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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Threats to the Endangered Species Act.

The current Congress, especially the House of Representatives, has distinguished itself as one of the most anti-environmental on record. After setting their sights on roadless forest and wilderness protections, exempting our cornerstone environmental laws in the name of border patrol and artificially increasing logging, it appears they are now after endangered species.

The House Natural Resources Committee recently held the first in a series of oversight hearings on the Endangered Species Act , The Committee Chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA04) from eastern Washington, argues that the nearly 40-year old landmark environmental law is broken and needs fixing. In his opening statement to the committee, Hastings states, “of the species listed in the past 38 years, only 20 have been declared recovered. That’s a 1% recovery rate.”

At first blush, one percent is not the picture of success, but consider what the Endangered Species Act really is. It is the emergency room for species on the brink of extinction. Species which have seen their habitat decline by 90% due to logging road building and development, struggle to adapt to effects of global warming or suffer impacts from pollution. These species are in the Intensive Care Unit and are fighting for their lives.

This type of care is by definition expensive and not always successful. It is a last resort. A better approach than changing the Endangered Species Act would be to treat the reasons why species end up on the list in the first place. Healthcare professionals preach preventative medicine like exercise, diet, stress management and regular check ups. Perhaps what we really need to do to protect species and reduce the list of endangered species is to protect and restore wildlife habitat, control pollution, reduce greenhouse emissions and practice sustainable development.

Some of Washington State’s most well-known and iconic animals are endangered; including the local Orca whale, several salmon species, Northern Spotted Owls, and sea otters. There are also hundreds of threatened, endangered, and declining species that find refuge in the roadless and wild areas in Washington State.

While no bill has yet been introduced on changes to the Endangered Species Act, I worry what may be around the corner in this Congress. Legislation has already been introduced that would sell off our public lands, allow construction of military bases in our National Parks and preclude future wilderness designations.

What’s next?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Op-Ed: Save conservation fund for students

Originally printed at: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20111126/OPINION03/711269987/-1/OPINION%23Save-conservation-fund-for-our-students

Save conservation fund, for our students

During my 27 years as a teacher, I have witnessed time and again students' joy when they connect scientific content from the classroom to real life investigations in the outdoors. Some of my favorite memories in teaching have been moments watching students gasp at the spectacle of salmon spawning near the Wild Sky Wilderness -- an area I worked with Sen. Patty Murray for nine years to protect.

I worked on that bill because I know that future scientists are born in the outdoors. That is why I am so thankful to Sen. Murray not only for the Wild Sky, but also for co-sponsoring the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act which, if it passes, will expand opportunities for experiential outdoor learning so drastically needed by today's students.

But future students may not be able to fully benefit from these efforts. Currently, some in Congress are seeking to eliminate or reduce funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which protects lands across the United States. LWCF provides funding for national parks, forests and refuges, as well as state and local parks.

North Puget Sound residents have the LWCF to thank for many of our kids' chances to experience the outdoors close to home. The LWCF has protected some of Washington's most engaging landscapes and wild places, from portions of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and North Cascades National Park to nearby treasures like Deception Pass.

The fund has helped create local parks in Everett like Howarth, Langus Riverfront, and Lions neighborhood park, just to name a few. And the LWCF helped to expand the Wild Sky, protecting the water quality needed by those spawning salmon that so impress my students.

When we conserve forests, natural areas and wildlife habitat, all Washington residents benefit -- especially students. Our parks and natural areas are outdoor classrooms where children learn by using all of their senses: tasting wild berries, smelling the scent of an old cedar forest, and watching with wonder the return of our wild salmon.

But the LWCF, the premier program to safeguard places for our students to experience the outdoors, is in grave danger of being slashed in Congress's 2012 budget. The House has proposed roughly $90 million for the program in 2012, a staggering 90 percent cut from the president's budget.

Without that funding, critical, ready-to-go opportunities will be lost. Critical projects to preserve our heritage in Ebey's Landing and to conserve the North Creek Forest, 24 acres of rich habitat in forests and streams near Bothell, will be lost, among others around the state.

It is important to note that the LWCF doesn't use a penny of taxpayer dollars. Instead, it is funded by offshore lease royalties paid by oil and gas companies. This program is a promise that Congress made to the American people in 1965 to offset the negative effects of offshore drilling.

