When I began canoeing and rafting Washington’s rivers in the 1980s, I quickly realized there was no consistent source of information about routes and good water levels. In the course of researching my guidebook, I discovered that hydropower developers had plans for projects on many of the rivers I paddled. They were planning to dam up my rivers! So, I formed the Washington Rivers Council in 1984 and began organizing river recreationalists to create a constituency to oppose these projects.
Washington State’s wild spaces are among our most precious assets. Due to the foresight of past leaders, we have permanently protected some of the most special places in the United States. I believe we must continue to build upon the strong base of conservation efforts that have made our state what it is today.
Hardrock mining has left a legacy of pollution across the West that continues to burden our groundwater, surface waters, wildlife, vegetation, soils, air, and human health today. This reality poses a challenge for those of us who care deeply about our natural environment.
The 2 million acres of roadless forests here in Washington State are a critical part of the quality of life we have come to expect. Roadless forests provide much of our clean water and safe drinking water, besides protecting fish and wildlife.
Over the last sixteen years, Earth Ministry has been a significant partner in conservation efforts within Washington State and at the federal level. Through Earth Ministry’s partnership with Washington Wilderness Coalition and other conservation groups, the faith community has added their voice to the collective call for action on issues such as the Roadless Rule, the creation of the new Wild Sky Wilderness, and the ongoing effort to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
Those of us that call the modest but scenic town of Index home have gone through quite a bit over the past six years. Through passion, diligence and hard work, our small community of about 150 has taken Index’s future into its own hands. A number of individuals in our community worked tirelessly with the Washington Wilderness coalition in support of the recently approved Wild Sky Wilderness, which is literally our back yard.
At times mountain bikers like me have a complicated relationship with what we call designated Wilderness proposals, as mountain bikers are excluded from using Federally designated Wilderness. It is with smart planning and an open dialogue, that mountain bikers can support Wilderness bills that protect our land and preserve our human-powered recreation opportunities.
As someone who has explored hundreds of river miles across the country and around the world, I can confidently say that we have some of the most spectacular river resources of any place in the world. While the rivers and cascades that define the cultural and natural heritage of our region are a spectacular resource they also have industrial development.
For a thousand generations we have cherished the forests of our region. The tribal way of life has been sustained by giant cedars along our rivers, and by ancient firs and pines along the snow-capped Cascades. Many forests have been destroyed since the days of my grandfathers. But more than two million acres of remaining roadless forests still provide some spiritual places to observe our traditional ways with pure water, wildlife, native plants and upriver salmon spawning grounds.
Roadless forests in Washington define the unique quality of life that we enjoy in the Pacific Northwest. They provide us with clean and safe drinking water and habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as world-class recreation opportunities that contribute to our economy. That is why I am committed to seeing that these lands remain protected.