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Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy Holidays from the Staff & Board of Washington Wild!

On behalf of everyone here at Washington Wild, we would like to wish you and your family happy holidays and a very happy new year. As we look forward into 2013, we are excited for all of the possibilities for Washington’s wild lands and waters. But even with so many possibilities, we are still facing extreme threats, and your help is needed.

Please join Washington Wild in 2013 – more than 60% of our funding comes from individuals just like you. You can help make a difference for future generations of Wilderness users by becoming a member of Washington Wild today!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Celebrate International Mountain Day

Photo courtesy of one of WW's 2012 Photo Contest Winners
Tuesday, December 11, 2012, was International Mountain Day. This day was created by the United Nations to generate awareness about the importance of mountains to life, highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development, and to build partnerships that will bring positive change to the world’s mountains and highlands.
According to the UN, “Mountains are crucial to life. Whether we live at sea level or the highest elevations, we are connected to mountains and affected by them in more ways than we can imagine. Mountains provide most of the world's fresh water, harbor a rich variety of plants and animals, and are home to one in ten people. Yet, each day, environmental degradation, the consequences of climate change, exploitative mining, armed conflict, poverty, and hunger threaten the extraordinary web of life that the mountains support.”
Washington State is home to some of the most majestic peaks in the world. We boast not just one, but two significant mountain ranges – the Cascades and the Olympics.

Founded in 1979, WW has been working for over 30 years to protect and restore wild lands and waters in Washington. Many of the Wilderness areas, National Monuments, and Wild and Scenic Rivers we have advocated for include the iconic mountains being celebrated last week.

Consider some of the following examples of our advocacy for permanent protection:

Mt. Rainier – This iconic volcano is the most heavily glaciated in the lower 48, boasting 26 major glaciers. Totaling 228,000 acres, the Mt. Rainer Wilderness is part of the larger Mt. Rainer National Park, which is one of the most popular National Parks in the Pacific Northwest. Washington Wild helped advocate for the designation of most of Mt Rainier National Park as Wilderness through the Washington Park Wilderness Act of 1988.

Glacier Peak – One of the most active volcanoes in Washington State, Glacier Peak has erupted explosively at least five times in the past 3,000 years. Spanning a total of 566,000 acres, the Glacier Peak Wilderness was also one of the 1st Wilderness areas, as it was designated under the 1964 Wilderness Act. Washington Wild helped lead efforts to designate an additional 112,000 acres to the Glacier Peak Wilderness through the Washington Wilderness Act of 1984.

Mt. Adams Wilderness – Totaling 47,000 acres, the Mt. Adams Wilderness was one of the 1st Wilderness Areas designated under the 1964 Wilderness Act. Washington Wild helped lead efforts to designate an additional 14,000 acres to the Mt Adams Wilderness through the Washington Wilderness Act of 1984. As a member of the Volcano Country Wild Rivers Coalition, WW is working to protect 200 miles of rivers and streams in Southwest Washington's "Volcano Country," under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Rush Creek, which flows out of the Mt. Adams Wilderness, is one of the creeks that will receive permanent protections under this proposal.

Mt. St. Helens – Most famous for its recent (by geological standards) eruption in 1980, this volcano attracts visitors from all over the world. Washington Wild helped advocate for the creation of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument two years after the eruption, permanently protecting the volcano and providing a natural laboratory for natural regeneration.  WW and the Volcano Country Rivers Coalition have nominated the Green and Muddy Rivers and Smith and Pine Creeks, which flow out of the Monument, for permanent protections under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. WW is also helping to lead efforts to oppose a second effort to pursue an open pit copper mine by a Canadian mining company, just 12 miles from Mount St. Helen’s crater rim.

Photo courtesy of one of WW's 2012 Photo Contest Winners
Mt. Shuksan – a Lummi word meaning “high peak,” Mt. Shuksan is one of the most photographed peaks in the world. It is located in the Stephen Mather Wilderness, which totals 634,000 acres. WW helped advocate for the designation of most of North Cascades National Park as Wilderness through the Washington Park Wilderness Act of 1988, permanently protecting Mt. Shuksan and surrounding peaks. WW is a founding member of the Cascades Wild Campaign, a long-term Puget Sound Headwaters Initiative, with a goal of permanently protecting up to 300,000 acres of wild lands and hundreds of miles of Wild and Scenic rivers.  Included in this proposal is the North Fork Nooksack River, whose headwaters originate on Mt. Shuksan, and Wilderness additions on the lower slopes of this peak.

Mt. Baker – located near the Canadian border, Mt. Baker has erupted several times during the 19th century. It is now a popular destination for outdoor recreationists and can be seen from as far away as Seattle on a clear day. WW helped designate the 119,000-acre Mount Baker Wilderness through the Washington Wilderness Act of 1984.  Currently, under the Cascades Wild proposal, WW is working to protect the headwaters of the Middle Fork Nooksack River and Glacier and Warm Creeks, which originate near Mt. Baker.

Mt. Olympus – is the highest peak (7,980 feet) in the Olympic Mountains. It also has the 3rd largest glacial system in the U.S. The Olympic Mountains, including Mt. Olympus, lie at the center of the Olympic National Park. WW helped advocate for the designation of 95% of the park as the Olympic Wilderness through the Washington Park Wilderness Act of 1988, permanently protecting Mt. Olympus and the other great peaks of the Olympic Mountain range.  Currently, WW and the Wild Olympics Coalition are working to expand Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River protections on the Olympic Peninsula. Included in this proposal are some of the headwaters of the major rivers that begin in the high peaks of the Olympic Mountain range.