Fortunately, our senators have rejected the drastic cuts in the House proposal and proposed $350 million in funding for the program this year. Sen. Murray has spoken up in support of the LWCF, and we are very lucky to have her as our champion. In her leadership role in the Senate, Sen. Murray is in a key position to protect outdoor spaces for our kids and grandkids.

Sen. Murray understands that we need to provide opportunities for the next generation to learn and excel, especially in science, by getting outside and discovering the marvels of our natural world. She and Sen. Maria Cantwell, who co-sponsored a bill to fully and permanently fund the LWCF, are champions for our quality of life and our children's. I urge others in Congress to follow their lead and support funding for the LWCF and to pass the No Child Left Inside legislation.



Mike Town has taught high school science for 27 years. Last year he was an Einstein Fellow with the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., where he researched STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education policy. He has hiked extensively throughout Snohomish County and worked closely with Washington Wild on the passage of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Becoming Washington Wild

Dear Friends,

For 32 years, the Washington Wilderness Coalition – WWC, as we’ve been affectionately known - has been the leading organization working to protect wilderness in Washington State. Over these past 32 years, as new threats have appeared, we’ve continually expanded our efforts to protect roadless areas, which contain the last of our remaining wild National Forests. We’ve worked to combat threats to our wild lands and rivers from poorly conceived and sited mining projects, damaging off-road vehicle use and salmon-killing dams. We’ve worked to ensure sound public policies for our National Forests and to support funding for much needed watershed protection.

In recent years, we’ve worked in coalitions to combine the protections of wilderness with Wild & Scenic Rivers, and National Park additions, in campaigns that will provide permanent protection for our lands and waters while respecting the diversity of interests of those who cherish these lands. We’ve worked to educate the public and build the broadest community possible of those who support protections for our wild lands and waters.

In June of this year, after a lengthy and thoughtful strategic planning process, the Board of Directors agreed that the name “Washington Wilderness Coalition” no longer fully encompassed the breadth of our work and decided to update our name.

I am very pleased to announce that Washington Wilderness Coalition is becoming “Washington Wild” to better reflect the scope of our work protecting our wild lands and waters.

Over the coming months, as you begin to see the name Washington Wild integrated throughout the organization, know that while our name has changed, we will always lead on wilderness preservation in Washington and will continue to work to protect and restore wild lands and waters in Washington State through advocacy, education and civic engagement. Thank you for your continued support.

If you have any questions about these changes, please feel free to contact me at kim@wawild.org or 206.633.1992.

Yours for a Wild Washington,

Kimberly Adank

Membership & Development Director

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Witnessing Liquid Liberty










Written by Tom Uniack, WWC's conservation director.

I recently had the unique opportunity to bear witness to the emancipation of a river.

For the first time in a century, with the breaching of the massive 125 feet high and 471 feet long Condit Dam, the White Salmon River is now running freely from its source to its mouth at the mighty Columbia River.

An official dam breaching celebration (limited to less than 100 people) was held to observe the decommissioning of the 98-year old Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in southwestern Washington.

I had this great opportunity because Washington Wilderness Coalition was a party to the settlement agreement for the dam decommissioning, which took two decades to be realized. Before the dam was breached, there was a stirring ceremony and traditional singing from Yakama Nation tribal elders, who are eager to see the river return to its former glory and for the eventual return of salmon. The crowd included additional tribal representatives, conservationists, whitewater paddlers, federal and state agency biologists and officials and engineers, and employees working for PacifiCorp Energy who owns and operates the dam.

As a group of us waited in anticipation perhaps 1,000 yards from the dam, warning horns sounded and there was a loud blast as 800 pounds of explosives blew a hole in the bottom of the dam. As a torrent of gray water shot out from the base of the dam turning to a chocolate brown, cheers of joy rose up all around me.

A Dana Lyons song began to course through my head. This beautifully simple song titled Drop of Water, chronicles a river being set free.

Bending down the steel

In a raging that is real

A tearing torrent you can feel

Water rushing to the sea

And now the river is free

It was amazing to see nature return down river after being restrained for so long. Engineers estimated that the reservoir behind the dam would take 6 hours to drain. The river did it in 45 minutes. You can watch the video of the explosion here.

The rest of the dam will come down piece by piece over the next year leaving a renewed legacy for the White Salmon River. Its removal will open 33 miles of habitat for steelhead and 14 miles of habitat for Chinook salmon. One long term fisheries biologist studying salmon on this river says fish could be above the dam as early as March 2012. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have already been moving salmon above the dam this summer and fall to spawn and hope that their offspring will return in later years.

