Conservation Committee

 PAS Conservation Committee Report
May 2014

 Allen Gibbs, Chair, Conservation Committee

Stillaguamish/Oso Slide Activities – We look forward to hearing about the selection of a governor’s committee which apparently will oversee, perhaps conduct, investigations or inquiries as to the causes of the slide. This involves gathering data and recommending new research to examine potential threats of landslides in the Stillaguamish Valley and elsewhere in the State. Also, consider land use planning, and emergency response authorizations and funding through the state legislature. Not just about Oso and Snohomish County but probably elsewhere in the state.

Snohomish County Council has decided to not proceed with an emergency moratorium on home construction in landslide prone areas. According to a story in the May 6th Seattle Times, the council will consider “…wider setbacks and additional geotechnical studies for homebuilding near hillsides.”

Aside from the governor’s committee, there are federal, state, county and local government agencies collaborating with each other. Some will probably be represented directly on the committee. These entities are working with and through FEMA, and WA emergency services headed by the WA State Patrol Command.

There is talk of building a new main channel with smaller channels for the North Fork Stillaguamish River in the vicinity of the slide area. Associated with this will be flood control and flood plain planning, and relocation of State Route 530.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Sustainable Roads Project
– No dates yet announced for the next phases of the project, including use of the Sustainable Roads Cadre which includes some PAS members. Late May but more likely June, there will be public meetings where findings from last year’s public meetings will be presented.  There is talk of August fieldtrips on each of the four ranger districts, to look at examples of road conditions, and to see examples of road categories, i.e., fully open and safe for public use; seasonal closures; long term closure of roads to be retained; removal of roads, etc. Also, to see what the four levels of road maintenance look like in practice. The field trips will be open to the public.

American Alps Legacy Update
– The American Alps Legacy advisory group met recently to talk about current work status. Focus is mostly upon discussions with the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855 tribes of which there are 13, located between the Duwamish, Suquamish and Snohomish reservations in central Puget Sound, north to the Lummi and Nooksack reservations at the Canadian border. The advisory group is comprised of individuals who are members of local, state and national conservation groups. A few groups do support expansion of the North Cascades National Park, such as Audubon Washington chapters. The expansion proposal continues to change. The largest change came in late 2010 when expansion of the park in Okanogan and Chelan counties was dropped, with some possible exceptions, i.e., Early Winters Spires and Liberty Bell at Washington Pass, west to Rainy Pass. A side issue is the rebuilding or not of the Stehekin Valley Road which has washed out in recent years near Bridge Creek.

Stillaguamish and Snohomish Watershed Councils
– Pilchuck Audubon is a member of the two councils, going back to the time of Sally and Jan van Niel as joint conservation chairs. Allen Gibbs is now the PAS representative.  Both watershed councils exist to support recovery of Puget Sound Chinook salmon. Over the years, leaving buffers in place and restoring where lacking has been a topic of much conversation with landowners along rivers, creeks, and shorelines. Voluntary participation by landowners to receive funds from various sources, but especially Salmon Recovery Funding Board, is now of considerable interest. There are new requirements to qualify for such funds; setback of buffers as much as 150 feet, up from 35 feet. We will be monitoring progress of discussions and negotiations.

Cascades Wild
– Many conservation and outdoor recreation groups continue to examine the potential for new wilderness, and wild and scenic rivers designations in the Washington State’s national forests. One group of such representatives is focused upon the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Pilchuck Audubon has been represented going back to 2007, when at the time the examination included the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.  The Wild Sky Wilderness legislation and campaign intervened, as did introduction of a bill by Congressman Dave Reichert for additions to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and some wild and scenic river designations in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.  The group took up its current examination in 2012.

Legislation for the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Addition and wild/scenic rivers designations was drafted in 2007-2009. Senate Bill 112, sponsored by Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, passed on June 19, 2013 in the Senate. A hearing in the House on House Resolution 361 occurred for the first time last July. There is no assurance  the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Addition will see further action this year.

Puget Sound Partnership
– PAS board members Joan Poor and Allen Gibbs attended one of PSP’s annual updates in Puget Sound communities of its “action agenda” at Edmonds Library on April 16. PSP is required every two years to update its comprehensive conservation management plan (Action Agenda).

This is an adaptive management approach, to cross off the list work accomplished; decide what stays and needs more time and resources; what once was a good idea but no longer, so drop from the agenda; what is new and ready to be added to the agenda. Public comment closed on April 30th.
Go to the PSP website to read about the update:    Suggest reading the April PSP newsletter.