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Friday, October 30, 2009

Roadless News: Is Obama Administration Upholding Promises?

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Earlier this year the Secretary of Agriculture created a "time out" on development in roadless areas, a step towards keeping the promises of President Obama to uphold the 2001 Roadless Rule. However, is the Obama administration now moving backwards on roadless protections? OregonLive.com takes up the question:

"This interim directive will provide consistency and clarity that will help protect our national forests until a long-term roadless policy reflecting President Obama's commitment is developed," Vilsack, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, said at the time.

Now it appears the administration is backing away from that directive, if only a little.

This month, the Agriculture Department returned to the Forest Service the authority to undertake certain projects in roadless forests without the secretary's approval.

To read full article CLICK HERE.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Senator Murray on Alpine Lakes Legislation

Posted by Michael Lanthier


Taking a step towards permanent protection of the Pratt and Middle Fork River Valleys, Senator Murray (D-WA) submitted testimony at a hearing of the Public Lands and Forests subcommittee urging her colleagues to support the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (S. 721).

“Today’s hearing is another step forward toward expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area and adding new protections for our rivers,” Senator Murray said. “Conservation and preservation of our natural resources reflects the values I grew up with here in Washington state and I want to leave the same kind of legacy for my grandson and for future generations to enjoy. That’s why I was proud to join with Congressman Reichert to introduce this bill, and why I will continue working for this important legislation.”

For Senator Murray's Press Release CLICK HERE.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Call on Obama administration to stop new Tongass logging

Posted by Michael Lanthier

WASHINGTON—The Pew Environment Group and 10 other conservation organizations called on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today to stop two controversial timber sales in roadless areas of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, one of the last intact temperate rainforests in the world. The groups asked Vilsack to honor President Barack Obama’s commitment to uphold the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which was issued to protect 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forests, including the Tongass.



An ad running today in [the Capitol Hill newspaper] Politico points to the planned Central Kupreanof timber sale in the Tongass, America’s largest national forest, which would log old growth trees and build 15 miles of new roads in roadless areas. The draft plan would mean a loss of more than 5,000 roadless acres and cost taxpayers more than $6 million to build roads associated with the project. A final plan for the sale is expected to be released within the week. A second logging proposal would build roads in the Suemez Island roadless area, also in the Tongass. According to a May 28 administrative directive, Secretary Vilsack’s approval is required for most industrial activity in inventoried roadless areas covered by the 2001 rule while legal issues regarding the rule’s implementation are resolved.

"Action by local forest service officials to move forward with plans to log old-growth trees and roadless areas in the Tongass is at odds with President Obama's pledge to protect the nation's last wild forests – including the Tongass – through the Roadless Area Conservation Rule,” said Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Environment Group’s U.S. public lands program. "It is now up to Secretary Vilsack to honor that commitment by stopping new roadless area logging in the Tongass and giving this crown jewel the full protection it deserves.”

In a similar test for the Obama administration, Colorado is expected to propose a plan to Secretary Vilsack in November that would allow new coal mining and oil and gas leasing, as well as road building and logging, in the state’s 4.4 million acres of national forests. National environmental organizations and Colorado conservation groups have called on the Obama administration to reject the state's proposal.

The Obama administration has signaled support for the 2001 roadless rule, and Obama himself pledged to uphold the rule during his presidential campaign. In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the rule, rejecting efforts to replace it with a discretionary state-based process. The previous administration had attempted to roll back the rule, including applying a temporary exemption to the Tongass from its protections, and initiating the state-based process in place of national policy.

Today’s ad, which tells Secretary Vilsack, “Now it’s up to you to protect our Tongass rainforest,” is sponsored by Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Environment America, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Center for Conservation Science & Policy, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Environment Group, Sierra Club, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, and The Wilderness Society.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improving public policy, informing the public and stimulating civic life. For more information about the campaign to protect America’s roadless national forests, go to http://www.ourforests.org.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

House Passes Wild & Scenic Bill

Posted by Michael Lanthier

A Wild and Scenic River designation for the Illabot Creek, a major tributary to the Skagit River, just passed in the House today. Introduced by Representative Rick Larson and Senator Patty Murray, the senate bill still awaits a hearing. Both Rep Larson and Sen Murray led the efforts to create Washington's first designated wilderness in over 20 years, the Wild Sky Wilderness.

The passage of the Illabot Creek Bill would create the 7th tributary or river in Washington to be designated as a Wild and Scenic River. Washington's neighbor to the south, Oregon, has over 50.

