suemez Island roadless area, also in the Tongass. According to a May 28 administrative directive, Secretary Vilsack’s approval is required for most industrial activity in inventoried roadless areas covered by the 2001 rule while legal issues regarding the rule’s implementation are resolved.

"Action by local forest service officials to move forward with plans to log old-growth trees and roadless areas in the Tongass is at odds with President Obama's pledge to protect the nation's last wild forests – including the Tongass – through the Roadless Area Conservation Rule,” said Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Environment Group’s U.S. public lands program. "It is now up to Secretary Vilsack to honor that commitment by stopping new roadless area logging in the Tongass and giving this crown jewel the full protection it deserves.”

In a similar test for the Obama administration, Colorado is expected to propose a plan to Secretary Vilsack in November that would allow new coal mining and oil and gas leasing, as well as road building and logging, in the state’s 4.4 million acres of national forests. National environmental organizations and Colorado conservation groups have called on the Obama administration to reject the state's proposal.

The Obama administration has signaled support for the 2001 roadless rule, and Obama himself pledged to uphold the rule during his presidential campaign. In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the rule, rejecting efforts to replace it with a discretionary state-based process. The previous administration had attempted to roll back the rule, including applying a temporary exemption to the Tongass from its protections, and initiating the state-based process in place of national policy.

Today’s ad, which tells Secretary Vilsack, “Now it’s up to you to protect our Tongass rainforest,” is sponsored by Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Environment America, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Center for Conservation Science & Policy, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Environment Group, Sierra Club, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, and The Wilderness Society.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improving public policy, informing the public and stimulating civic life. For more information about the campaign to protect America’s roadless national forests, go to

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

House Passes Wild & Scenic Bill

Posted by Michael Lanthier

A Wild and Scenic River designation for the Illabot Creek, a major tributary to the Skagit River, just passed in the House today. Introduced by Representative Rick Larson and Senator Patty Murray, the senate bill still awaits a hearing. Both Rep Larson and Sen Murray led the efforts to create Washington's first designated wilderness in over 20 years, the Wild Sky Wilderness.

The passage of the Illabot Creek Bill would create the 7th tributary or river in Washington to be designated as a Wild and Scenic River. Washington's neighbor to the south, Oregon, has over 50.

Wild and Scenic River designation protects the free flowing condition of rivers. That designation is important for the Illabot Creek, which provides exceptional spawning and rearing habitat for summer and fall chinook, coho, and pink salmon. Illabot is also home to native steelhead and one of the largest populations of bull trout in the Skagit watershed. It also supports one of the largest wintering bald eagle populations in the lower 48.

Find out more about the Illabot Creek at American Rivers, an organization that Washington Wilderness works closely with in protect Washington's rivers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Recreation Leaders Support Wilderness Additions

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Wilderness preservation is important to a variety of stakeholders, including businesses. Nationwide, active outdoor recreation contributes more than $730 billion to the U.S. economy. The protection of key recreation areas directly effects many businesses.

Recently, several key businesses from the recreation industry showed their support of preservation on the current wilderness bill set forth by Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Dave Reichert to expand the Alpine Lakes wilderness to protect the Pratt River Valley and Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

Washington Wilderness worked with The Conservation Alliance to encourage many of its local members to show their support by signing onto a letter demonstrating the need for protection. The Conservation Alliance represents a group of outdoor industry companies which engages businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values.

Exped LLC, a Conservation Alliance member and signer, writes about the importance of their support in their Blog:
Exped LLC is a signatory to a letter recently sent to our representatives in government, encouraging them to continue the quest to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We've pasted the letter in below - please give it a read. Better yet, if you haven't visited the Pratt River, go and take it in soon. This amazing fall weather is a perfect time to see this beautiful stretch of river. READ MORE.
Exped LLC, with local offices in Seattle, is a maker of tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, trekking poles, and other outdoor gear.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Busy Week for Roadless, Thank Activists

Posted by: Michael Lanthier

Last week was a busy week focused on the Roadless Rule. To continue to apply pressure on the Obama administration to follow through on its promises to re-enforce national protections for the 58.5 million acres of roadless forest, activists from across the country spoke out. Colorado was taking comments on its state proposal and about 200,000 comments were generated in time for the Oct 3rd deadline expressing the desire for a national rule to protect the all roadless areas.

Many comments came from Washington Wilderness’ activists who understand that protections for our roadless areas here in Washington State are only as strong as the national roadless rule. Activists continue to encourage WA Senator Maria Cantwell, a leader on roadless protections, to advocate that the Obama administration take action.

Additionally, on Thursday, October 1st, Senator Cantwell and WA Representative Jay Inslee introduced legislation to guarantee roadless protections through congress. Find out more on the Roadless Rule and/or send a quick thank you to Inslee and Cantwell for their leadership (be sure to include great roadless places that you have been to and would like to see protected).

Thanks again to all the support from Washington Wilderness activists, including the over 200 WA elected officials and more than 170 stakeholders!

Photo by Gordon Campbell

Friday, October 2, 2009

WWC Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Formative Board Meeting

Posted by: Denise Ottoson, Volunteer Historian

The wilderness and the idea of wilderness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit.
– Joseph Wood Krutch

At 2:30 in the afternoon of September 30, 1979, eight people gathered at the venerable College Inn, the celebrated organizers watering hole in the University District of Seattle, Washington. The eight were Ken Gersten, Karen Fant, Harold Wood, Janet Stuhr, Dean Fischer, Bruce Folsom, Audrey Newman, and Jon Alexander.

Ken Gersten and Karen Fant were the organizers. They were both young environmental activists. Early activist Polly Dyer had recruited mountain climber Gersten, and Fant was a protégé of both Patrick Goldsworthy and the legendary Hazel Wolf, with eight years of volunteer experience already under her belt. Fant had just finished a stint as President of the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, and Gersten had just become Vice-President of that group. They had recently met with Jim Monteith of the Oregon Wilderness Coalition, who had urged them to set up a coalition of local activists in Washington and had promised help with the formalities. This Sunday meeting was to discuss the feasibility of the proposed coalition.

When the discussion was done, the group formally decided to form the Washington Wilderness Coalition and declared their gathering its first board meeting. All except Bruce and Jon were put on an interim board; Ken was declared Chair and Karen Treasurer.

