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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Get to Know Your BLM Lands

Chopaka Lake, Chopaka Mountain Wilderness Study Area 
Despite the fact that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers more public land (more than 270 million acres) than any other federal agency in the country, only about 450,000 acres exist within Washington State - the least of the twelve western states, and far less than holdings by other federal agencies.

Currently, the agency is drafting a new Resource Management Plan, which is an opportunity for the public to weigh in on recreational access and suggest protection of unroaded areas.  Washington Wild will be monitoring opportunities to include additional protections for unroaded BLM lands statewide within the upcoming draft.

The Juniper Dunes Wilderness Area
Meet Your BLM Lands
First, let’s learn more about BLM lands in Washington.

The majority are east of the Cascades, in the central Columbia Basin and in the highlands of northeastern Washington. The largest areas of these lands are in Lincoln County, and among the smallest is .25 acre Cotton Point Island in the San Juans. There is even one Wilderness Area about 20 miles northeast of Richland, WA called Juniper Dunes!

The BLM manages many unique ecosystems, which include scablands, ancient pine forests, shrub-steppe, Palouse grasslands, and riparian zones. Popular destinations such as Juniper Dunes, Chopaka Lake, and Escure Ranch/Rock Creek are some examples in Washington.

The National Landscape Conservation System – An Option for Washington’s BLM Lands

Generally, the BLM manages lands from an interdisciplinary approach, under the principles of multiple-use and sustained-yield. However, multiple-uses can include activities such as mining, off-road vehicle use, oil and gas exploration, and grazing. Recognizing the need for certain lands to be protected from this multiple-use mandate, the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) was established.

The NLCS began in 2000 and was permanently established in 2009 as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. Washington Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA08) played a leadership role in championing the system through the House of Representatives. NLCS lands managed by the BLM include National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, National Historic & Scenic Trails, Wild & Scenic Rivers, and other lands designated for conservation by Congress or the President. 

Communities in the San Juan Islands have been fighting for protection of their BLM lands for decades, recently there has been broad support for the permanent protection under the NLCS. In 2011, Interior Secretary Salazar included these lands on a list of 18 “crown jewels” of public lands that have significant local support for protection. Protection has also been endorsed by the San Juan County Council, Governor Gregoire, and Senator Maria Cantwell, who introduced legislation to designate the lands as a National Conservation Area. However, since designating land as a National Conservation Area requires an Act of Congress, the protection effort could take years given the current gridlocked, anti-environmental Congress.

The effort to protect BLM lands in the San Juan Islands started with grassroots work from the local community. Their enthusiasm and dedication is inspiring, and a reminder that the voices of small communities with big visions can be heard.

A New Resource Management Plan for Washington

Resource Management Plans (RMPs) direct the management of BLM-administered public lands, and each BLM district is required to periodically update them. Since 1987, BLM lands have changed in the State, and total acreage has increased by over 100,000 acres. The new RMP will incorporate lands in the San Juan Archipelago not currently covered by an RMP.

The drafting of a new Resource Management Plan and the prospect of permanent protection for BLM lands in the San Juan Islands could lead to significant changes in how BLM land management in Washington. BLM lands in Washington have faced a lot of threats over the years, such as unmanaged off-road vehicle use and oil and gas leasing, but new policies and management strategies provide citizens with opportunities to help shape the future of these unique lands. Public involvement in the RMP planning process provides an important opportunity for the public to ensure that the BLM is managing these designated lands with conservation as a priority.

Drafts of the new RMP and its associated Environmental Impact Statement have not yet been published and likely won’t be for several months. Progress on these drafts is behind schedule, but once they are published there will be new opportunities for public involvement. Participating in these planning processes gives the public the opportunity to help protect public lands in Washington by shaping the future of BLM land management. For more information on the draft RMP process, visit the BLM’S Eastern Washington and San Juan RMP website or join the mailing list to receive future updates on the RMP process.