Wild and Scenic River designation protects the free flowing condition of rivers. That designation is important for the Illabot Creek, which provides exceptional spawning and rearing habitat for summer and fall chinook, coho, and pink salmon. Illabot is also home to native steelhead and one of the largest populations of bull trout in the Skagit watershed. It also supports one of the largest wintering bald eagle populations in the lower 48.

Find out more about the Illabot Creek at American Rivers, an organization that Washington Wilderness works closely with in protect Washington's rivers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Recreation Leaders Support Wilderness Additions

Posted by Michael Lanthier

Wilderness preservation is important to a variety of stakeholders, including businesses. Nationwide, active outdoor recreation contributes more than $730 billion to the U.S. economy. The protection of key recreation areas directly effects many businesses.

Recently, several key businesses from the recreation industry showed their support of preservation on the current wilderness bill set forth by Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Dave Reichert to expand the Alpine Lakes wilderness to protect the Pratt River Valley and Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

Washington Wilderness worked with The Conservation Alliance to encourage many of its local members to show their support by signing onto a letter demonstrating the need for protection. The Conservation Alliance represents a group of outdoor industry companies which engages businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values.

Exped LLC, a Conservation Alliance member and signer, writes about the importance of their support in their Blog:
Exped LLC is a signatory to a letter recently sent to our representatives in government, encouraging them to continue the quest to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We've pasted the letter in below - please give it a read. Better yet, if you haven't visited the Pratt River, go and take it in soon. This amazing fall weather is a perfect time to see this beautiful stretch of river. READ MORE.
Exped LLC, with local offices in Seattle, is a maker of tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, trekking poles, and other outdoor gear.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Busy Week for Roadless, Thank Activists

Posted by: Michael Lanthier

Last week was a busy week focused on the Roadless Rule. To continue to apply pressure on the Obama administration to follow through on its promises to re-enforce national protections for the 58.5 million acres of roadless forest, activists from across the country spoke out. Colorado was taking comments on its state proposal and about 200,000 comments were generated in time for the Oct 3rd deadline expressing the desire for a national rule to protect the all roadless areas.

Many comments came from Washington Wilderness’ activists who understand that protections for our roadless areas here in Washington State are only as strong as the national roadless rule. Activists continue to encourage WA Senator Maria Cantwell, a leader on roadless protections, to advocate that the Obama administration take action.

Additionally, on Thursday, October 1st, Senator Cantwell and WA Representative Jay Inslee introduced legislation to guarantee roadless protections through congress. Find out more on the Roadless Rule and/or send a quick thank you to Inslee and Cantwell for their leadership (be sure to include great roadless places that you have been to and would like to see protected).

Thanks again to all the support from Washington Wilderness activists, including the over 200 WA elected officials and more than 170 stakeholders!

Photo by Gordon Campbell

Friday, October 2, 2009

WWC Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Formative Board Meeting

Posted by: Denise Ottoson, Volunteer Historian

The wilderness and the idea of wilderness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit.
– Joseph Wood Krutch

At 2:30 in the afternoon of September 30, 1979, eight people gathered at the venerable College Inn, the celebrated organizers watering hole in the University District of Seattle, Washington. The eight were Ken Gersten, Karen Fant, Harold Wood, Janet Stuhr, Dean Fischer, Bruce Folsom, Audrey Newman, and Jon Alexander.

Ken Gersten and Karen Fant were the organizers. They were both young environmental activists. Early activist Polly Dyer had recruited mountain climber Gersten, and Fant was a protégé of both Patrick Goldsworthy and the legendary Hazel Wolf, with eight years of volunteer experience already under her belt. Fant had just finished a stint as President of the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, and Gersten had just become Vice-President of that group. They had recently met with Jim Monteith of the Oregon Wilderness Coalition, who had urged them to set up a coalition of local activists in Washington and had promised help with the formalities. This Sunday meeting was to discuss the feasibility of the proposed coalition.

When the discussion was done, the group formally decided to form the Washington Wilderness Coalition and declared their gathering its first board meeting. All except Bruce and Jon were put on an interim board; Ken was declared Chair and Karen Treasurer.

The purpose of the group was declared to be “a support system of the ‘front line’ wilderness and wild rivers groups and to publish a newsletter covering topics of interest across the state.” The new board decided that Ken and Karen would be the volunteer staff. And before they adjourned, they reached into their pockets and began the Washington Wilderness Coalition’s treasury with a collective donation of seven dollars.