The purpose of the group was declared to be “a support system of the ‘front line’ wilderness and wild rivers groups and to publish a newsletter covering topics of interest across the state.” The new board decided that Ken and Karen would be the volunteer staff. And before they adjourned, they reached into their pockets and began the Washington Wilderness Coalition’s treasury with a collective donation of seven dollars.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Call to Action: Protect Our National Forests!

Posted by: Amber Benson

Recently, the green light was given to logging in Alaska’s Tongass Rainforest and now pristine national forests in other parts of the country could be in jeopardy. One of the key environmental policies that Barack Obama pledged to support as president is the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects nearly 60 million acres of our last remaining undeveloped national forests from most road building, logging and other industrial activities.


But, backed by special interests, the State of Colorado is attempting to get out from under this popular policy and open up some of the best backcountry in the Rocky Mountains to new coal mines, methane wells and oil and gas drilling. As a result, Colorado's national forests could be become a magnet for development and pave the way for similar activity on pristine forestlands elsewhere in the country like Washington State.


We need your help. Please ask Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, to reject Colorado's proposal and carry out President Obama's pledge to uphold the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule as the best policy to protect our last national forests in every state. Protection for our roadless areas here in Washington State are only as strong as the national roadless rule.


Photo: Twin Sisters, Inventoried Roadless Area, by Eric Zamora, used with permission.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Staff Report: Happy Hour & Tilth Festival

Posted by: Amber Benson

September has proven to be anything but uneventful around the WWC offices. Last week we had two major events and a couple of training sessions for staff members. Our two events were Seattle Weekly's Happy Hour for Hope and the Wallingford Tilth Festival.

The Happy Hour for Hope was exciting because we were specifically chosen as the non-profit to benefit. It was held Wednesday evening at Del Rey in Belltown. How it works is, Seattle Weekly asks a beer distributor to chose a local non-profit of their choice. In our case, Oktoberfest Dundee chose us. The distributor then donates two kegs of beer to the organization and the organization then sells it to the host bar at cost. What a great idea!

As much as we would have liked to mingle with supporters and patrons of the event, we had to work. We were allowed to set up a table at the bar in order to educate people, answer questions and receive generous donations. Overall, people were extremely receptive to our cause and generous with their support.

I can't say enough nice things about the staff members of Seattle Weekly, the manager of Del Rey and, of course, the representative from Oktoberfest. They were a friendly, excited, professional group of people.

The Tilth Festival was held this last Saturday in the park area of the Good Shepherd Center. Vendors and visitors could not have asked for better weather. Blue skies, sunshine, and warm weather - the perfect combination for a lovely September afternoon. By mid-morning we had a steady stream of people, all curious about our mission, successes, and latest efforts. By the end of the day we had three people sign-up for memberships and dozens sign-up for email alerts.

Thanks to all the members who came out to Happy Hour and the Tilth Festival. We're working hard to keep you apprised and involved in the latest events at WWC. Stay tuned for an invitation to our Wilderness Visions annual dinner in November!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Adventure Report: Visiting the Noisy-Diobsud

Posted By: Beth Anderson, WWC Board Member
I spent the last weekend in August in one of the lesser-known wild areas in Washington state – the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness. The Noisy-Diobsud became a designated wilderness as part of the Washington Wilderness Act of 1984 and the area currently consists of 14,133 acres of wild lands within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

After waking up to rain and clouds at our Seattle home, my husband and I picked up two friends and headed north via I-5, and eventually traveled east on Highway 20 to the Baker Lake Road, followed by nearly 8 miles on gravel to the Anderson-Watson Lakes trailhead.

As the trailhead neared the sun broke through the clouds, offering stunning views of Mount Baker even before the hike began. We started up the trail, the only maintained path into the
Noisy-Diobsud, which proceeds through lush forest for about one mile until breaking out into a lovely sloping meadow. There the spur to Anderson Butte (site of an long-since-demolished lookout) takes off to the left and the main trail ascends through the meadow.

Our hoped-for destination was a campsite on one of Watson Lakes, so we continued over the slight pass at the top of the meadow and down to the junction of the trails to Anderson and Watson Lakes. Anderson Lakes are accessed via the right fork, and that trail does not enter the designated wilderness.
Our group continued straight and entered the wilderness via the trail to Watson Lakes – the path switchbacks up and then back down into the Watson Lakes basin, reaching the first lake about a mile from the Anderson-Watson Lakes intersection. We followed an unmaintained trail around the first Watson Lake to the larger and slightly more spectacular second lake and found a campsite on a rocky outcrop along the shore.

We spent the rest of the afternoon admiring Mount Watson, climbing up a bit higher for views of Mount Shuksan, and enjoying the refreshing waters of Watson Lake. The following morning we took a bit more time to swim and eat berries from nearby bushes and then made our way back toward the trailhead. We dropped our overnight packs at the intersection for Anderson Butte and ate a late lunch on top of the butte (just inside the wilderness boundary), which provides incredible views of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, the Picket Range, and the beautiful green valleys in between.

This hike provides a great introduction to wilderness for younger folks or a relaxing weekend trip for anyone who enjoys high mountain lakes and expansive views.

For more information about the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness, see the following link:

Further details about the Anderson-Watson Lakes trail (#611) and the Anderson Butte trail (#611.1) can be found on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest site:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Salesforce: WWC Embraces Change and Much Needed Updates!

Posted By: Lisa Syravong

Almost every nonprofit and small independent business has it—outdated office equipment, ancient computer software, technology that is older than 5 years (yet to the office seems new) and a lack of funding to address the age-old question: “Why are we still using this, and how do we move into the 21st Century”? Yes folks, it’s the 21st century, and I’m well aware 2009 is almost over…

Washington Wilderness Coalition is certainly no exception to having outdated equipment—we have dedicated staff, all working tirelessly with outdated computers, computer software and drum roll please….Filemaker Pro Ebase. Ebase is a program, where we track our members, activists, donors and their contact information by way of logging donations, adding new information, pulling donor contact information for phone lists, email lists and the occasional membership mailing. However, we are still operating Ebase under the same license that we were granted in the late 1990’s. Staff over the years was able to highly customize our version of Ebase to one where we can track various levels of donors, track how often they attend our events, sign campaign postcards, if they have indicated they are supportive of certain campaigns and not others, you get the picture.