Stay tuned for how you can help Washington Wild support better management of these unique lands this fall.

Whitney Cox is our Conservation Intern here at Wild Washington. When not in the office you can find Whitney enjoying the great outdoors by hiking, observing wildlife, or gardening.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ahhh Tabling... Not just another day at the office
There are many environmental organizations in Washington and each has its own niche, which is awesome. We need to spread the word about the good and unique works of Washington Wild and tabling at public events is an effective way of doing so.  

 Some of the personal benefits of tabling:

Tabling takes you to beautiful locations with jaw-dropping views

Oftentimes, the good folks organizing tabling events provide free stuff, like coffee and fruit salads

Occasionally, you will leave with something spectacular, like a 5-pound brick of Beecher's Flagship Cheddar.  This beauty was leftover from the Teens In Public Service (TIPS) 5k Frolic Run/Walk, which was phenomenally organized by TIPS Executive Director, Cathy Michalec.  Thanks Cathy!

Spreading Washington Wild news and cheer at public events is a great way to learn about issues, meet new people, and to enjoy the extremely entertaining events, festivals, and concerts around Washington.  If you would like to learn more about Tabling volunteering, please contact

Christine Scheele is Washington Wild's volunteer coordinator. When she is not wrangling volunteers, you can find her chasing her dogs up mountainsides. Interested in volunteering? Contact Christine at

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Let's Give BIG to Save Wild Places!

Ruth Creek Valley, Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

I remember the first time that a wild place got to me.

During the first week of my stint as an intern in a National Park, I was given the chance to go on my first backpacking trip to one of the highest peaks in the park. After dousing myself with ¾ of a bottle of bug repellant and overpacking my borrowed backpack to the brim with “necessities,” I was ready to go.

I was afraid of the dark, afraid of ticks, and afraid of the quiet – at first. As my calves burned with each passing mile, the elevation grew higher and the views, more brilliant. I was overcome with the sheer wildness of the terrain – a striking contrast to my suburban upbringing. This experience with wilderness brought forth a sense of awe, a sense of wonder, and an overwhelming respect for the power and majesty of these untouched places.  By the next morning, my face was glowing and I was raring to get back on the trail, back into the wild. My coworkers, far more seasoned backpackers and seasonal park rangers, looked at each other knowingly, nodding.

“Well…we’ve got her,” one remarked.

Have Washington’s wild lands and waters ‘got’ to you yet?

I feel fortunate every day that my work at Washington Wild allows me to reach out to others about their love for wild places in Washington. What an amazing state we live in, here in Washington: emerald green moss and fern-laden paths, quiet with flora and dappled light; cathedral-like old-growth trees swaying quietly in an ocean breeze; jagged, remote alpine peaks standing stalwart above rushing rivers, laden with salmon. Whether the North Cascades’ majesty, the Olympic Peninsula’s grandeur, eastern Washington’s rolling hills, or the rugged volcanoes and rivers of southwest Washington, we’ve certainly got it all.

Today, May 2nd, you have a unique chance to make your donation for Washington Wild’s work to protect these incredible remaining wild places go even further. By giving online through the Seattle Foundation’s Give BIG Challenge, your gift will be proportionally matched by the Foundation and generous local sponsors. Never given a gift? Now is the time. Help us to ensure that these wild lands and waters will be around for future generations of wilderness seekers. Give BIG today!

As Wallace Stegner once put it:
“We need wilderness preserved – as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds – because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed… It is good for us when we are young, because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly, as vacation and rest, into our insane lives.  It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there – important, that is, simply as idea.

Kimberly Adank is Washington Wild’s membership & development director. When she’s not fundraising for wild places, she’s out exploring them via hiking boots or snowshoe. Until hiking season begins, she can be found wandering the lowlands with her faithful companion, 10-year old Lab/Chesapeake, Moose. Interested in learning more about membership with Washington Wild? Contact Kimberly at