Monday, December 20, 2010

Condit Dam Removal Ordered

What does it take to remove a 125-foot tall wall of concrete from a mountain-fed river? Nearly two decades of perseverance and dedication. The Mountaineers celebrated long-awaited news on Thursday, December 16, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered the decommissioning of the White Salmon River’s Condit Dam. In the project surrender order, FERC stated,"We conclude, based on the record of this case, that the benefits of dam removal to anadromous fish, wildlife, and whitewater recreation outweigh the costs associated with the loss of Condit dam and Northwestern Lake."They further stated that these benefits of removal "cannot be achieved if the dam is left in place."

The Mountaineers, along with partners such as American Whitewater, Friends of the White Salmon, American Rivers, Yakama Indian Nation, and Trout Unlimited have worked for years alongside dam owner PacifiCorp to pursue one of the region’s most significant dam removal projects. Thomas O’Keefe, Mountaineers Recreation Resources Chair and Stewardship Director of American Whitewater, said "Condit Dam was originally constructed a century ago for hydropower and at the time met a local community need. Now we recognize other values of the river and while the dam itself is big, the hydropower project is relatively small especially in light of its major environmental impacts--its time has passed."

The dam removal, scheduled to begin in October 2011, will restore habitat for salmon and steelhead, boost recreation opportunities, and revitalize the health of this Columbia River tributary. Restoration of this river is important for both fish and recreational users. Fed by the springs draining off Mt. Adams, the river is one of the more important tributaries in this reach of the Columbia River with consistent summer flows of cool water that provide year around boating for paddlers and critical cold water habitat for fish trying to escape the heat of summer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Special Events vs. Educational Events on State Lands

The budget situation for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Recreation Program is particularly dire – although DNR generates revenue by logging its state trust properties, all of those funds are dedicated to fund schools and state and county institutions. The agency relies on allocations from the state’s general fund, as well as grants from the Non-highway Off Road Vehicle Account (NOVA), generated by 1% of the state's gas tax. During the last budget cycle, DNR lost 50% of its revenue from the general fund and NOVA money was shifted to State Parks to keep them open. Basically, DNR is already down to the bone and closing recreation sites. The odds are that revenue from the general fund will be slashed just as dramatically for the pending 2011-13 budget.

The Recreation Reform Bill proposed by DNR and WDFW is a last ditch effort to keep recreational trails and facilities open. The bill outlines a number of cost-saving and revenue generating tactics, including the $10 per day/$40 per year Explore Washington Pass required for individual access to DNR and WDFW land. Notable to The Mountaineers and similar organizations, the draft bill also includes a provision that will require a $200 special event license for any organized event for which participants pay a donation or participation fee ( in addition, all participants will still need to carry either a $10 day pass or $40 annual pass.)

As it is written, this provision could be prohibitive for Mountaineers courses on DNR lands such as scrambling or rescue classes at Mount Si or sea kayaking field trips to Cypress Island. Mark Mauren of the DNR explained that the impetus behind this provision is that organizations and businesses often use DNR lands for money-making events like poker runs and races, generating thousands of dollars without paying a penny for their impact to the land.

While the intention of the special event fee is to prevent exploitation of natural resources, The Mountaineers' intention is to train responsible recreationists. DNR encourages the Mountaineers to submit reasonable recommendations for a revised special event license that might better accommodate non-profit educational activities.

The Mountaineers may wish to recommend the following changes to the draft legislation:
- Distinguish between events that serve to raise money and events that serve to educate by creating two categories of permits: Special Event and Educational Event licenses
- Define Special Event: commercial or competitive organized event which any person, group, or organization makes or attempts to make a profit, or collect compensation from participants in the form of fees or donations for the purpose of participating in an event.
- Define Educational Event: organized educational presentation, training, or exercise provided to participants for a nominal fee, collected for the sole purpose of covering the expense associated with event.
- Keep existing language regarding $200 fee or 10% of total income of event intact for Special Events.
- Propose fee exemption for educational events, but maintain that all participants possess the required Explore Washington pass.

What do you think? What, if any, is a reasonable amount to charge organizations for hosting courses and trainings on public lands? Share your ideas and comments on the Recreation Reform Bill, as well as the special event fee language, contact Deadline for comments is December 15, 2010.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fees Proposed for Access to State Lands and Boat Launches

Washington State agencies are bracing for another tough round of cuts and compromises as the Governor prepares her budget proposal for the 2011-13 biennium. A recent news release by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) announced a projected loss of $1.2 billion in General Fund Revenue for the remainder of the current biennium (2009-11) and the next budget period (2011-13).