The difficulty with using a highly customized version of Ebase is that only the basic template is able to be updated yearly, and with staff turnover over the years we are left with fewer and fewer people who are courageous enough to use the program, let alone be able to update or migrate to a new version.

Enter into the picture-the scheming and dreaming of staff for 2-3 years. IF we could find a program that we could use that would hold our immense level of data, and IF we could find a way to pay for the new software (our current license is free, as long as we can suffer through using it), and IF we could find a way to take our old data and transfer it into a new template and program-THEN we could actually have a program that all staff could use and easily!

Early in 2008-our Executive Director helped with finding a way, a new program called Salesforce was identified, costs were drawn estimated for what it would be to actually migrate our data and to set up the licensing, and it became an opportunity to ask for grant support from the community. For those of you who know little about grant writing, a capacity building grant is one where we ask for financial support and apply for a grant from a corporation, foundation or other business to underwrite a new program that allows us to expand our work. It is a way to ask for funding for a much needed project, one that the organization will be able to launch into using and be able to fund in a sustainable way for years to come-even after the grant funds are spent.

We approached the Boeing Company with the idea that if we could fund a consultant to migrate our data-we could apply for free licenses from Salesforce (which offers free licenses to nonprofit organizations) and to finally embrace a database program that would be easily to use, integrate with our email programs, and one that all staff would have access to for our various departments.

Thanks to the support of the Boeing Company we will very soon migrate our data to Salesforce. This summer, we have been working with our wonderful consultant from N-Power, one who is able to take our data from Ebase, and transfer it into a working template in Salesforce. The staff is still nervous, as we face a busy fall campaign season with events, community festivals and up to a week of training sessions for at least some of us. We also face a new opportunity to embrace change and to grow as an organization. Updating our software will allow us to contact you, our supporters, in much more relevant ways, and call upon volunteers who express particular interests, focusing on matching specific skills with jobs that are needed to effectively carry out wilderness preservation. In other words, staff will be able to operate more efficiently so that you can participate in protecting the wild lands and waters you love more.

In September or early October-we are planning on the completion of this project—more than 18 months in the making. We appreciate the opportunity and the support that have been given by the Boeing Company, as well as N-Power, both of which are making this project possible.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Around the Office: Volunteers Key to Wilderness Visions Success

Posted by: Amber Benson

It's hard to believe we're wrapping up the final days of August. Summer at WWC has been a blur of tabling events, art walks, outdoor activities, with the random ice cream break thrown somewhere in the mix. But with the end of summer begins the craze of preparing for Wilderness Visions, our annual dinner and auction. Wilderness Visions is a key event at WWC. Not only does it allow us to interact with our members and supporters on a personal basis, but it also allows us to raise the money we need to continue to push our latest conservation efforts.

One thing is for certain, Wilderness Visions would not be a success without the ongoing support of our volunteers. Starting 11 months before and working up until the final minutes, volunteers play an integral part in the planning process and implementation of this major event. Initially, duties are fairly light and can often be fun, especially when it comes to scouting out the site for the event and getting to taste test possible catering companies! When we're about six months out, the work load starts to pile up. This is when volunteers start brainstorming companies to solicit for auction items, sponsorships, food donations, and decorations. After the list is compiled, they help us create the dozens and dozens of letters and get them in the mail.

The next few weeks are a bit of a waiting game as we wait for donations to arrive. So, in the mean time, we start thinking of who we would like to be the guest speaker. We usually start with a list of 4-6 potentials. We also use this lull as an opportunity to decide on a menu and start thinking of decorations, themes, etc.

At this point in the process we're probably at our current point on the timeline - September. We've now got donations piling up, we've chosen a speaker (awaiting confirmation), we have a theme in mind, and we're finalizing decoration ideas. Next on the agenda is to draft the email invitation and begin designing the program. While these two duties are more staff projects, the volunteers still have plenty to do as they continue processing all the donations and make follow-up calls on requests.

It appears we've accomplished a lot, however, events like these are never done until their done. Between now and November 12, we will begin to rely on volunteers even more as we start to design center pieces for the tables, process ticket purchases, prepare bid sheets for all the donated items and juggle all the last minute changes that are sure to arise before and on the day of the event.

We hope that you will be able to join us on November 12 at the Shilshole Bay Beach Club in Ballard to celebrate our 30th anniversary at the 2009 Wilderness Visions. Thanks to the hard work of all our volunteers, we are sure it will be an enjoyable evening filled with great company, delicious food, and overwhelming support.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Light in the Forests

Posted by Michael Lanthier

New York Times Editorial talks about Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's speech held in Seattle last week and the importance to resolving the Roadless Rule.

Ostensibly to promote regulatory efficiency, but mainly to support logging, the Bush rules eliminated legally-mandated environmental reviews, weakened protections for wildlife and streams and restricted public input in decision-making. Mr. Vilsack has said he will restore those protections; conservationists should make sure he keeps that promise.

Discover the work Washington Wilderness has been doing to make sure Vilsack and President Obama uphold their promises to protect roadless areas and do your part in sending a note to Senator Maria Cantwell, a leader on roadless protections.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Adventure Report: Mt. Daniel, Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Posted by: Drew Collins

Ah, the joys of a weekend backpack! Three of my friends and I packed up and headed to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness for a hike to Peggy’s Pond with a climb of Mt. Daniel planned.

We left civilization in historic Roslyn (from Northern Exposure) and headed along Lake Cle Elum and deep into the Cle Elum River Valley. A long, winding, and bumpy gravel road led us to the trailhead at the wonderful time of 7:30, and we were off and hiking up into the low clouds at 8:00 PM Friday. We had hoped to get to Peggy’s Pond that night, but that was wishful thinking.

Taking the Cathedral Pass trail we reached the Trail Creek Trail junction and took out our lights. It was dark, misty, and we needed lights to avoid tripping. With half the hike to Peggy’s Pond ahead of us, the next flat spot would be our campsite for the night. We found the shores of Squaw Lake not a moment too soon and set up camp.