The removal of the Dam will also open up 5 new miles of churning rapids and river canyons for rafters and kayakers to explore. Local rafting businesses like Wet Planet and other businesses in towns like White Salmon will benefit economically in future years.

With two dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula undergoing removal just one month ago, the removal of the Condit dam seems to be establishing a trend here in Washington State. For the benefit of fish, wildlife and our children we can only hope it continues.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

So Long, Terra!


Goodbye to Washington Wilderness Coalition and to all of the wilderness blog followers!

As the summer comes to an end, so does my summer internship with WWC. As the conservation outreach intern, I had the privilege of going to some of the events around Washington to talk with people about WWC and the work they do in Washington. The U-District farmer’s markets, NW SolarFest, Strawberry Festival, Dave Matthews Band Caravan at the Gorge, and Tilth Harvest Festival were just a few of the events I worked this summer. At these events, I met a wide variety of people and I was able to spark up some interesting conversations with many of them about Wilderness, land preservation, and protecting the environment.

At my first event, Strawberry Festival, I was unsure, quiet, and hardly knew how to answer many of the questions people would ask me. But as the weeks passed and I continued to work with and talk to the awesome WWC employees, my understanding of WWC’s work became clear. Now, I can easily discuss Wild Olympics, WWC’s work in Wild Sky, Wilderness designations, and the Eastern Washington forest plan. Our trivia night at the College Inn Pub attracted more than 50 trivia fans and environmental enthusiasts, and now we are full of obscure facts about Washington wilderness. For example, do you know which president passed the Wilderness Act in 1964? Answer: Lynden B. Johnson.

Writing for the Washington Wilderness Coalition blog let me continue to develop my writing skills throughout the summer, while learning about some serious environmental issues. I had no idea legislation like the McCarthy or Bishop bills even existed, or that such extreme anti-environmental laws like that could even be considered. It really opened my eyes to the important work that groups like WWC do to keep our wild lands secure. This internship was a wonderful opportunity to experience environmental activism both in the office and outside with the community, and I hope to work with Washington Wilderness Coalition again in the future. Thank you for everything to Kim, my boss, who paid me in cupcakes!

Terra Miller-Cassman was WWC's exemplary conservation outreach intern this summer. She has done a wonderful job of expanding WWC's outreach efforts throughout western Washington, and will be going on to complete her senior year in UW's environmental studies program. We sincerely appreciate all of her hard work (and tolerance of Kim's bad jokes) and wish her all the best!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Eastern WA Forests - Change of Plans!


Forest management is about to change for important areas in Eastern Washington. The Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests are in the process of updating their forest plans, which will determine how these eastern Washington wild lands will be managed for the next two decades. Every 10-15 years or so, National Forests like the Wenatchee-Okanogan and Colville National Forests are required to undergo revision, under the 1976 National Forest Management Act. A proposed action for the forest plan was recently released and is available for public comment through September 28, 2011.

So why should we care about an Eastern Washington forest plan? The updated plans will cover more than 5 million acres of land, including several designated Wilderness areas. It will also include important management issues, such as additional Wilderness recommendations, inventoried Roadless areas, off-road vehicle travel and land designations which could impact wildlife habitat. For me, however, an important reason is my annual summer escapes to the great weather and endless backpacking opportunities I get to enjoy there. Eastern Washington is the perfect little 3-day weekend escape for us Western Washington residents. I want to know that the plans for the next 15 years in these forest areas will preserve the natural beauty I have the privilege to enjoy when I travel east. No matter what part of Washington we call home, we all are affected by what goes on in any part of our state.

My feelings for eastern Washington run deep – my favorite getaway is Banks Lake, near the Grand Coulee Dam and just west of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The camping here is less populated then Lake Chelan, but still offers sunny weather, nearby hiking, and any water activity you could ask for. It is the perfect location for my family summer vacation- a tradition proudly carried on throughout the last 5 years. Our favorite camping spot just happens to be on a hill top, where we have the most privacy. The only problem with this location is that the winds at night turn into furious gusts, which like to blow from all angles at my very tiny 2-man tent. Every year, I fall asleep at night to the soft touch of my tent walls crumbling down on top of me. Oh, the joy of desert camping!

