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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Staff Thoughts: Memories of the Wilderness and How It Shapes Us

Posted by Lisa Syravong

It is officially summer and as a working adult, I find myself feeling envious of children in my neighborhood who officially started their summer vacation this week. While I’m not quite ready to quit my day job and return to studying Algebra, I’m reminded of the simplicity and excitement of summer as a child.

Growing up in the NW, my parents, brother and I spent a lot of time outdoors, hiking and camping in the summer as a family, hiking on Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast, and camping high in the Cascades at Waldo Lake. We had leisurely summers of canoeing with our family friends, searching for the last patch of snow on top of Mary’s Peak near the Coastal Range of Oregon, and hiking in Silver Falls State Park. This conscientious effort on the part of my parents, to expose us to a variety of outdoor activities, shaped us into the adults that we have become today - one who enjoys mountain climbing on tall peaks, surfing and taking risks, and one who would much prefer having their feet in the sand at sea level, or hiking on a wilderness path, miles from any ravine. Despite our differences and needs for adrenaline, we both have an appreciation for the opportunities that we had as children and how they have shaped our adult lives.

As a parent, I am now beginning to share such experiences with my family and our toddler. As she grows, I want her to have similar experiences with nature, a sense of awe while sitting in a stand of old growth trees, and a respect for all things wild - wildlife, wild forests and wild rivers. By experiencing such places, we develop intrinsic values that shape our system of values and beliefs. Outdoor adventures also offer an opportunity to share similar hobbies with friends and family and to create a sense of gratitude that we are so blessed with local places in which we can experience nature, all within a short drive of our home.

As a challenge to each of you, I would like to invite you to share experiences from your childhood, or even as an adult of favorite summer places, perhaps a funny story or your first encounter with nature on this blog. It is only by inspiring others that we will encourage others to break away from daily life and to get outdoors.

Lisa Syravong is the Membership & Communications Manager for Washington Wilderness

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Staff Thoughts: Conservatives Should Conserve

Posted by Tom Uniack

Washington Wilderness Coalition often works with Republicans for Environmental Protection on wild land preservation. On Monday evening, Jim DiPeso, Policy Director of REP, wrote 10 Environmental Issues Republicans Should Champion on The Daily Green blog Monday. Wilderness is right in there:

Republicans were the original conservationists. The conservation movement that Theodore Roosevelt and other GOP worthies started in the 19th century reached fruition in 1964 with one of the most visionary stewardship laws in history – the Wilderness Act.
Co-author John Saylor, a conservative Republican congressman from western Pennsylvania, fought for wilderness protection because he said it showed reverence for creation and love of country.

In recent years, however, too many Republicans have lost touch with Saylor’s values and denigrated wilderness as an elitist conspiracy.
Republicans should throw away all their angry anti-wilderness rhetoric, rediscover John Saylor’s wisdom, and become wilderness champions again.

Often we forget that wilderness preservation is not a partisan issue. Many, diverse people support the protection of our remaining wild areas. The Washington Wilderness Act, passed 25 years ago, was a bi-partisan effort. The Wild Sky Wilderness, designated last year, received both Democrat and Republican votes to pass both houses of Congress, and was signed by Republican George W. Bush. Republican Representative Dave Reichert (WA-08) has introduced legislation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness twice now, and got five Democratic co-sponsors. This Congressional session, he worked with Democratic Senator Patty Murray (WA) to draft the legislation together.

Since 1994, a vocal minority of Republicans—arguably a “fringe element”—have led an obstructionist agenda to wilderness (typically only delaying designations, not completely blocking them). There are many Republicans who recognize the value of wilderness preservation. As Jim DiPeso writes: Conservatives ought to conserve.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Adventure Report: National Trails Day in Goat Rocks Wilderness

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Saturday, June 6th was National Trails Day. The snow is melting, the flowers are blooming, and there are many trails ripe for an adventure. 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

For National Trails Day, WWC Assistant Conservation Director Michael traveled five miles south of Packwood, WA to the western side of Goat Rocks Wilderness in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Early June is a great time to visit the few lower elevation portions of Southwest Washington’s Goat Rocks Wilderness. The area is famed for its rugged peaks of an eroded, ancient volcano where bands of mountain goats live, but atop the peaks still lies much of the winter’s snow making it a treacherous hike at this time of year.