When we arrived at the lake, a friend of mine said, “Finally!” but we quickly hushed him since there was a faint outline of another tent close to the lake. “SHHH! Let’s just be quiet and set up camp quickly!” It was about 9:30 by then, and we assumed that the campers were asleep. We gingerly set up camp, being careful not to make too much noise with the nylon tents, hung our food and slept. The next day we woke up to find that what we saw as a tent outline was a large boulder… DOH.

What we did find near the lakeshore were lots of yummy blueberries! I had never found many before when I hiked, so they were a real treat, sweet like candy.

After packing up, we followed the Cathedral Pass trail further until its junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which was surrounded by a few buggy tarns. Views opened up of the surrounding peaks, and the monolith of Cathedral Rock straight ahead. We could see Mt. Stewart, Granite and Trico, the Citadel and down in the valley, the blue water and green meadows of Deep Lake.

Following the trail down a few switchbacks brings you to the trail to Peggy’s Pond, which is marked, but not that great. Some scrambly parts are on this trail which steeply clings to the side of Cathedral Rock. Take the lower trail to Peggy’s Cabin, or the higher trail to the pond once you reach a little drainage dip.

We set up camp by 11 AM Saturday morning, and my friend and I took off to Mt. Daniel. We followed the southeast ridge which comes right up to the Peggy’s Pond area and runs above the Hyas Creek Glacier.

Marked with cairns and multiple bootpaths, the path converged on a snow patches with old ice, remnants of a larger Hyas Creek Glacier. After crossing these patches of snow and ice, we rounded the saddle and crossed an exposed, slippery scree slope and then followed the easy bootpath and scramble to the summit at 7,960’. A marine layer was pushing at the crest, making for a dramatic cloud show. The barren ice and rock at the summit was beautiful and also indicative of the intense weather at that altitude.

Sunday was a day of rest, and then retreat back to the car. It was a great time in the mountains with friends, and an awesome summit of the highest peak in the Alpine Lakes wilderness.

Drew joined WWC in July of 2009 to provide telephone outreach to its members. He is a student at the University of Washington planning to double major in Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP) and Environmental Studies. Drew hopes to learn more about wilderness protection and environmental policy in Washington State. He has lived in the Seattle area all of his life, and enjoys being outside hiking, backpacking and snowshoeing with friends.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Adventure Report: Overnight in Brothers Wilderness

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Saturday, August 15, a venture to the Brothers Wilderness in the Eastern Olympic National Forest. The snow is gone and the streams are trickling through the old growth forests that lie just north of the popular Lower Lena Lake trail. Did you journey out to a trail this weekend? Tell us your stories and favorite adventures in Washington’s National Forests or share your photos at

After a week of much needed rain, many headed out under clearing skies to enjoy their national forests. I visited the Brothers Wilderness, which is reached by turning west on Forest Service Road 25 off of Hwy 101. The road follows the Hamma Hamma River, know for tasty Hamma Hamma oysters caught just beyond its mouth in the Hood Canal. For last minute snacks and simple supplies you can head to the Eldon Store just south of FS 25. To start the venture park at the Lena Lake parking lot, or if you like continue along a dirt road to find the Hamma Hamma Falls.

Though one of the most popular trails in the Olympics, traveling to Lower Lena Lake can be demanding. It travels up 1200 feet with a majority of the elevation gain coming along switchbacks at the beginning. The venture up this striking roadless area is well worth it. The 55 acre Lower Lena Lake is surrounded by beautiful scenery and plenty of spots for camping as well as fishing for Brook trout, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout. Beware that you may find a lot of people there, but a bit more peace can be found by traveling further along the Upper Lena Lake Trail, which enters the Olympic National Park, or the Brothers Wilderness Trail which travels to the southern end of the Brothers Mountain Peaks.

Travel about a mile and a half to find great camping spots in the old growth forests of the Brothers Wilderness and prepare for an early morning to hike to the top of the Brothers for spectacular views. From here be sure to stay aware of where the trail goes because it can be easy to loose your way. After about another mile you’ll travel out of the forests and into an open meadow with a towering view of the peaks and a small cascading waterfall. You follow the trail around the west side of the peaks for a rugged climb up to the top. I unfortunately didn’t have the time to make it to the top but still received spectacular views across the Hood Canal and Kitsap Peninsula.

After you take in the spectacular views, its time to cruise back down the mountain for a burger at the Eagle Creek Saloon, off of N Eagle Creek Rd and just north of Lilliwaup. They have been serving delicious burgers about the size of the burger that rest a top their patio for about a year and a half. To our surprise, before reaching Hwy 101 for a burger, we lucked out to see a cougar cross the road and slip into the forest again (Thanks Whitney for your eagle eyes).

More on Brothers Wilderness

The Brothers Wilderness is located on the east side of Olympic National Forest, north of Lena Lake in Jefferson County. Except for a relatively gentle valley area in the East Fork of Lena Creek, the entire Wilderness is quite precipitous with tree covered slopes extending to about 5,000 feet. Elevation ranges from 699 feet near the Dosewallips River to the 6,866 foot summit of The Brothers. Other major peaks include Mt. Jupiter Ridge, and St. Peter's Dome. Read More.

Friday, August 14, 2009

In the News: New Direction for America's forests

Posted by: Amber Benson

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack paid a visit to Seattle this morning. His purpose was to address, for the first time, the Obama administration's direction for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. Two key leaders in Washington helped kick off the press event. Mary Wagner, Regional Director of the Forest Service, introduced Congressman Norm Dicks, thanking him for his creation of the "Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Act". Congressman Dicks then introduced Secretary Vilsack, highlighting Vilsack's desire to increase funding for Legacy Roads to $100 million and pointing out the Forest Service's $300 million road maintenance backlog in Washington state.

Vilsack presented a new direction for America's forests which will be guided by three principles: conservation, management, and restoration.

"A healthy and prosperous America relies on the health of our natural resources, and particularly our forests," said Vilsack. He went on to discuss the many things threatening our forests, (climate change, wildfires, disease) and how the decline is having an impact on our water supply, communities, wildlife and more.

