Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tell Senator Cantwell...

... That you want better access to the North Cascades National Park so she should back a plan to re-establish the Stehekin Valley Road.

From a Seattle Times article last September:
"Asked about the {American Alps} proposal, Sen. Maria Cantwell was noncommittal. 'Senator Cantwell wants to increase use and access to the North Cascades National Park ... ,' her spokesman Jared Leopold said Friday. 'She looks forward to input from the community on how best to do that.'"

Despite their long-time opposition to re-opening the road, the North Cascades Conservation Council, the main proponents of expanding the park, wants better access to the park land which they view as underdeveloped and lacking in visitors.

Follow the logic? Neither do we! On your next trip Stehekin, asks some locals if they can explain it....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another AALP push?

Now that the elections are over, it sounds like the North Cascades Park expansion proponents are preparing to jump start their failed campaign in the spring of 2013.

Here's the latest from Jim Davis of American Alps:
Unfortunately, congressional redistricting has thrown American Alps a big political surprise this year. Until now, we have been working with Congressman Larsen in the 2nd Congressional district. Redistricting has now placed 95% of the American Alps proposal area in the new 1st Congressional district, with the remaining 5% moving to Congressman Reichert’s new district. Major action on American Alps is on hold until after the November 2012 election, when we will know who the new representative will be from the 1st Congressional district.

Democrat Susan DelBene was narrowly elected for the new district so come the new year feel free to contact her about this unnecessary and costly proposal.
Meanwhile stay tuned to NOPE over the winter to see what comes of the next push by the AALP supporters.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Losing sight?

Here's a fresh quote from the North Cascade Conservation Council's AALP blog:

"Many traditional allies of wilderness and lands protection have lost sight of who/what the real threats to the glorious North Cascades are, and rise in opposition (be it direct, or behind a cloak) to American Alps. It is baffling and disappointing.
"Talk about egos and big dollars run amok …"
– NC3 board member Tom Hammond

It does makes one wonder why other Northwest conservation groups are not backing the park expansion proposal? Aside from the rants and accusations of the proponents...

Friday, November 11, 2011

A view from Marblemount

Here's a little snippet from an article printed last month in the Skagit Valley Herald:

The threat of restrictions has raised concerns among some, including Marblemount business owner Don Clark. His family has owned Skagit River Resort since before the park was formed.
He watched firsthand the original proposal for the park, which promised economic prosperity, but instead shut out industries like logging and depressed nearby towns. Ideas like a tram, expansive trails and visitor centers didn't happen, he said.
"With every five-year plan revision they've removed more of what was promised," Clark said.
He doesn't believe the expansion would do anything but restrict use and hurt the area, which is already struggling to stay viable.
With a federal budget crunch, the last thing politicians will spend money on is developing a national park, he said.
"What is the economic climate in the U.S. right now? he said. "The U.S. government is busted and they're not taking on things like this. What guarantee do these communities have that a single dime would be spent in their communities when this designation occurs?"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Deflating the expansion

North Cascades National Park expansion proponents have scaled back their plans due to widespread opposition, especially over in the Methow Valley. The proposal has been scaled back by 109,000 acres with the new park boundary now being placed at Washington Pass.
This change is certainly indicative of the lack of support for the expansion let alone the overwhelming opposition to it. Nonetheless, the proposal is still out there, looking for a congressional backer foolish enough to tack this unnecessary project in the form of some rider on some unrelated bill.

Here's an article opposing the plan that ran recently in the Everett Herald:

One-sided proposal goes too far

By Victor Garcia
An environmental group from Seattle is proposing changes to land use in Skagit and Whatcom counties via the American Alps Legacy Proposal (AALP). As a lifetime hiker, sportsman and conservationist, I am for protecting wilderness and habitat but feel that this proposal crosses over to a bridge-burning case of protection for protection's sake and will actually do harm to both visitor numbers and the recreation-based economy of the Highway 20 corridor.

Much of this area is already covered by considerable environmental protections and AALPS will distract from the harder work of protecting areas with little or no protection. Certain provisions in this draft proposal will damage the important alliances between diverse user groups that build coalitions for preservation that benefits all user groups, including wildlife.

