Fred Munson is the campaign director for the Cascades Conservation Partnership, an effort just being launched that aims to purchase 75,000 acres of forest to maintain and enhance a wildlife corridor between the north and central Cascade Mountains of Washington state. He just finished up a successful effort that raised $17 million to purchase and protect 25,000 acres of the Loomis State Forest in north-central Washington.

Sunday, 21 May 2000

SEATTLE, Wash.

Today turned out to be a beautiful day! I’ve just returned from a wonderful hike on the northwest flank of Mount Rainier. It wasn’t particularly hard, only a few miles each way and a 1,200-foot elevation gain, but it was gorgeous. The national park has protected its lands (unlike the surrounding private and national forest lands), so the hike was through old-growth forest the whole way to a beautiful lake in a glacial cirque.

My wife Laurie (Valeriano, for all you fans of the Washington Toxics Coalition) and our friend Monica Rhode, who works with Lois Gibbs at the Center for Environmental Health and Justice, went along for the hike. Monica is in town helping Laurie with a People’s Hearing on dioxin pollution Monday night. It’s hard to imagine when you’re hiking in virgin old-growth that there are still nasty pollution problems in the Northwest like dioxin-spewing pulp and paper mills … but I digress.

The Carbon River, north of Mount Rainier.

Photo: Charlie Raines.

While we were down in the Carbon River area of Mount Rainier, I stopped to check out some of the lands that we have proposed for acquisition. They’re just on the other side of the Carbon River from Mount Rainier National Park. They’re beautiful, but it doesn’t take but two minutes of driving west to see the fate that awaits them … clearcutting.

Ya see, I’m the campaign director for the newly formed Cascades Conservation Partnership. The partnership is an unprecedented three-year campaign to purchase and protect over 75,000 acres of privately owned forests that link the Alpine Lakes to Mount Rainier. This effort would protect most of the remaining old-growth forests left on private land in this region. Most of this old-growth is threatened with logging within the next one to three years. These old-growth forests and the habitat they provide are critical to the survival of wildlife species such as gray wolf, grizzly bear, pine marten, fisher, northern goshawk, and great gray owl. Our effort would simultaneously protect 26 miles of river, 15 lakes, and over 45 miles of hiking trails just an hour’s drive from Seattle. The campaign will raise $25 million dollars in private funds and persuade the federal government to contribute at least $100 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

It was nice to have a day off, as last week was crazy and this week promises to be the same. We’re having our big launch press conference on Tuesday at REI. However, our campaign was outed last Thursday by a front-page Seattle Post-Intelligencer article by Joel Connelly. It was a good story with nice placement, and Joel did a good job of ferreting out the details of the story even though we weren’t cooperating with him. However, the early announcement has caused some serious political problems for us.

Over 60 percent of the land that we’re working to purchase and protect is in Kittitas County, on the eastern flanks of the Cascades. Those of you who are familiar with politics in the Northwest know that most of the counties on the east side of the mountains are highly conservative, generally Republican, suspicious of the federal government, tired of federal control of “their” land, and in some cases off-their-rockers worried about black helicopters and U.N. invasions. (Really! A public official in Okanogan County near the Loomis Forest swore a few years ago that he saw United Nations tanks rolling through the town of Oroville!)

Anyway, we had scheduled meetings with the county commissioners and local press for this Monday before the launch so we could at least present the proposal to them in person and in a positive light. We wanted to let them know we respected their legitimate concerns and wanted to work with them to help resolve them. Instead, because of the P-I story, they heard about our effort from local reporters asking them for comment on a plan they knew nothing about. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well.

So, we have staff and volunteers on the way over there early Monday morning for the previously scheduled meetings to try and repair some of the political damage. Meanwhile, I’ll being making press calls and pulling together the folks speaking at our launch press conference for a practice session, getting all our materials and maps together, etc.

But I still have a few hours left of my night off, so I think it’s time to go fire up the hot tub. A little decadence goes a long way.