Vilsack said he no longer wants the Forest Service to be viewed as an agency only concerned with the fate of our National Forests. Instead, he wants there to be a shared vision, one which includes the protection and maintenance of all American forests, including state and private lands. "Our shared vision begins with restoration. Restoration means managing forest lands first and foremost to protect our water resources, while making our forests more resilient to climate change," said Vilsack.

The Secretary also said he believes the growing markets for carbon and sustainable bioenergy will give landowners more of an incentive to maintain and restore forests. He then called on the Forest Service to play a greater role in the development of those markets and ensuring their integrity.

As for the latest in the Roadless Rule, Vilsack reiterated an announcement made by the Justice Department yesterday, that the Obama administration will do whatever it takes to protect Roadless areas in America, even if it means creating a new rule making process.

More news from Komo News:

SEATTLE (AP) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday outlined a vision for managing the nation's forests that placed a high priority on restoration to protect water resources and combat climate change.

"Conserving our forests is not a luxury," but a necessity, the former Iowa governor said at Seward Park in Seattle in his first major address on the Forest Service. Continue Reading.

Read or hear the speech in its entirety.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Artwalk-August, Jon Cornforth

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Washington Wilderness Coalition is pleased to invite you to join us for the August, Greenwood-Phinney Artwalk, scheduled for Friday, August 14th from 6-9pm.

WWC will be open for guests to enjoy nature photography from local wildlife and nature photographers, including Jon Cornforth. We welcome you to join us for conversation, complimentary snacks and beverages and an opportunity to view inspiring art from the NW.

This month, we will feature guest work from Jon Cornforth, an award-winning nature photographer whose images have been recognized internationally for their masterful composition and incredible detail. Driven to express the beauty of the natural world, Jon travels over 6 months each year to challenge himself in new locations and document the unique creatures who live there. A resident of Seattle, all of Jon's images are captured in the wild.

For more information about Jon Cornforth-please visit his website:

We look forward to seeing you on Friday, August 14th for the Artwalk!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Doug Scott Opens WWC Speakers Series!

Posted by Amber Benson

For nearly 30 years, Washington Wilderness Coalition has worked hard to be an inclusive organization. Over the years, our hard work has paid off and we’ve developed a very diverse group of supporters. From our state’s backcountry hunters and anglers, to elected officials, and religious leaders, there is a broad range of conservation voices in WWC and we want to bring that perspective to you. That’s why we are launching our first ever Speakers Series.

Our first event will be held September 3, which also happens to be the 45th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. To mark this monumental event we invited none other than Doug Scott, Policy Director of the Campaign for America’s Wilderness. Doug helped shape strategy for and lead campaigns that resulted in Congressional legislation protecting scores of wilderness areas across the country. He will take all of that experience and knowledge and discuss the importance of the 45th anniversary in his talk, “The Wilderness Act and Washington State: A Perspective on the Act’s 45th Anniversary”.

He will also discuss the publication of his two books, the most recent Our Wilderness: America’s Common Ground (Fulcrum Publishing; May 2009) and The Enduring Wilderness: Protecting Our Natural Heritage through the Wilderness Act (Fulcrum Publishing, 2004).

Following the speaking event we would encourage you to join us in celebration of the anniversary with some light hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer and mingling.

Please RSVP to

WWC will be hosting this first of many free speaker's series this fall, with additional free events scheduled for 2010.

Special thanks to the Mountaineers Foundation for providing support to fund our Speakers Series.

Click here for a full list of scheduled speaking events in 2010.

Monday, August 10, 2009

In The News: Vancouver Columbian Editorial on Roadless

Posted by Michael Lanthier

In most of the country the Roadless Rule, which protected the country's last undeveloped, roadless national forestlands, is again the law of the land after a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A Vancouver Columbian Editorial demonstrates their support:

"Proud and rational Northwesterners of all political stripes share the love of the unspoiled outdoors. And all of them should rejoice at a recent federal appeals court decision in San Francisco that protects about 58 million acres of roadless areas in national forests in 38 states. A three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a misnamed "Roadless Rule" implemented by the Bush administration in 2005. Instead, most provisions of a 2001 declaration in the final days of the Clinton administration were restored."

In the News: Fate of Upper Stehekin Valley Road

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Portions of the Stehekin Road where destroyed in a 2003 flood, and since have created much controversy. The controversy continues with a bill to move the road into wilderness. Read more from Wenatchee World,

"U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings in June introduced a bill, HB 2806, that would allow the National Park Service to relocate a 2.5-mile section of the road. This section would cross into the wilderness area, and it requires an act of Congress to move the wilderness boundary, a move the National Park Service there doesn't want to see."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In The News: Washington State leaders relish as court restores 'roadless rule'

Posted by Michael Lanthier

A federal appeals court on Wednesday reaffirmed a lower-court decision to reinstate the roadless rule. It was considered surprising news as the decision came from a panel of three judges who were appointed by Republican presidents.

Washington State leaders celebrate the court victory:

“This is a great victory for Washingtonians, who have long stood for the protection of our roadless areas,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “These special places provide clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and priceless recreational opportunities for Washington families."

“Today’s victory is sweet for those of us who want to see our forests conserved for future generations,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna. “The conservation of natural resources is something that all state citizens strongly support. And that’s why we’ve made the legal defense of our environment a top priority.” (Washington State Attorney General Press Release)

Though good news, the Roadless Rule and the 58.5 million acres of roadless forests that the rule is meant to protect are yet to be safely protected:

Attorney Paul Turcke, who represents the BlueRibbon Coalition, an off-road vehicle group that intervened in the case, predicted that the roadless "saga will continue."

"I think it is unlikely this will end the litigation," he said. (From Los Angeles Times)

Do your part and encourage your Representative to push the Obama Administration to uphold the 2001 Roadless Rule for permanent protection or write to Senator Cantwell, a leader on the issue.

Read More: ‘Roadless Rule’ goes full circle

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Staff Thoughts: From Lake City to the Middle Fork River

Post by Amber Benson

The first weekend of August proved to be a very busy one for the staff and a dedicated volunteer at WWC. On Saturday we hosted a booth at Pioneer Days in Lake City, and on Sunday we headed to the Middle Fork River area.