Below there is still much to discover and beautiful Packwood Lake to set camp. To get there head to Hwy 12, where the town of Packwood rests between Morton and Yakima directly south of Mount Rainer along the Cowlitz River. Stop into Blanton’s Market for well priced supplies, parking permit, and update information on trail and road conditions. One local resident made sure I had plenty of bug spray for the mosquitoes, especially if headed to the appropriately named Mosquito Lake.

Once stocked up with supplies, turn south towards the forest service road 1260 at the old Ranger Station (the nearest open Ranger Station is at Randle, WA) and follow the paved road until it ends at Packwood Lake Trailhead. It is an easy hike just under 5 miles to Packwood Lake and many visitors make it a one-day trip.

Along the trail, just before it turned to Wilderness I met a couple from the Lewis County Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington who were hiking out with their chain saw. For 15 years their organization has been maintaining the Packwood Lake Trail sending out work parties on National Trails Day to clear the fallen trees from the previous winter so that hikers and equestrians can more easily assess and share the trails. Of course the noisy chain saws can not be used in the Wilderness. Once in the Wilderness I met other groups clearing the trails with pull saws. Many appreciated the work that WWC had done for the Wild Sky Wilderness, which included working with the Backcountry Horsemen.

Just before reaching Packwood Lake the trail leads out of the Wilderness and meets another trail used by mountain bikers and ATVs which many times haul paddle boats to fish the plentiful amounts of trout.

Continue along the north end of the lake and you enter back into the Wilderness where there are several camping stops to rest your feet and take in the beauty of the glass like still waters of the large alpine lake.

After setting up camp, I continued on for a packless hike east of the lake along Upper Lake Creek. The recent snow melts created a green marsh-like atmosphere with a delightfully cool breeze. I stopped at Beaver Bill Creek to explore along the rushing ice cold waters. It’s another 5 miles before you would take the steep climb up to Packwood Saddle, where there are exceptional views of the surrounding mountains once the snow melts and the clouds part.

The following morning I headed back out towards the trailhead but not before taking the grueling venture up to Mosquito Lake. The 2000 foot elevation gain is well worth the trip for the tremendous views. In early June be sure to bring snowshoes to better explore the area, but the slushy snow will not last long making the trails more accessible to other higher alpine lakes. Be sure to bring bug spray though.

More photos are available at or find more information below at the Forest Service website.

There are many opportunities for you to get involved in protecting other pristine, undeveloped National Forest lands that make Washington State such a great place for adventure. Take Action on several important issues today.

More on Goat Rocks:

A 105,600-acre alpine wonderland, The Goat Rocks Wilderness is a portion of the volcanic Cascade Mountain Range in southwestern Washington between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. The Goat Rocks are remnants of a large volcano, extinct for some two million years. This ancient volcano once towered over the landscape at more than 12,000 feet in elevation, but has since eroded into several peaks averaging around 8,000 feet. The cluster of rocks and peaks has become known as Goat Rocks because of the bands of mountain goats that live here. Read More

Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama's Encouraging First Step

Seattle Times; Letter to the Editor

I was happy to read that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Obama administration took an important initial step in ensuring that our roadless areas are protected ["Salvaging roadless policy," Opinion, editorial, May 31]. Here in Washington state, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule protects 2 million acres of backcountry national forest lands from road-building and most economic development.

As a sportsman, wilderness and roadless backcountry areas are an essential element to the American and democratic hunting and fishing tradition. These wild landscapes allow us access to some of the best fish and wildlife habitat in Washington's national forests.

Conserving these undeveloped forestlands protects diverse wildlife habitat for many nongame species and gives opportunities to hunt deer, elk, black bear and mountain lion (just to name a few) in true wilderness settings. Big-game animals benefit from the security and habitat that roadless areas provide, which allows them to mature and grow.

The temporary moratorium is an encouraging first step, but Obama must continue to strengthen the protections and permanently and fully implemented the Roadless Rule.

-- Gregg Bafundo, Normandy Park

Click here to learn more about the roadless initiative, it's role on Washington, and roadless areas in Washington

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama Must Protect Undeveloped Forests

The Olympian, Letter to the Editor, June 2

The current administration must take a firm stand on protecting our last remaining undeveloped national forests.