Visit our website to learn more about WW’s campaigns to protect our iconic peaks. Also consider celebrating International Mountain Day by going out and visiting these glorious peaks that provide Washington with so much scenery, clean water, and recreational opportunities. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wilderness Campaigns are wildlife campaigns, too! PART 2: Alpine Lakes Wilderness Expansion

Washington Wild works hard to protect the wild forests and rivers of Washington State. WW recently led a coalition that succeeded in designating the first national forest Wilderness in Washington in more than 20 years. The Wild Sky Wilderness Act, enacted into law in 2008, covered more than 100,000 acres of forestland in Western Washington, helping to protect old growth forests and pristine rivers from development and degradation. Washington Wild’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions, Wild Olympics, Volcano Rivers, and Cascade Wilds campaigns promise to deliver similar results.

But every acre of wilderness safeguards much, much more than stands of ancient Western red cedars and free flowing waterways. Each acre also ensures protection for every living thing that calls the forest or stream its home. Washington’s native species would be nothing without the expansive natural forest ecosystems we work so hard to protect, nor would the forests be as healthy and vibrant as they are without the wildlife inhabiting them. That’s why Washington Wild’s wildlands and waters campaigns are wildlife campaigns, too.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Addition Proposal (Currently awaiting Congressional Approval)

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is located less than an hour east of the Seattle-Bellevue metropolitan area, and since its designation as Wilderness by Congress in 1976 it has been one of the most visited Wilderness areas in the country. Washington Wild is currently leading an effort to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness by more than 22,000 acres as well as designate the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic. At stake are low-elevation forests, which host a greater diversity of species than their high-country counterparts. Here are a few native species found in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area that will benefit from the protection of low-elevation forests in the Cascades Range.

Wildlife Profile #1: Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni)

The Rocky Mountain elk is a subspecies of elk native to the Cascade Crest in Washington. Elk belong to the family Cervidae, which also includes deer, moose, and caribou. Rocky Mountain elk are among the largest of the cervids, and are one of the largest land animals in North America.  All members of Cervidae are ruminants, meaning they chew and swallow their food, regurgitating it several times. During spring and summer, elk graze on soft, tender plants such as grasses, sedges, and flowers. When food becomes scarcer in winter, they switch to browsing, eating mainly small branches and twigs, and occasionally evergreen needles. Because elk herds are so large and because rumination is a fairly inefficient digestion method, elk require abundant food supplies. Elk typically split up into cow-calf herds and bull herds for most of the year, but in the fall they come together to mate and males compete for the breeding females (cows).  Like most cervids, elk males (bulls) grow antlers every year and shed them when the breeding season is over.

While Rocky Mountain elk are doing quite well throughout their range in Washington, it wasn’t always that way. Their success is due in large part to Wilderness areas like Alpine Lakes. Elk need large expanses of uninterrupted habitat located well away from human settlements and development to sustain healthy herd sizes. A good amount of suitable elk habitat already exists in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but the Wilderness Additions and Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt River Proposal would protect key low-elevation elk habitat. Riparian zones, such as those surrounding the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers, are full of some staples in elk diets—aspen, cottonwoods, and willows. With Wild and Scenic River designation, the prime elk habitat offered by the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers would be protected from development and degradation. The passage of this proposal is critical for protecting and maintaining healthy elk populations in Washington for years to come.

Wildlife Profile #2: Coastal Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii)

There are at least 13 subspecies of cutthroat trout in the western United States, but the coastal cutthroat is the only one that is anadromous, meaning it spends part of its life in a marine environment before returning to its home stream to spawn. Unlike salmon, though, coastal cutthroat trout are not universally anadromous. Some fish migrate out to sea, while some—like those in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers—remain in fresh water and become resident fish. Very young cutthroats, called fry, are smaller than and unable to compete with salmon and steelhead fry, so they tend to reside in parts of streams undesirable to other salmonids, such as headwaters. Because of this, there are healthy alpine populations of resident cutthroats in Washington rivers that are above waterfalls too large for salmon to climb.

The Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers lie upstream of the sizable Snoqualmie Falls. Because of this barrier, these rivers are not home to salmon or other anadromous fish populations. However, coastal cutthroats thrive in these rivers, and will continue to do so if the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt are granted Wild and Scenic protections. A prize catch for wildlife such as bears and eagles and anglers alike, cutthroat trout are an important part of Washington’s forest ecosystems and recreational fishing industry. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt River Proposal will safeguard this precious resource, to the benefit of all Washington residents—feathered, furry and human.

By supporting WW you will not only be helping to protect our wild lands and waters but also the wildlife that depend on them. To learn more about our campaigns visit our website.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wild Night Out 2012 - the Best Yet (thanks to you!)

We had a great time at this year's Wild Night Out event - our ninth annual dinner and auction! Held on November 10th at the Mountaineers Club in Magnuson Park, we hosted 130 guests, including many of our long-time members, board members, staff, and friends & family. This was our most successful Wild Night Out ever - thank you to everyone who came out and made this year the best yet!

Here are a few snapshots from our event, courtesy of our fantastic photographer, Betsy Burger. See more on our Facebook!

Board member Adam Lenhardt & guests

Our guests are ready for bidding!

WW Board president Roger Mellem welcomes everyone

Connie Gallant accepts Congressman Norm Dicks' award on his behalf.

Our auctioneer, Fred Granados, gets the crowd excited!

Let the bidding begin!

Board secretary Carla Villar shares her story about wild places.

Cheers to an awesome night!