Setup for Saturday was between 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM and we didn’t stop until just after 6:00 PM. Due to the long hours, our staff pulled together and rotated every 3 – 4 hours to keep faces fresh and avoid burnout. Traffic was slow in the morning as many people were probably still trying to get out the door. But by 11, things really started to pick up. People had a genuine interest in learning what we’re about and why it’s important to save our wilderness. We educated them on our efforts to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and how we work hard to include and listen to groups that would not normally be considered our allies. It was a new event for WWC, and we enjoyed the opportunity to meet neighbors and residents in the Lake City neighborhood.

On Sunday some of the staff and a couple of volunteers got upearly and headed to the Middle Fork River area. The purpose was to shoot two interviews for a short video we plan to present at this year’s 30th Anniversary celebration in November.

Jon Owen, Deputy Campaigns Director for Campaign for America’s Wilderness, and Doug North, WWC Board Member and Treasurer, were the two subjects being interviewed. The shoot was educational for everyone; some learned the ins and outs of audio/video, while others had the opportunity to hear more about WWC and it’s 30 year history. You can see from the pictures that everyone had a role, whether it was waving flies off the photographer; holding a reflector, or simply observing! Thank you to all of our volunteers and staff that made this possible. We look forward to revealing the final product in November.

~Amber Benson
Outreach & Membership Coordinator

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hike Reports: Viewing the Pratt Valley

Posted by Terry Fernsler

Visiting the proposed Alpine Lakes Wilderness additions—from a different angle

Expecting cloudy weather, but getting an almost-perfect hiking day instead, I got myself up early to hike to Mt. Defiance and beyond recently. I like to go early for a number of reasons—the air is usually clearer in the morning for better photos, there’s a better chance I’ll see a large critter before they go to ground for the day, and I can enjoy the wild with few intrusions from loud-voiced people.

Mt. Defiance looks over the South Fork Snoqualmie River Valley and Interstate 90. It’s a rigorous, but not grueling, hike to the top of Mt. Defiance, starting at the trailhead of the Ira Spring Trail, at about 2,200 feet, and climbing in less than five miles to 5,584 feet. Not a steep climb, but long. From Mt. Defiance the trail goes on to Thompson Lake, on the western edge of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

I hit the trail before 6:30. The walk was pleasant, not getting into sunlight until I crossed the ridge above Mason Lake, where I passed from the proposed wilderness additions into Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I crept past the still-sleeping campers at Mason Lake. The trail reached the open meadow on the side of Mt. Defiance, and the views were fantastic. Mason Lake and Little Mason snuggled below, tucked between Mt. Defiance and Bandera (pictured below). Mt. Rainier and Little Tahoma, although distant, looked very close. Flowers of many colors speckled the mountain side.

The side trail that goes to the top of Mt. Defiance is steep but the views (on a clear day) are well worth it. One can look straight into the heart of the western Alpine Lakes Wilderness, up the South Fork Snoqualmie Valley to Snoqualmie Pass, and even see Glacier Peak peeking out above the mountains to the north. In this photo (across the Pratt Valley) of Mt. Roosevelt, the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness comes down the mountain to just about the bottom of the bare rock. The proposed additions are down slope from there.

This is common to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and many of our state’s existing wilderness areas: the protected areas are high-altitude, often above tree line. Protecting forests, especially lowland forests, is important for ecosystem maintenance and preserving carbon sinks; that’s one of the things that makes the proposed Alpine Lakes additions so vital.

The trail between Mt. Defiance and Thompson Lake was not only more rugged and less traveled, it was wilder. Behind the slope of the ridge I could no longer hear the noise of the Interstate traffic, and the slopes on this side of the ridge are quite steep. The steep slopes offered terrific views of the Spider Creek and Thompson Creek drainages, both part of the proposed Alpine Lakes additions. In view below of the Thompson Creek Valley, nearly everything in the valley is in the proposed Alpine Lakes additions, right to the top of Preacher Mountain across the Pratt Valley. You can just see the Garfield Bench (which is across the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley) peeking over the shoulder of Preacher Mountain, and Cascade Mountain beyond that.

By the time I was coming back from Thompson Lake, the sun had been shining down on the trail for several hours, and the hike back felt much longer than the hike in. Fortunately, there was a gentle breeze, which felt especially good in the shade.

The Pratt Valley was left out of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness bill in 1976 because of the possibility of timber harvest in the valley. The valley had been logged as recently as 90 years ago, but today it has greater value for its trout and other wildlife habitat and its importance as a carbon sink. It was inspiring to see so much of the wild area that is Alpine Lakes that is already protected, and to see the rich Pratt Valley from a different angle.

View a proposal map for the Alpine Lakes Wilderness additions or find what you can do to help.

Terry Fernsler is the Executive Director of Washington Wilderness Coalition.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Staff Thoughts: A Step Back on Roadless Protections

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Last Week, the Juneau Empire reported that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had approved a timber sale within a roadless area of the Tongass National Forest. It is the first such sale since he announced in May a temporary ruling that would require all new projects in roadless forest to be approved by him personally.

The stated reason Vilsack gave for the sale, which includes at least 2 miles of roads to be built into the ancient old-growth forest, was to help provide needed jobs. But conversationalists responded that the sale does nothing to ensure a stable economy for the local communities and will end up costing tax payers more money, as the Forest Service already has a $10 billion dollar backlog on maintaining its existing network of nearly 400,000 miles of roads.

Conversationalist responds in an Environmental News Service article:

"The day when this kind of timber sale made sense is long gone," said Carol Cairnes, president of the board of the Ketchikan-based Tongass Conservation Society. "Cutting these trees will not even bring in half the money the Forest Service will spend building a road to get to the trees.

"The rest of Thorne Arm [a roadless area in the Tongass] has already been hammered with clearcuts," said Cairnes. “People in Ketchikan use this last pristine area for fishing, hiking, and family outings. The trees have more value standing than they do cut."

However the article expresses the larger concern:

“President Barack Obama's appointees in the U.S. Department of Agriculture are ‘dangerously close’ to violating the President' pledge to uphold and defend the 2001 Roadless Rule - a pledge he made both as a candidate and since he took office…. Said [Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo], ‘there are several other roadless rule timber sales in the pipeline and the administration has not provided any assurance that they will not grant those timber sales’."

