Another Update, 12/3/2012
Check out this Guest Editorial in the Seattle Times for another view on the Dam Project.
UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST:
On October 11, I received an email from Michael Garrity, Washington State Conservation Director for American Rivers about this post. I followed up with a phone call to him. He said his email was to reassure me that new lands would not be opened to off-road vehicles. Actually, he said, the new agreement would protect lands that are currently closed to ORV. The new agreement would better manage lands that are currently open to ORV. When I asked him if the organizations in the letter cited below—Sierra Club, etc— were on board with the new agreement, he said yes.
This is a complicated project, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on it. I know that we cannot protect all lands from any possible human disturbances, and that “working” landscapes—forests, farms, and recreation areas—are part of the mix in planning a sustainable future with a healthy environment. So, I’ll be watching this to see how it plays out. Hope you will be, too.
Here’s the meat of the email:
I wanted to reassure you that the former American Forest Land Company land in the Teanaway that was acquired by the state will see improved management and an emphasis on conservation, recreation, and sustainable forestry rather than the unsustainable forestry and largely unmonitored recreation that have occurred there in the past. There will be a public process to inform the management of the land. More info is available here: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/BusinessPermits/Topics/OtherLandTransactions/Pages/amp_teanaway.aspx
The Sierra Club report you refer to is critical of a National Conservation and Recreation Area plan for adjacent National Forest land that is unrelated to the state’s purchase of the AFLC land, which the Sierra Club supported. That said, even the National Conservation and Recreation Area proposal has been mischaracterized by some of its critics as opening land up to off-road vehicles that is not already open to it – the fact is that is sought to allow some continued ORV use on public land where they were already used, but to manage them better and do a better job of keeping them out of places they shouldn’t be, while also adding new Wilderness designations and Wild and Scenic River designations. More recently (and thanks in part to some of the criticism you read whether or not one thinks it’s warranted or unwarranted criticism from a conservation perspective), that proposal has been put on hold pending the completion of the National Forest planning process (still a few years from completion) in order to allow the public to weigh in on the details of management of the National Forest in the Teanaway region as well as other parts of the Wenatchee National Forest.
Here’s the original post:
The Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resources Management Plan proposes new and expanded dams and reservoirs near Ellensburg in Central Washington. A recent article in the Seattle Times Article made it sound like a wonderful compromise: farmers would get water, the tribes fish, and the rest of us 50,000 acres of “protected” land in the gorgeous Teanaway.
Wow! I love the Teanaway area – it is prime Eastern Cascades habitat and gorgeous country!
Plus, the plan is supported by Forterra, Conservation Northwest, American Rivers, the Wilderness Society, and the Bullitt Foundation. All great organizations.
I wondered what “protected” meant. There is quite a push in many rural Washington communities to develop public land for high-impact motorized recreation—the kind that really tears up the landscape, like ATVs, motorcycles, and 4x4s. Is this what they have in mind for Teanaway?
The Sierra Club report indicates it does.
A closer look showed that the recreation portion of the plan is strongly opposed—on the basis of increased off-road vehicles alone—by a slew of environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Seattle Audubon, Friends of the Earth, Washington Native Plant Society, Alpine Lakes Protection Society and many others.
Plus, the plan calls for destroying 1000 acres of old-growth forest near Bumping Lake, and I certainly can’t support that. We need all the old-growth we have left to remain intact.
Bottom line: I cannot support anything that would threaten to turn the beautiful, serene Teanaway into the gouged-up mud pit that other off-road vehicle sites have become. The “protection” could end up ruining one of the greatest treasures of the Eastern Cascades.
What do you think?
Can we really afford to lose more old-growth forest? We have so little left.
You also might be interested in reading one of my posts from last summer about a different—but no less dubious—dam proposal:
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Interesting that this proposal runs counter to the removal of dams and the follow-up of habitat restoration that is gaining momentum – especially with the leadership shown by the removal of the dams on the Elwah. Here in Idaho, the latest dam removal project is the Dutch Flat dam, due to be completed Oct 31st of this year. Interestingly enough, this removal project was spearheaded by the Latah County Soil and Water Conservation District in partnership with farmers and ranchers. Do Idaho ranchers and farmers know something that those in Ellensburg don’t know? Kudos to you for looking into this issue in more detail instead of just assuming the article in the Times was balanced reporting.
I don’t really know the answer, but as I read the article and looked at the photos—one photo showed an Ellensburg farmer standing in front of a huge spray of irrigation water headed up into the air, obviously on a sunny day—I wondered if there was a better way to use water. Maybe Idaho farmers conserve water better? I know Idaho has had some pretty serious droughts lately…maybe they’ve adopted better conservation methods??