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has long provided free access to popular trails and destinations such as Mount Si, Blanchard Forest, Cypress Island, and Tiger Mountain thanks to allotments from the state’s general funds. As budget cuts loom, DNR and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) are jointly proposing a Recreation Reform Bill to supplement slashed budgets with user-generated funding. The agencies insist that the alternative to new user fees is the inevitable closure and reduction of services at recreation sites across the state.

A central feature of the proposed legislation is the “Explore Washington Pass” for access to WDFW and DNR lands. Under the proposal, the cost of an annual Explore Washington Pass would be $40 per person for general users age 19 and older, or $5 for those purchasing fishing or hunting licenses or a watchable-wildlife package. Short-term passes would be available at $20 for a three-day pass; $15 for a two-day pass; and $10 for a one-day pass. Revenue from the new pass, estimated at $5.5 million annually, would be split between WDFW and DNR for land management capital, operational, maintenance and enforcement needs.

Unlike the Northwest Forest Pass or State Sno-Park Pass, the Explore Washington Pass is a per-person fee, not per vehicle. Whether you are biking, hiking, climbing, or launching your boat on DNR or WDFW property, each person in your party will need to carry an Explore Washington Pass, even if you do not arrive by vehicle. The legislation also includes a mandatory $200 license for all organized events on DNR or WDFW lands. As written, the legislation could require licenses for Mountaineers courses on DNR lands and also require that all participants carry day or annual Explore Washington Passes. One proposal from the Mountaineers suggests that the club could contribute to the maintenance of state lands by harnessing our volunteer stewardship force in lieu of prohibitive event license fees.

As the legislation evolves, the Mountaineers is in discussion with DNR and WDFW to help determine a fair and reasonable proposal that will keep our state lands accessible to the public. You can share your thoughts about the proposal or learn more by emailing or submit comments directly to the DNR by contacting

What lands will be affected by the proposed fees?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Act Now for Full Funding of the LWCF

Congress heads back to work on November 15th facing a huge backlog of legislation. While the federal budget and a host of other issues will compete for attention during the short, lame-duck session, the bipartisan support for fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund separates it from most other proposals. Having passed the House, all that remains is to secure passage in the Senate to restore the single most important funding source for conservation and recreation in the United States. Urge your Senators include the Land and Water Conservation Fund in legislation during the last session of the 111th Congress.

Please write your Senator’s office and ask for LWCF funding!

What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was established in 1965 to meet the nation's growing desire to preserve natural areas, culturally and historically significant landmarks, and outdoor recreational opportunities. Federal Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing provides the revenue for LWCF--the concept is a simple one where extraction of resources we all use provides some revenue for important access and conservation projects on our nation's public lands.

Unfortunately only a fraction of the intended revenue from these leases has gone into the fund with the balance being diverted to general funds for other purposes. In fact last year LWCF funding approached an all time low of $155 million. Legislation that has already passed the House would rectify this situation with full funding available each year, not subject to cuts in the annual appropriations process. Recent national bipartisan polling shows overwhelming support (86% of voters) for the continued use of offshore oil and gas feed for land and water protection through full funding of the LWCF.

Why Is This Important For Outdoor Recreation?

If LWCF was fully funded, it would have a rather large positive and direct impact on organizations like The Mountaineers who depend on access to outdoor recreation and conservation of treasured landscapes on public lands. There would be 5 times the amount of federal money available to protect land and assure access to human-powered recreation. More trails, more river access, more crags, more backcountry skiing.

Since its creation, LWCF has made nearly 7 million acres of land available for outdoor recreation. The fund has helped to complete iconic American landscapes like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Everglades, the Appalachian Trail, and Grand Teton National Park and here at home the North Cascades, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic National Parks have all benefitted from this program. In addition the fund has established close-to-home parks and recreation facilities providing new and improved recreation opportunities for all Americans.

Washington is home to over 500 successful local, regional, state, and federal projects made possible by LWCF. The Duwamish River Trail, Green River Gorge Conservation Area and associated State Parks, mature forest lands in the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, lands along Icicle Creek in the Wenatchee National Forest, Green Lake Park in Seattle, public access on the White Salmon River, public shoreline access along Puget Sound, and Fort Worden State Park are just a few examples of public recreation lands in Washington that have received aid from LWCF.