These upcoming forest plan revisions are quite significant – in the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act, legislation added that the Forest Service was not allowed to recommend wilderness areas in the first round of Forest planning. Therefore, the upcoming forest plan is the first time (in Washington State) that the Forest Service will make recommendations for wilderness-quality lands for Congress to consider. This is truly a chance to set the precedent for wilderness designations and give more deserving places the chance to be permanently protected for current and future generations to enjoy.

The public comment period for the Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests Forest Plan Revision Proposed Action has been extended to September 28th. To submit your comments and see WWC’s recommendations for the proposed action, please visit our web site.

Terra Miller is WWC's conservation outreach intern for the summer of 2011. She can be reached at terra@wawild.org.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Adventures in Truth… Ground Truth, That Is.


Armed with maps and a camera, my mother and I set off to the Olympic National Forest. More than just hikers in the woods, on this excursion we were ground truthers assisting the Wild Olympics Campaign. We envisioned ourselves as detectives, in search of five decommissioned or to-be-decommissioned road segments. Our mission: to photograph and document the status of old legacy logging roads, which are proposed to be included in potential wilderness areas. Our camera battery was charged and water bottles filled to the brim – nothing could stop our fact-finding mission!

Only – we never found the road segments. Charting our location on the map, we slowly followed the gravel road, keeping our eyes peeled for the brown Forest Service road markers. We retraced our steps – to no avail. Not only were road markers absent, we couldn’t even find evidence there ever were road segments leading off the main road. Even as someone trained in GIS, I couldn’t see a single piece of evidence that these roads had ever existed, aside from the black lines demarcated on the original map.

Although we were slightly disappointed about our inability to find and document the road segments, our sleuthing work did provide some important information. The point of ground truthing is to provide on-the-ground data, which cannot be determined from maps. By completing the ground truthing process, Washington Wilderness Coalition can better ensure that the boundaries of the proposed Wilderness areas in the Wild Olympics campaign are accurate and defendable. By designating wildlands as official Wilderness areas, the land will receive the highest form of federal protection for land.

Generally, Wilderness areas are roadless, with minimal human presence, provide recreational opportunities, and have features of scenic, ecological, educational or other significance. However, the Wild Olympics proposal is looking to include a select group of targeted roads, which are slated by the Forest Service to be decommissioned or converted to trail, in order to stitch fragmented landscapes together. In some cases, as we found out, what appears as solid lines on a map are actually long ago reclaimed roads or trail conversions.

Sherlock Holmes and Watson couldn’t have done a better job than my mom and me. You can’t document something that doesn’t exist. The forest has grown over the decommissioned roads, taking back its right to the land, further proving the strength of the natural world and proving its worth of a Wilderness designation.

Mission: COMPLETED!

To learn more about the Wild Olympics Campaign, go here.

If you would like to participate in a Ground Truthing mission, please contact Katie Clifford at katie@wawild.org.

Sarah Gruen is WWC's summer wildlands research intern. She completed her degree in geography at UW last year and has been with WWC since June.

Picture caption: While we didn’t find the road segments, we did find a road that had been decommissioned and converted to trail. Here I am at the stunning, 130-foot Murhut Falls!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Roadless Runner takes on Cutthroat Classic














In early July, I was researching events to include in the second annual Washington’s Great Outdoors Week celebration. My research focused on events that would take place in Inventoried Roadless Areas, which brought me to the Cutthroat Classic, a 11.1 mile trail race put on by the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA). This event made me grin for two reasons: it would take place in the Liberty Bell Roadless Area in the Okanogan National Forest and it was a spectacular trail run. Our tireless Conservation Associate, Katie, called the Cutthroat event planner later that week and I toyed with the idea of actually running the thing. STA graciously agreed to have the Cutthroat Classic included in Great Outdoors Week. I put my name on the registration waitlist (the event fills up quickly every year), figuring that nothing would come of it. Three weeks before the race I was invited to officially sign up, so I did.

Nearly a week has gone by since I ran in this event – and I CANNOT WAIT TO DO IT AGAIN NEXT YEAR!

“Utter Glee”

“Delightful”

“Delicious Runner’s High”

“Pretty Much the Perfect Morning Activity for Me”

That sums up my feelings for the Cutthroat Classic.