Misunderstanding No. 1: AALP purports to increase usership. The report states that "Low visitation to the RLNRA (Ross Lake National Recreation Area) can also be attributed to the limited number of recreational opportunities along Highway 20…", yet then goes on to actually restrict some of the biggest recreational uses that exist: hunting, fishing and snowmobiling.

I take particular exception to the Ross Lake NRA's inclusion, since this sportsman's paradise has been heavily used by all groups and has fared well by most measures. It is not clear exactly which groups that don't come already will replace these displaced sportsmen. These uses are especially important to the populations living closest, not just those one to two hours away in the Seattle metropolitan area. Snowmobilers are an economically vital user group during the time the highway is closed due to snow.

Misunderstanding No. 2: These areas are currently unprotected. Both the Baker Rainforest and the Cascade River are currently under Late Successional Reserve (LSR) protections, under which nothing older than 80 years can be cut. There is already a considerable amount of protection in place here. The Ross Lake NRA will face a ban on hunting and dogs on trails. It is one of the few places dog lovers can currently experience wilderness with their pets. Given the relative inaccessibility of this area currently, I can see no other benefits to its inclusion.

Misunderstanding No. 3: This would benefit the Highway 20 corridor economy. This protection would not appreciably increase the scenic beauty already present, nor would it change the fact that low usage is more likely due to the dead end nature of a closed Highway 20 for much of the season and there being no major ski resort as a destination.

The current mix of multiple usage is not mutually exclusive with the activities proposed. "Waterfall tours and wildlife watching" are not mutually exclusive with hunting, as anybody who has been to any National Wildlife Refuge can attest. Hunting is much more than a traditional American pastime. It creates more than 700,000 jobs nationwide. New studies now show that annual spending by America's 14 million hunters amounts to $22.1 billion. My question is what the AALPS proposal would do to make up for this economic loss.

I have great respect for some of the signers. However, the American Alps Legacy Proposal will alienate and exclude current user groups without significantly improving the conservation status or biodiversity of the area. I feel it will hurt the economy of the Highway 20 corridor without replacing those visitors lost. A better path might be to make the improvements noted without excluding entire classes of users.

Victor Garcia teaches biology and environmental science at Anacortes High School, and has worked as a field biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Promises made....

Proponents for expanding the park have emerged from some sort of disarray that had one wondering what happened to their whole American Alps Legacy Project and have recently released a draft version of their proposal nearly a year later than projected.
What has changed since last year? Nothing, really, just the same old spin that expanding the park will benefit everybody and everything: the gateway communities' economies; the wildlife and habitat; the outdoor recreationists; the future generations – you name it, it's a win-win situation, of course!

Unfortunately, the whole proposal is complicated and largely unnecessary with plenty of unwanted "benefits."

Here's a telling quote from the draft proposal (italics added for emphasis):

"Most existing recreation uses on the new park lands will be preserved. American Alps legislation will direct the Park Service to work with interested parties to assure that these popular recreation uses are continued where they will not impact fish, wildlife, or the outdoor experiences of other visitors. Opportunities for Nordic skiing and dog walking will be maintained in selected areas. Party-size limits for groups providing outdoor experiences for youth will be kept at their current level. Horseback riding will be continued in the Park. Backpacking and hiking will be unchanged under Park management, with the exception of free permits for backcountry camping."

Read between the lines: "where they will not impact," "in selected areas," "will be unchanged..."
Expansion of the North Cascades National Park will bring about a series of radical changes that at first will only be the tip of the iceberg. Promises made will not be promises kept.

Here's another choice quote from the draft proposal:

"Visitation to the National Park and RLNRA are unusually low given the spectacular beauty and size of these national park units and their proximity to several large metropolitan areas. Low visitation to the Park can be explained by the fact that no paved roads provide access to the Park. The only drivable access is via a gravel road up the Cascades River. Low visitation to the RLNRA is explained by its designation as a national recreation area instead of a national park. National parks have a reputation for world class attractions that attract more visitors. Low visitation to RLNRA can also be attributed to
the limited number of recreation opportunities along Highway 20. Low elevation trails are generally not available. Waterfall tours and wildlife watching sites have not been developed."