Ensuring that the roadless rule is upheld would be a tremendous step in the right direction, demonstrating necessary leadership in Washington, D.C. In Washington state, there are over 2 million acres of roadless forestlands that hang in the balance.

These forests provide critical habitat for many of the Northwest’s well-known creatures — like steelhead, salmon, bald eagles and elk herds — as well as sheltering uncounted lesser-known but equally important species. As a longtime college professor of environmental studies and geography, I can attest that our forests are essential in providing us with critical resources like clean water and air. And you don’t need a Ph.D. to know that our roadless public lands are where we find some of our most beautiful back country.

Roadless areas are not only an essential part of the lives of many of us outdoors types, but are also critical economic resources for the local communities that depend upon outdoor recreation and tourism for ever-increasing levels of income.

Further erosion of our last remaining wildlands is an unacceptable degradation of our natural heritage. These few beautiful, biologically and culturally important places are for now still with us, and the Obama administration has the historic opportunity to again defend our nation’s forests for their own inherent well being and for all future generations.

Washington Wilderness Coalition
Board Of Directors

Click here for a detailed look at Washington's roadless areas

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Sensible Approach In Hard Economic Times

An editorial in the Seattle Times (A Policy Revival for Roadless Forests) last Friday points out the economic importance of halting plans for roadless areas. Finally, mainstream America is beginning to understand that we cannot continue the policies that drove our economy into the ground in the first place.

Yes, it was a lending crisis that triggered the current recession, but it was bad investment choices that deepened it, including how the government chooses to invest. Investing in declining industries that are declining because they just won’t adapt to changing demand (as the American auto makers) or supply (as the timber industry).

Too often industries put blinders on without looking at the true costs of a particular way of business. Roadless forests hold far greater value than extracting natural resources

The [new] rules provided for maintaining existing uses, with local forest managers able to make decisions about selective logging, grazing, fishing and hunting.

All of these uses add value to local, rural economies, whose residents nearly always have lower incomes and fewer opportunities available to them. Roadless areas, as Governor Gregoire noted in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack noted, have additional values that affect others:

"We have 2 million acres of pristine roadless forests that provide vital clean drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, carbon sequestration, and outstanding recreational opportunities for Washingtonians to enjoy our great outdoors."

In these economic hard times, it’s time to look at the true costs of doing business. The above indicates the opportunity costs of building roads in forests, decreasing their value. In addition, when costs are passed on to the public to benefit only a few, it diminishes government’s ability to invest in emerging sectors, and truly benefit the taxpayer.

Road building in national forests comes with a nasty double-hit on the treasury. The federal government subsidizes road construction for timber companies. Erosion of poorly maintained or abandoned logging roads destroy salmon habitat and restoration projects. Taxpayers pay twice.

The “Chicago school” of economists who led us into the current economic debacle are finally losing their unwarranted credibility. It appears the Times, at least in this editorial, finally understands that economic standards must change. We can no longer look at the earth (and most of humanity) as an irrelevant externality. Here’s hoping the federal government gets it too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Urgent Appeal

Summer is quickly approaching in Seattle. For some that means lots of play time. But for the WWC it’s crunch time. In just 5 months we’ll be hosting our annual dinner. This year’s celebration is a big deal because it’s our 30th anniversary.. We want to make sure we’re able to show our members, supporters, and friends how important they are to us.

To make all this possible, we need to raise as much money as possible.

That’s where you come in. See, the more we raise, the less that comes from our annual budget and the more we’re able to focus on our wilderness initiatives throughout the year.

You may be wondering what you’ll get for your donation. Here are the details:

*The first 8 people to donate $150+ will get a seat at our Twitter sponsorship table at the annual dinner
*All donors will be recognized in a special “Twitter Donors” section of our event program.
*Donors will be listed in our annual report
*Donations of $35+ will buy you a one-year membership with the WWC
*You’ll be the first to know about future Twitter Meetups we’re planning with other local organizations.
*Your donation will be a tax writeoff.
*You’ll know that you’re helping us in our effort to protect more of Washington’s wilderness and habitat.

There are two ways you can donate. Twitter users can go to the home page of our blog and follow the template on the right side for donations.

Others can simply go to our website at and click on the donate now button.

Thank you for your support!!