It wasn’t all roses, of course. Running up 2,000 ft was challenging, and I failed to remain upright during the 2,400 ft decent (I took a bit of a tumble just before mile 7, which resulted in some pretty impressive scrapes and bruises). Those bumps were minimal compared to the gratitude I felt for having a place like the Liberty Bell Roadless Area protected (for now) from resource extraction, road-building, ORV use and mining. I wish I had worn some manner of fancy head camera so that you could all see the in-your-face wildness of Cutthroat Pass.

There’s actually a lot going on policy-wise with the Liberty Bell Roadless Area right now. The Forest Management Plan for Eastern Washington forests, which includes the Wenatchee-Okanogan and Colville National Forests, is in its early stages of revision. Forest planning affects recreation, roads, vegetation and wildlife, and wilderness; it’s a big deal. To learn more about the planning process and what the current draft of the new Eastern Washington Forest plan looks like, visit our site.

Even crazier is the proposed bill to remove protections for roadless areas nationwide. Nearly 60 million acres nationwide and 2 million roadless acres in Washington may be opened up to logging, road-building, ORV use, oil and gas development and other destructive operations if roadless protections are repealed. Visit our site to learn more about how and why this threat is happening.

It is my hope that the smart actions of those concerned with protecting wild places will trump the efforts of those with more blasé or destructive attitudes towards public lands. For now, I will continue to feel lucky that gorgeous wild places exist, for my ability to get my body to these gorgeous places, and for having the time and resources to do so. And I highly recommend you all start training for next year’s Cutthroat Classic right now!

Christine Scheele is WWC's volunteer coordinator and fearless Roadless runner. For more information on the Cutthroat Classic or volunteer opportunities at WWC, contact Christine at christine@wawild.org.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Hands-On Experience


In celebration of Washington’s Great Outdoors Week, I chose to participate in a trail work party led by the Washington Trails Association on the Pratt River Connector Trail, located on Forest Service land near the town of North Bend. Two days later, my sore arms and legs are still reminding me of my wonderful experience and of the stunning environment so close to Seattle. What a perfect way to enjoy Washington’s outdoor recreation activities!

While taking a break to snack beneath a shady canopy of trees, other volunteers remarked about the progress made on the Pratt River Connector Trail during the past year. Through arduous work and laughter, groups of WTA volunteers have restored the 3.5 mile-long segment of trail. They shared stories of working in miserable weather conditions, and proudly pointed out trail features they played a key role in constructing. Their stories, as well as the work we were engaging in, made me pause to think about the forces that coalesce so that hikers, fishers, horseback riders and outdoor enthusiasts can partake in various recreational activities in the stunning old-growth forest along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

As we were scooping dirt and collecting rocks to construct a rock wall, numerous people enjoying the Middle Fork scenery stopped to thank us for the trail work we were performing. It felt great to give back some of my time and labor in return for the revival of a popular trail that had been downtrodden by time and weather. The Pratt River Connector trail weaves through lush forest, spotted with ferns and lively undergrowth. Once restored, the trail will provide users with access to both the Pratt River trail and the trail up to Rainy Lake, allowing more people to experience the pleasures of being outdoors.

The WTA trail work crews are one force that foster outdoor recreation activities and access to wild lands. This access, and the continued stewardship and preservation, is a combined effort with a variety of different organizations and actors. Over the past few years Washington Wilderness Coalition has led coalition efforts by conservation and recreation groups to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary down the hill to include lower elevation forest along the river and designate the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic. This would directly impact the Pratt River Connector trail and its surrounding wild lands. The trail starts on the other side of the Middle Fork trail bridge in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, a section of wild land which is currently not permanently protected. Gaining a Wilderness designation on this low-elevation old-growth forest is extremely important: currently, roughly 94% of existing designated Wilderness areas in WA State are above 3,000 feet elevation. Low-elevation areas such as those nearby the Pratt River Connector Trail are particularly important, since they are extremely biodiverse and contain more wildlife and fish habitat than their higher-elevation counterparts The inclusion of the Pratt River Valley into a Wilderness area would allow for greater accessibility to wilderness, and truly provide a backyard wild lands that all could enjoy.

Washington’s Great Outdoors Week reminded me of how blessed I am to live in an area with access to such stunning natural treasures. While celebrating the availability of so many ways to get outdoors, it is imperative that we recognize and appreciate all of the organizations and people who are working to further protect and preserve these precious areas.