Unfortunately the recent lack of funding has resulted in lost opportunities. In 2004 the State of Washington received only 5 percent of requested funds through the program and while we have enjoyed key successes, there have been a number of lost opportunities. For example key conservation opportunities along the White Salmon Wild and Scenic River acquired by a land trust for sale to the Forest Service had to be sold on the open market due to a lack of available LWCF.

Write your Senators today!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mt. Rainier NP Considers Fate of Carbon River Road

The Road: The six-mile Carbon River Road provided vehicular access to the northwestern corner of Mount Rainier National Park and the Ipsut Creek Campground. Until closure in 2006, the road afforded easy access to the Carbon River glacier and day-hike access to several of the popular Irish Cabin Peaks. The Mountaineers has a long history of recreating in the Carbon River Road region, essentially the backyard of the Irish Cabin property.

The Floods: Washouts have plagued the Carbon River Road since it opened in 1925, even flooding twice during the four years of construction. The most dramatic flood occurred November 6-7, 2006, when 17.9 inches of rain fell in the park, triggering flooding that washed out several segments of the road. Floods damaged the road again in 2008. The road has been closed to vehicle use since 2006, but bikers and hikers have been using the trails.

Between 1933 and 2007, the Carbon River flooded 59 times, 24 of these events caused significant damage to the road. Aggravating the damage is the fact that the river bed is rising. Due to the accumulation of sediment and debris, the riverbed is now higher than the road in certain areas. The Carbon River stream gauge reflects a an increasing trend of higher flood frequencies and magnitudes – tied to recent weather patterns in the Pacific Northwest that result in more frequent rain-on-snow fall flooding. Climate change predictions suggest this pattern will continue to exacerbate the situation.

The Environmental Assessment: The 2001 Mount Rainier General Management Plan, endorsed by the Mountaineers, calls for the roadway to be closed upon the next washout and be maintained as a bicycle and hiker access trail. In September 2010, the MRNP released an Environmental Assessment outlining five alternatives for the fate of the Carbon River Road:
Alternative 1:
Take no action and continue current management of the road as unimproved trail for hiking and biking. Estimated cost: More than $1 million.

Alternative 2 (preferred): Reopen the road 1.2 miles to private vehicles as far as a turnaround at the Old Mine Trailhead. From there, the road would be converted into an improved trail. Estimated cost: $3.2 million.

Alternative 3: Reopen 3.6 miles of road, to Chenuis, to public vehicles. Beyond that, it would be an improved trail. Estimated cost: $10.8 million.

Alternative 4: Repair the road from the Old Mine Trailhead turnaround to milepost 4.4 to be used only by seasonal and weekend shuttle service. A trail would lead to the Wonderland Trail. Estimated cost: $11.4 million.

Alternative 5: Temporarily use the road as a hiking and biking trail while a 36-inch-wide wilderness trail is built. Bikes typically are not allowed on wilderness trails. Estimated cost: $4.5 million. Superintendent Dave Uberuaga endorses Alternative #2 as the preferred alternative, citing sustainability as the primary factor. It is notable that the MRNP is in the process of acquiring 800 acres to establish camping at Carbon River entrance; these facilities will replace the year-round drive-in camping that was lost at Ipsut. Under the preferred alternative #2, access to Ipsut Campground and the glacier will still be achievable by foot or bike along 5.4 miles of easy-grade trail.

The public comment period is open through November 3rd, 2010. For a complete look at the Environmental Assessment, or to submit comments electronically, visit the Mount Rainier park planning website.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

We have been busy...

In the past year The Mountaineers' has partnered with many local and national recreation and conservation organizations in our work to protect our outdoor spaces. During this time The Mountaineers:

Received National Forest Service Award for Community Awareness for our work on Watershed Health and Habitat Restoration (The Mountaineer - December, 2009)

Awarded the Forest Service's Rise to the Future Award for Community Awareness for our work on the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Act.
As a charter member of the Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative we worked to raise awareness and funding to repair 820 culverts that were blocking fish passage, improve 3,170 miles of trails, and fix 166 bridges. This worked helped restore 1,147 miles of stream habitat in addition to tens of thousands of acres of watershed nationwide.
Helped move legislation for the addition of 22,000 acres and Wild & Scenic River designation for the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (The Mountaineer - May, 2009)