It seems really unusual, and completely ironic, for a storied group like the N3C to be so concerned about boosting visitation numbers to the NCNP and the Ross Lake area. After all, this is an organization that has vigorously opposed restoring the Stehekin River Road (that used to be the other drivable access into the park and was a great asset to the business-oriented folks at the upper end of Lake Chelan as well as droves of public land users). What a funny way to look at these issues!

This past weekend, things were hopping at the Ross Lake Resort and on the lake itself. Maybe the fact that this beautiful area is not as busy as Ranier or the Olympics could be a good thing? And as far as there not being many recreation opportunities along the North Cascades Highway? These folks must be either lazy, ignorant or have too much dust in their eyes from the recent chip-seal project on the highway to see the potential existing opportunities for easy adventure. (BTW, check out the great new boardwalk at Happy Creek just east of the Ross Lake Trailhead.)

Stay tuned for more dismantling of one of the more bizarre "conservation" proposals to come around in a long time....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Skeptical observations

Here are two recent posts taken from the Turns-All-Year website where there is a lengthy thread on the proposed expansion:

     I attended the AALP presentation at REI last night (in Bellingham) and  left with far more questions and concerns than I went in with. Sorry I didn’t get the name of the presenters and will have to refer to them as THEM. Or the AALP. The meeting was populated by folks who seemed sympathetic to the expansion proposal. I might have been the only skeptic in the room, if there were others they didn’t speak up. City of Subdued Excitement after all.

     The AALP is not done drawing their proposal map apparently. The presenter asked the group what other areas they would like to see included in the proposal and the Nooksack Cirque and Artist Point received nods from the audience. The presenter expressed a personal desire to see better access to the Nooksack Cirque and Artist Point was touted as a possible visitor center. They also discussed moving the park boundary at Hannegan Pass to include the pass. 

The speaker discussed some of the meetings he has had with the various user groups. He was unapologetic about negative outcomes for other user groups saying that a certain loss of freedom is necessary to adequately protect the natural resources of the region.

I was able to ask two questions. 
Q. What percentage of the 300,000 annual visitors to the HWY 20 corridor are engaged in activities that would be prohibited if the  park proposal goes through?
A.  I don’t know, the park study didn’t address that.

Q. Regarding the hatch marked area of the proposed expansion(see map), what specific threat do you see to that area?
A. Small Hydroelectric development. The permits are on the books.
Q. Is that a realistic threat? Hydro in the shadow of Liberty Bell?
A. (shrug) The permits are on the book

And another post by the same person:

Indeed, their shoulder  shrugging was very telling. Some other unsettling attitudes emerged during the meeting. Any talk about accommodating the desires of affected user groups is lip service at best. A very clear anti-hunting, anti-motor, anti-dog, anti-mountain bike, anti-ski area agenda was voiced. Regarding backcountry skiers they made it clear they don’t understand the demographic, referring to , “cross country skiers who like to use snowmobiles to access the backcountry.”  Huh? As someone stated earlier in the thread this appears to be an attempt to garner a wide base of support early in the game using soothing language and gauzy environmental platitudes. The people currently using the Hwy 20 corridor are exactly the people who would stand up to a legitimate environmental threat to the area. This proposal alienates nearly all of them by creating a police state wilderness.

JRD’s post on page 2 of this thread reads like a doomsday scenario. A very cynical vision of the North Cascades future. Gold mining! Logging! Hydro! Biomass extraction? Should I buy my backyard bomb shelter now?

The AALP suggestion that we should be willing to give up the freedom we currently enjoy makes me very prickly. The proposal in it’s current form is probably intentionally over reaching in anticipation of the whittling that will occur when the various interest groups catch wind of it. They are asking for a lot of territory and their sights are set on  Hwy 542 to include Mt. Sefrit, Goat Mt., Larabee, Tomyhoi and low elevation wetlands along the Nooksack river.

My skin in the game? I’m an avid split boarder, dog owner, hunter/gatherer, mountain biker, Nordic skier and wannabe heli-rider. The reason I moved to Whatcom County is to have the North Cascades as a backyard. This ill-advised proposal hits home.