Through eight years of the previous administration, which made a concerted effort to end the protections of the 2001 Roadless Rule, only 7 miles of roads were built into roadless national forests. Though President Obama promised to protect roadless forests, within 6 months of being in office already 2 miles of roads in pristine roadless areas has been approved.

Permanent protections are needed. Roadless forests secure clean water and countless recreational opportunities which provide a sustainable economic boost to local communities.

Encourage Senator Cantwell, a leader on Roadless, to push Obama to up hold the 2001 Roadless Rule; Write a Letter. Or write your representative and senators to support legislation protecting roadless areas, on which Washington’s Rep Jay Inslee and Sen Cantwell have been leaders. Find out more what Washington Wilderness is doing to protect the 2 million acres of roadless national forests in Washington State.

See a video by the Natural Resources Defense Council on clear cutting’s effects on the once ancient, roadless forest land in the Tongass:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Staff Thoughts: The Spaces In-between

Posted by Drew Collins

Up until a few years ago, living in Washington did not make much of a difference for me. I guess the weather is cloudier here, but I’m used to it and do not know much else – I’ve lived in the Seattle area all my life. With the introduction of hiking trails and thus wilderness into my perspective, I see where I live as so much more, and I’m so glad to be here.

As a kid, when I’d look on a map, I’d see the long twisting, barren stretches of roadway and know that those were the ways to get through the mountains. You’d drive up a valley surrounded by high ridges and peaks and then go down. But as I learned while hiking, some of the most scenic areas in our state are the places in-between the markings on a map. Those gaps are huge, and their value is immeasurable.

In the last few years, hiking and backpacking has evolved to my favorite hobby. Exploring those places in-between the quick, fast-paced, auto access of mountain passes is exciting, breathtaking and calming. I’m seeing these huge expanses of land through my own eyes, and filling in the map with my own experiences.

I think a lot of young people today do not realize how much wild land there is out there, and few ever get to access it, much less get a half mile away from a car. Designating this wild land as wilderness is important to protect these areas because generations to come will realize the value and experience these spaces which we mark today as valuable assets, are close to our hearts.

Drew joined WWC in July of 2009 to provide telephone outreach to its members. He is a student at the University of Washington planning to double major in Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP) and Environmental Studies. Drew hopes to learn more about wilderness protection and environmental policy in Washington State. He has lived in the Seattle area all of his life, and enjoys being outside hiking, backpacking and snowshoeing with friends.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In The News: Seattle Times Guest Opinion Editorial

Posted by Michael Lanthier

July 14, 2009, Seattle Times Guest Op-Ed, by Jim Whittaker, Make roadless forest area rule permanent:

Growing up in Seattle, with Mount Rainier, the Olympics and the Cascades beckoning, I developed a passion for the natural world and climbing. Whether in the damp, clean air of an ancient forest or on a snowy summit, the beauty and richness of the wild places within Washington are an inspiration and comfort to millions of Washington residents a year.

In order to preserve and protect much of our remaining natural heritage, the federal Roadless Area Conservation Rule was created in 2001, setting aside nearly 60 million acres of our national forests from destructive road building, which can do even more damage than clear-cutting.

The 2 million acres of roadless forests here in Washington state are a critical part of the quality of life we have come to expect. Roadless forests provide much of our clean water and safe drinking water, besides protecting fish and wildlife.

Along the east side of the Olympic National Forest, near Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and my now hometown of Port Townsend, roadless forests make available the chance for adventure by hiking, camping, kayaking, bicycling, climbing, hunting and fishing, backcountry skiing, wildlife viewing and much more. You can traverse through old-growth forests and climb Mount Washington for spectacular views of Seattle and the Cascade Peaks. You can mountain bike through the Dungeness River Valley or hike one of the many trails — from trekking along the ledges of Dirt Face Ridge to taking kid-friendly trips to Murhut Falls or Lena Lake.

"No Child Left Inside!" should be the rallying cry we live by. Here in Port Townsend, we are lucky to have the Northwest Maritime Center, which gets kids out on the water. But children in the entire state are afforded year-round opportunities in roadless areas for outdoor adventure and discovery.

Washington's wild forests are also a significant resource to our local economy. They inspire homegrown companies like REI, Eddie Bauer and the many other local businesses that provide recreation gear. Active outdoor recreation supports more than 100,000 jobs in Washington and contributes more than $11 billion dollars to our state's economy.

Severely undercut by the Bush administration's concentrated efforts to weaken this popular rule, our roadless forests are in danger. As a U.S. senator and as a candidate for the White House, President Obama was up-front about his support for the Roadless Rule. The recent one-year moratorium on road building by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was a welcome reprieve, but now we need further action.

As our towns and cities continue to grow, it is more critical than ever to have safeguards in place in order to maintain our wildlife habitats. And for humans, they offer the opportunity for adventure, as well as for peace and solitude.

The president must act now to ensure the long-term protection of the public's roadless forestlands by reinstating the Roadless Rule. Our congressional leaders must join Sen. Maria Cantwell, Congressman Jay Inslee and others in their efforts to enact legislation to protect these valuable wild places. Preserving roadless forests ensures the passing of a natural heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Jim Whittaker was the first American to summit Mt. Everest in 1963 and was the first full-time employee of REI, becoming the CEO from 1971-1979. Author of "A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond," he resides in Port Townsend.

Click here to learn more about Washington's roadless areas and the value of roadless forest.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Conservation Voice: Ken Gersten

posted by Amber Benson

Rambling Thoughts on Wilderness

Twenty five years may seem like a long time. But here in Washington people like you and me have been working to protect wild lands since the early 1900s. Still there is a lot to celebrate with the passage of the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act.

Work on the 1984 Washington State Wilderness Act started in 1976 as soon as the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Act passed. Or maybe each bit of protection was just a step along a continuing road to a goal that keeps changing--. We saw wildlands protection with the creation of Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks. The Wilderness Act of 1964 gave us additional acreage and another tool to preserve wilderness. It was followed by North Cascades National Park and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

But the 1984 bill was a little different. Past Previous efforts, both in Washington and elsewhere, were focused on a single area or localized group of areas. During the late 1970s the US Forest Service conducted a nationwide inventory of roadless areas, resulting in a set of Wilderness recommendations that was totally inadequate. But the mood in Congress was to try to end the debate by passing state-wide wilderness bills.