Joined with wilderness-advocacy partners to bring the 22,000-acre expansion one congressional step from fruition
Two Wild and Scenic River designations for 40 miles of stream is included in the proposal
Kicked off "Conservation on the Ground" hiking series to investigate ("ground truth") proposed alternative motorized routes for the new Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Motorized Travel Management Plan (The Mountaineer - August, 2009)

Led 20 volunteers on "ground-truthing" hikes of proposed alternative routes to survey motorized incursion along proposed alternative routes that dead end at or intersect with trails in designated wilderness areas. Participants learned about threats to aquatic resources and sensitive plants and animals and other resource damage due to illegal motorized use.
Protected 9,000 acres along the borders of the Wild Sky Wilderness Area from resource and wildlife damage due to illegal off-road vehicle use (The Mountaineer - March, 2009)

Vigilant volunteer "ground-truthing" and yearlong participation on the Department of Natural Resources Reiter Foothills Advisory Committee resulted in the protection of 9,000 acres from motorized use in the swath of state forest trust land between two state parks and along the borders of the Wild Sky Wilderness Area.
Provided over 5,250 hours of leadership advocacy (January - December 2009)

Our volunteers partnered with other local and national conservation and recreation organizations to form powerful coalitions to advocate for wildlife, state parks, national parks, wilderness and Wild & Scenic River designations in Washington State. These volunteers researched public land use regulations, reviewed environmental impact statements for proposed projects on public lands and provided comprehensive comments for federal, state and local land managers. Volunteers attended public meetings, conferences and workshops, planned and hosted conservation events and fundraisers , organized hikes, wrote newspaper and magazine articles and just about anything you can think of to raise public awareness about conservation issues.
Saved Washington State Parks and Department of Natural Resources Lands from Closure (The Mountaineer - June, 2009)

Mountaineers volunteers and professional representatives in Olympia worked to secure funding solutions for huge gaps in the Washington State Parks and Department of Natural Resources recreation budgets. The budget gaps threatened closure of popular recreation destinations on our state lands. Working with our local partners, were able to dodge the bullet in 2009, but in October 2010 the new state budgets will be released and we expect serious shortfalls once again. We need your help to let our lawmaker's know that even in times of economic downturn recreational opportunities hold great value for our communities.
Empowered 43 environmental advocates through our Northwest Environmental Issues Course (January - March 2009)

Advocates earned independent-study college credit through our Northwest Environmental Issues Course on Climate Change. This course covered green house gasses and human influence, projected impacts on the Pacific Northwest, the science behind climate modeling, climate change effects on ecosystem services, calculating carbon footprints and green building as mitigation measures and action individuals can take to address climate change
Supported two individuals who became Leave No Trace™ Master Educators (March 2010)

These individuals are now certified to teach Leave No Trace™ ethics to at the trainer level for other non-profit trainers and have poised The Mountaineers Program Center to become a regional center for "master educator" certification.

The Thousand Skiers Project

The Thousand Skiers Project: Advocating for a Non-Motorized Recreation Area in the Wenatchee National Forest

Winter Wildlands Alliance is assisting our local partners through the Wenatchee Mountains Coalition to advocate for the designation of two non-motorized winter recreation areas in the Wenatchee National Forest. Please lend your voice to this important initiative.

Currently, little of the Wenatchee National Forest is protected for human-powered winter recreation. Winter access to wilderness areas is challenging and, sadly, illegal snowmobile activity prevalent. By designating non-motorized winter recreation areas for the Wenatchee National Forest there will be greater opportunity for quite winter recreation and in turn create a non-motorized buffer toenhance wilderness protection.

The Thousand Skiers Project, formed by the Wenatchee Mountains Coalition, hopes to generate one thousand letters and emails, from human-powered snowsports enthusiasts - in support of designating new non-motorized areas in the Wenatchee National Forest. Please take a moment right now to help achieve our goal.

These non-motorized winter recreation areas will be significant in size and include two separate contiguous areas along the pristine and unroaded crest of the Wenatchee Mountains. The western non-motorized area will include the higher elevation portion of Wenatchee Crest next to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The eastern non-motorized area will include the Wenatchee Crest from Blewett Pass (Hwy 97) to the Mission Ridge Road. These non-motorized winter recreation areas will offer backcountry snowsports enthusiasts multiple opportunities for short, long and overnight ski tours.

For more information click here and Get Involved by emailing or calling;

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
The Forest Plan Revision Team
215 Melody Lane Wenatchee, WA 9880

Sign your letter or email with your full name and place of residence so the Forest Service can verify you're a real person. And please Carbon copy the so we can track support.

