Washington Wild works to permanently protect Wilderness or Wild & Scenic Rivers, but that is only part of the fight. Before, and even after, those protections are in place we also work to defend Washington’s wild places from mounting threats like logging, mining, dams and other development. Designation often takes years of advocacy and congressional action making it critical to defend the wild character of these unprotected places, so that they can still one day be permanently protected.
Even after being designated as Wilderness or Wild & Scenic Rivers, there is still a need to defend our Wilderness Legacy. Proposed management changes or new congressional proposals to rollback bedrock conservation laws can all pose threats to the places that already have protection.
Defending against such threats requires sustained advocacy and attentiveness to the issue for long periods of time, frequently years. For example, Washington Wild has been monitoring the proposed mine development in the shadow of Mount St. Helens since 2006. With the power of a coalition, we have succeeded in turning back the threat twice already and to this day we remain vigilant on the issue.
Washington Wild also led efforts for a decade defending the 2001 National Forest Roadless Rule which provided administrative protection for more than 2 million acres of federal old-growth in Washington State from new road building. Since then, over 106,000 acres have been permanently protected as part of the Wild Sky Wilderness and another 126,000 acres is proposed for Wilderness designation as part of the Wild Olympics legislation.
In other cases, threats to our wild lands and waters can appear without much notice. A 2015 proposal by the U.S. Army would allow high altitude combat helicopter training 365 days a year over Wilderness and other federal lands in the North Cascades. Washington Wild was able to bring together a coalition of nearly 70 conservation, recreation, and wildlife organizations as well as local business leaders to raise concerns about the proposal. As a result in 2016, the Army announced they would rethink the proposed landing sites and redraft the proposal.
Much of the old-growth logging has been eliminated on forest service lands, but recently there have been some aggressive timber sales like the Hansen Creek Sale near Snoqualmie Pass. Washington Wild led efforts by conservation and recreation groups to raise concerns about a naturally regenerated thinning unit, impacts to high use recreation trails, and extremely large cut units. A number of these provisions were subsequently dropped from the final proposal.
As metal prices increase, so do proposals for mine development in Washington State. In recent years, such activities have emerged at the Excelsior mine near Mt. Baker, an expansion of an Olivine Mine into an inventoried roadless area in Whatcom County and exploratory drilling near Flagg Mountain in the Methow Valley. Washington Wild has been on the front lines in monitoring and raising the awareness of the negative impacts from these activities to wild lands and waters.
Additionally, there are increasing numbers of preliminary permits for small hydro-developments in the Cascades range, including Sunset Falls on the Skykomish River and Black Canyon on the North Fork Snoqualmie River. Washington Wild is part of a coalition to help push back on these efforts that threaten native fish populations and free-flowing river reaches.
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