Sarah Gruen is WWC's summer wildlands research intern. Last year, she graduated with a degree in geography from the University of Washington. Sarah has helped to conduct crucial research for WWC on wilderness policies and their use around the state. For information, contact Sarah at sarah@wawild.org.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Washington Great Outdoors Week



This past week marked the second annual celebration of recreational opportunities on Washington’s beloved public lands, including National Forests, Roadless Areas, Wilderness and wild rivers. Governor Christine Gregoire recently released a proclamation on Washington’s Great Outdoors Week, stating that outdoor recreational activities “contribute significantly to our state and national economies and support thousands of jobs in rural communities near national forests and other public lands.” Gov. Gregoire encouraged all Washingtonians to enjoy outdoor activities and explore our public lands.

Washington is just one of several states participating in a nationwide effort to promote the benefits of public lands nationally. Each year, two-thirds of Americans enjoy the recreational opportunities on public lands offered during this week, including: hiking, biking, camping, climbing, kayaking, fishing, canoeing, and snowshoeing. Many of Great Outdoors Week’s events took place on public lands that are not under permanent protection. Some Washington-based events, for example, included trail restoration work in the Pratt River Connector Trail, in the proposed Alpine Lakes Wilderness additions. When the Alpine Lakes Wilderness was designated as a Wilderness in 1976, the Pratt River Valley’s low-elevation forests were not included. The Valley provides backyard wilderness recreation, old-growth forests, and key fisheries habitat. However, it is currently not permanently protected, and remains at risk for development.

On Saturday, August 28th, the Cutthroat Classic Trail Run will take place in the Methow Valley, a crucial wild land, which is currently not permanently protected. The Methow Valley has some of the Pacific Northwest’s best trail-based recreation and is prime land for recreation in all seasons, including skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. Located in the Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest, the Methow Valley has the opportunity to be considered for protections in the upcoming Eatern Washington Forest Plan revisions. The public comment period ends September 28th. This marks the first year in which the Forest Service will recommend lands for Wilderness designations.

We celebrated Great Outdoors Week with some fun social events around Seattle as well! On Tuesday, we partnered with our friends at Bluebird Microcreamery to offer a one-time-only ice cream flavor, S’more Wilderness! On Thursday, thanks to a gracious co-sponsorship by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture¸ we held a natural history and wild lands themed trivia night at the College Inn Pub. Thanks to everyone who came out to our events, and thanks to our partners!











Want to more about possible threats to Washington’s wild lands? Check out this threats fact sheet. Events like Washington’s Great Outdoors Week highlights the importance of our state’s wild lands, and helps to explains why protecting them is such a high priority for Washington Wilderness Coalition.


Terra Miller-Cassman is WWC’s summer conservation outreach intern and blog writer. She recently completed her first year of UW’s environmental studies. For questions, contact Terra at terra@wawild.org.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

So long, Intern Emily!


Posted by WWC's TIPS intern, Emily Buckner.

I began working for Washington Wilderness Coalition at the beginning of July after being set up with them by the organization Teens in Public Service. I applied to TIPS this spring, hoping to get one of the few paid internships they offered with a local non-profit organization. I have always spent a large amount of my time outdoors, hiking, biking, and canoeing, and am passionate about the environment, so I was thrilled when TIPS set me up with such a leader in conservation like WWC.

This summer, my main project was organizing Washington’s Great Outdoors Week, which is taking place August 20-28. I researched all of the different outdoor recreation groups in Washington and their events happening during the designated week, drew up the schedule on the WWC web site, and wrote the fact sheet on the threats to Roadless areas in Washington and around the country. Over the course of the summer, I acquired many new skills in the office, such as using a database and a fax machine, becoming competent in Excel, understanding the importance of ‘sticky notes’ and learning how to be a responsible employee, as well as gaining a whole new perspective on environmental policy.

In addition to office work, I also went to several outreach events and worked at the WWC booth, talking to people about the mission of WWC, the current issues they are addressing, and ways the public could become more involved. This was a much more challenging assignment than working on the computer, but it was even more rewarding. It was at these outreach events that I really learned the most about the organization and how to communicate clearly with people. I feel like I grew the most from these experiences and gained an enormous amount of confidence in myself.

My favorite part of working at Washington Wilderness Coalition this summer was getting to know the staff and other interns working there. I made multiple new friendships with my coworkers, who are all amazing people and care more about their work and each other than just about anyone else I have ever met. I think the most important thing I’ve realized over the course of my internship this summer, however, is that I should never take for granted the beautiful wild lands that surround us!