Many of us knew then and history has shown that the debate did not end then. And it still is has not ended. But the work in the early 1980s was special. It was a state-wide grassroots organizing effort composed of lots of local efforts. I don’t know if this is correct, but former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal is credited with saying that “all politics is local.” Here in Washington, in terms of wilderness, that means that whichever Congressional Representatives has an area in his or her district have significant influence over whether what will it can be be designated as Wilderness in their districts. That means local organizing is needed, to convince Representatives to propose designations, which is what we did. So if you were part of the local effort to protect the Mt Baker area or the Boulder River or the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth or the Clearwater or any of the other areas in the Act, you deserve a special thank you today. If you were in Seattle or some other part of the state your work was still essential. Senator’s, who are as important as House Members, represent the entire state, and our Senators in 1984 played important roles in passing the 1984 Act.

So where does that leave us today? We are back to protecting areas one at a time. The Wild Sky Act was just the first and I look forward to celebrating the 25th anniversary of it’s passage. But we have many more areas to protect and a very different political environment.

This week, Al Franken was declared the winner of the Minnesota Senate race, giving the Democrats their first filibuster-proof majority in recent memory. Progressive Democrats also control the House of Representative and we have an environmentalist in the White House. So it should be easy to get areas protected, right?

Wrong. With the economy, health care and war at the top of the agenda, a Supreme Court vacancy and the Bush agenda to undo, Congress and the President have a very full plate. We also must remember how technology has changed the process. We used to communicate with Members of Congress by mail. We would get lots of folks to write letters and the Member’s staff would read them and track the mood of the folks back home. As phone calls got cheaper we flooded them with calls. But now they get flooded with everything including email, calls, tweets, etc. And we are far from the only interest group. So we need to work harder and better to get our agenda at the top of their agenda. How do we do that? The same way as always, --we organize. Nothing has changed but the tools.

When I helped found the WWC 30 years ago, my mantra was “organizing is the key to success.” I still believe it that is true. But what is organizing? I have been told that Cesar Chavez, the leader of the Farm Workers organizing efforts would say, “you talk to one person, then another person, then another person.” And that is what we need to do. And each person we talk to needs to be asked to communicate with their elected officials and help get others to do the same.

If we do enough talking we will get wilderness protection to the top of the agenda, just as we did with the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, the North Cascades National Park Act, and, 25 years ago, with the Washington Wilderness Act. So let’s celebrate, renew our energy and go back for more.

-Ken Gersten
Co-founder, Washington Wilderness Coalition

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Conservation Voice: Tim McNulty

Posted by Amber Benson

From Scruffy Beginnings to an Enduring Voice for the Wild (WWC at 30)

In the late 1970s the Wilderness movement in Washington was a scatter of feisty tribes huddled around campfires in rainy woods and bristling sagebrush. We peppered our forest service offices with letters seeking protection for our favorite Wilderness areas. We held rallies, lead hikes, challenged timber sales, and harangued small-town reporters to write stories about the importance of wilderness.

To be sure, venerable groups like the Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, the Mountaineers, and Friends of the Earth had offices in Seattle and contacts in Washington City. But from rural outposts where activists watched our home forests being clearcut at a staggering pace, Seattle seemed a long way off. And as for Washington City, it might well have been on another planet.

We had been through the frustrations of trying to influence forest service district plans in the 1970s. Hope sprung anew when Jimmy Carter was elected president. The forest service's RARE II initiative (Roadless Area Review and Evaluation) brought new hope. But we had underestimated the timber industry's political reach, and the final recommendations were a disappointment. When state-wide wilderness advocates gathered at a grange hall in Ellensburg in 1979, Wilderness protection for our threatened wildlands seemed a long ways off.

I remember a meeting with the late Karen Fant, one of the most inspiring wilderness advocates in the state and an indomitable spirit. Karen proposed forming a statewide coalition to unite grass-roots wilderness groups, provide an organization and staff, and move our wilderness campaigns ahead as a united federation. Ken Gersten, a visionary young activist from Seattle had signed on with Karen, and I agreed to be a part of the organization's founding board of directors. In the fall of 1979, WWC was born.

We were, in retrospect, a rather scruffy lot, and not terribly well-heeled. A financial statement in my files from our first board meeting lists five member groups. WWC's net worth at the time (December, 1979) was $97.71. But we lacked in funds and political acumen we made up for in passion. Karen and Ken proved to be excellent field organizers, and by the early 1980s the Washington Wilderness Coalition had active grass-roots member groups across the state. This organization proved invaluable in the campaign leading up to the passage of the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act. Local groups lined up business, civic group, and political support in every congressional district in the state. If Tip O'Neil was accurate ("All politics is local,") then WWC's grass-roots organizing is responsible for many of the far-flung victories in the '84 legislation.

Which is not to say we finished the job -- or even came close to it. Behind the formal celebrations we suffered the wounds of areas not included in the bill. Lena Lake, the South Fork Skokomish and South Quinault Ridge were particularly painful omissions on the Olympic forest. Neglect of the Kettle Range in the Columbia highlands was a statewide tragedy.

The odds have been stacked against us multiple times over the past quarter century. But the wilderness movement in Washington state has never been stronger. With the winds of Wild Sky at out backs, citizens are once more working for new Wilderness areas across the state. A new generation of activists have joined the old hands -- just as I grew in the shadow of giants like Polly Dyer, Pat Goldsworthy, Phil Zalesky, and Karen Fant. The legacy of Wilderness will always inspire souls who will speak out in its defense. And after 30 years, WWC will be part of the wildlands victories in Washington that are still come.

Tim McNulty, one of the original directors of Washington Wilderness Coalition, is a poet, nature writer and conservationist who has long been active in Northwest literary and environmental communities.

Tim has served 35 years on the board of trustees of the Olympic Park Associates, and is also working currently with the Olympic Watershed Coalition on wildlands and river protection in the Olympic Mountains. He lives with his family in the foothills of Washington's Olympic Mountains.