Mountaineers North Cascades Book Project

The North Cascades

Everyone seems to be in agreement these days... the North Cascades represent a unique area of natural beauty and recreational opportunity that must be protected from development and other resource management threats. The economic stability of the rural towns around the North Cascades are now directly tied to the protection of these natural resources and the revenue generated from recreation-based business. Coalitions of local and national conservation, recreation, business and other organizations have been working on various proposals to promote conservation objectives and economic opportunities for the North Cascades. These proposals include completion of North Cascades National Park, Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations and public private partnerships to help promote sustainable, recreation based economies.

The Mountaineers to Produce a Book on the North Cascades
To support these efforts The Mountaineers and Mountaineers Books/Braided River have joined forces to produce a book about the North Cascades. Beautiful coffee table photographic books published by Mountaineers Books have been held up on the Senate floor, hand delivered to U.S. Presidents during legislative debates, and played an integral role in galvanizing people to become engaged in public policy debates.

The book will be part of a robust campaign that will include events, media, exhibits, and more—all based on magnificent images and stories of this iconic landscape. The Mountaineers will collaborate with numerous regional grassroots organizations, and plans to craft the book so it will be a useful media tool for the overall campaign.

While gorgeous works of art and important advocacy tools books like these are rarely money makers. With this in mind The Mountaineers is leading a donation drive to raise money to produce this book on the North Cascades. Contributions to this campaign help us doubly to reach our goal since every dollar donated up to $25,000 is generously matched by The Mountaineers. Please make checks out to Braided River- and be sure to put North Cascades Advocacy Book in the memo of your check. Publication will be in 2011 or 2012.

Donate now at

Monday, July 19, 2010

Public Input Sought on Salmon Program

The Tacoma News Tribune has an article about two public sessions this week (7/19) concerning a program that produces blackmouth chinook salmon in the Puget Sound.

Read more here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Seattle Listening Session for America's Great Outdoors (July 1)


In April, at the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors, President Obama established the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to develop a conservation and recreation agenda worthy of the 21st century and to reconnect Americans with our great outdoors. The President understands that protecting and restoring the lands and waters that we love and reconnecting people to the outdoors must be community driven and supported.

The President directed the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality to lead this effort and to listen and learn from people all over the country. Please join senior representative of these agencies for a public listening session and discussion on land conservation, recreation, and reconnecting Americans to the great outdoors.

In the Northwest many citizens and organizations are deeply involved in the conservation of working farms, forests, lakes, and rivers, scenic lands, and historic areas, and in celebrating and enjoying the region’s rich outdoor and cultural heritage.

This public listening session and discussion is an opportunity for leaders of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to hear from you about solutions for building a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnecting all Americans with the outdoors. Please join us – here are the details:

Listening Session and Discussion Information:


Thursday, July 1, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm


Public Listening Session on President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative


Franklin High School
3013 South Mount Baker Blvd, Seattle, Washington, 98144


Representatives from DOI, USDA, EPA, and CEQ will be present to hear your thoughts
and to participate in a conversation with you about land conservation, recreation, and
reconnecting Americans to the great outdoors.


This event is free and open to the public and we will make every effort to accommodate everyone. To help with our
planning, we encourage you to pre-register by Monday June 28. To pre-register, go to: and input your name, organization and primary area of interest:

· Working land, open space, and landscape conservation
· Outdoor Recreation
· Youth engagement and environmental education.
· General

More Info:
You can find more information on the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and submit
comments on-line at:

We hope you will participate and look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mountain Stewards Protect Mt. Baker ecosystems

Volunteers are needed to teach day hikers, backpackers and climbers on the three busiest Mt. Baker area trail systems: Heliotrope Ridge, Park Butte/Railroad Grade and Heather Meadows. As a Mountain Steward volunteer you will train in low-impact recreational skills, natural history and back country management. Volunteers work in the lower segments of the trails with fellow Mountain Stewards interacting with the public for three daytime shifts.

Qualifications: Volunteers must be 18 years or older with hiking and outdoor recreation skills.

Timeline: Volunteers attend training July 10 & 17 and commit to volunteer a total of three weekend days between July 24 – Sept. 12. An optional training for Heather Meadows volunteers is July 24.

Apply: Return the application by June 25. Applications are here. Mail to Mt. Baker Ranger District, Mountain Stewards, 810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284, or fax to 360-856-1934. Call 360-845-2615 for more information.