Emily Buckner recently completed her TIPS internship with Washington Wilderness Coalition. She will begin her freshman year at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, this fall. Thanks to Emily for all of her hard work and dedication to WWC – you will be missed by the staff!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Join Us!

Are you a member of Washington Wilderness Coalition? As Washington’s only statewide organization dedicated to preserving and permanently protecting wilderness-quality lands, we depend on the generosity and support of our members to help us continue our work on wild lands and waters.

Why should I become a member of WWC?

  • As a local group, almost 80% of our funds come from our members - our members are what give us political clout. There are many challenges to protecting our wild lands and we couldn’t do it without you!
  • WWC is very effective. Since 1979, we have been instrumental in protecting more than 2 million acres of wild forests.
  • Any donation you make stays right here in Washington, and goes toward the work of defending our precious wild lands and waters.
  • We do great work – we work to protect the most cherished – yet unprotected – places throughout Washington State. Check out some of our recent campaigns to permanently protect wild places here.

So how does one become a WWC member?

  • Donate online via our secure server. It’s quick, easy, and secure!
  • Become a member of our Partners for Wild Lands monthly giving program. You can split up a larger gift into monthly payments or contribute a set amount per month. For as little as $5/month, you can do your part to protect wild places in Washington! Members of Partners for Wild Lands receive our full-color Wilderness Defender newsletter, invitations to special events, and advance opportunities to purchase tickets to our annual dinner and auction. To become a monthly donor, contact Kim at kim@wawild.org or (206) 633-1992.
  • Or, just give us a call! Call our office at (206) 633-1992 and one of WWC’s friendly staff members will be happy to take your donation information over the phone.

What should I donate?

Want to get to know us first?

  • WWC is always looking for volunteers to help out around the office, at outreach events, and with our annual dinner and auction. Contact Christine at christine@wawild.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities at WWC!

Join us today! We greatly appreciate all the support from our members!

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Threats on the Way to Public Lands

The latest – and thus far the most extreme – in a string of recent attacks on public lands, H.R. 1505, or “the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act,” was recently introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT). This bill would give Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rights to override 36 key environmental and other laws for all areas within 100 miles of United States borders and coasts. This is an extremely large amount of U.S. land(in fact – the size of Wyoming!) to be placed in the control of one government department. The proposed area completely encompasses 10 entire states, including Florida, New Hampshire, Maine, and Hawaii.

Bishop’s bill would have an enormous impact on Washington State as well. The proposed 100 mile coast and border radius covers nearly all of Washington’s wild lands, including North Cascades National Park, Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Olympic National Park, Mt. St Helens National Monument, and Alpine Lakes Wilderness, – essentially, every one except for the Umatilla National Forest, in the southeastern corner of the state. Just a few of the environmental laws the Department of Homeland Security would be free to override include: the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Wilderness Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Park Service Organic Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

The overarching purpose of the bill, according to Bishop, is to increase national security protections on our nation’s borders. While the security of U.S. borders is important, it should not require the sacrifice of environmental protections. This new bill would give the DHS a free pass to control and alter the areas as they see fit, without any environmental studies of potential impacts or limitations on roads or other developments.

Jane Danowitz, Pew Environment Group’s director of U.S. public lands, calls H.R. 1505 a “sweeping waiver of the nation’s bedrock environmental and land management laws,” which “has little to do with accomplishing [the] goal” of border security. According to Danowitz, H.R. 1505 would “leave Congress and the public without a voice” and remove “fundamental environmental protections that have been on the books for decades.” Read the rest of Danowitz’s statement here.

The Department of Homeland Security is a department of the federal government, created to protect the territory of the United States along its borders. Specifically, the DHS monitors immigration enforcement, customs, and border protection. The environmental protections threatened under this bill were set in place to protect U.S. lands, waters, and wildlife, and the DHS should be able to work with these protections to maintain the goal of a safe, clean, and beautiful nation.

Read more about other current threats to Washington’s public lands here.

Terra Miller-Cassman is WWC’s summer conservation outreach intern and blog writer. She recently completed her first year of UW’s environmental studies. For questions, contact Terra at terra@wawild.org.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Threat to Wild Lands: The Wilderness and Roadless Release Act



This post was written by Terra Miller-Cassman



Washington Wilderness Coalition hired me as an intern at the beginning of June, and it has been a great experience so far! Since then, I have begun to understand more and more about the importance of our organization and the work we do for Washington State. WWC preserves and protects wild lands and waters in Washington State, and by doing so, helps to keep Washington wild and serene. This mission, however, has come under attack lately by a new bill, Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) H.R. 1581 or the “Wilderness and Roadless Release Act,” which was introduced as proposed legislation this spring. On May 26, 2011, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced a Senate companion bill.

