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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

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

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 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 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

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