McCarthy’s bill is in the first step of legislation, and was recently the subject of a hearing before a House Natural Resources Subcommittee. Passage of this bill threatens to remove restrictions on new road building and associated development for more than 50 million acres of wild lands across America. It would expose these pristine lands to future oil and gas extraction, mining, logging, and timber harvests.

As a Washington resident, I am mostly concerned because the bill poses a big threat to our state’s beloved wild areas, as it would strip protections for nearly 2 million acres of Washington’s Roadless forests. Some of the most beautiful unprotected wild areas in Washington are threatened by this bill, including: the Dark Divide in southwest Washington, Kettle Crest in northeast Washington, and pristine uncut forests in the Sawtooth Roadless Area – the largest in the state.

McCarthy states that these areas should be opened for development because they are – in his opinion - “deemed unsuitable for wilderness designations” by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Check out his explanation here. The bill would also "release inventoried Roadless areas within the National Forest system that are not recommended for wilderness designation from the land use restrictions of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Final Rule and the 2005 State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area Management Final Rule, and for other purposes." Simply because Roadless areas have not been officially recommended for Wilderness in a forest management plan, however, does not mean they have been “deemed unsuitable.” In fact, due to a Congressional quirk, our Roadless areas here in Washington have not even had an opportunity to be recommended as such in the last 30 years!

Supporters of this bill claim that it will create jobs and boost the economy but there is no evidence to support this claim. However, once these wild areas are developed, it is unlikely they could ever be restored to the natural and serene ecosystems that they are now. There are many recreational areas all around the United States, but our wild areas are constantly being diminished. Roadless areas protect wildlife, fish, forests, and maintain clean drinking water. They support biodiversity by protecting the habitats of one-fourth of the federally listed endangered species. The construction of roads contributes to the pollution of our waters by creating more impermeable surfaces, which cause runoff into streams and rivers.

In my opinion, this bill would be a huge blow to the number of wild lands we have left in our country. We need Roadless areas, if only to escape from the busy noise of the traffic-congested roads that surround our communities. As Aldo Leopold once said, “of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

Check out more information on WWC’s work in Roadless areas here.

Terra Miller-Cassman is WWC’s summer conservation outreach intern. She recently completed her first year at the University of Washington’s environmental studies program. To contact Terra, e-mail her at terra@wawild.org

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

NW SolarFest


The cloudiest day of the summer just happened to fall on the day of this year’s Northwest Solar Fest! Even though there was less than perfect weather, many people still came out to the event – and even managed to bake some solar cookies! Our Washington Wilderness Coalition booth definitely stood out: the canopy to our tent had gone missing that morning, so I fashioned a great little covering made out of a camping tent rain fly, some bungee cords (donated generously from the West Seattle Natural Energy booth), and with the help of a few kind Solar Fest volunteers, we were soon up and running.


The event was full of many different varieties of green energy supporters: energy providers, products, farmers markets, delicious food stands, and a few non-profit groups like Washington Wilderness Coalition. At our booth, we handed out copies of our latest newsletters and informed those who were new to WWC about our work and accomplishments. Some of the visitors who were already members of WWC came by to tell us, “keep up the great work!” By the end of the afternoon the clouds parted, and we were basking in a few rays of sunlight.

Summers in Washington are full of great events like these, and Washington Wilderness Coalition will be at many more. Here are some upcoming events you will be sure to see our booth at:

Greenwood Summer Streets (August 12th) http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/summer_green.htm

Festival at Mt. Si (August 13th and 14th)
http://www.festivalatmtsi.org/

Harbor Days (Septermber 2nd, 3rd, and 4th)
http://www.harbordays.com/

Tilth Harvest Festival (September 10th)
http://seattletilth.org/special_events/harvestfair2011

Mountaineers OutdoorsFest (September 17th)
http://www.mountaineers.org/outdoorsfest/OF_Poster_2011.pdf

Stop by and say hello, or learn more about what we’re doing! Interested in volunteering? We’d love to have your help! Contact Christine at christine@wawild.org to sign up.

Want to learn more about Solar Fest? Check out the web site!