A New Year On The Mountain
2013 was an important year for Friends of Mount Hood. For over a quarter of a century we have had one mission: protecting the mountain’s alpine meadows, wetlands, streams, wildlife, and forested slopes. This is a big mission, and it cannot be said enough that our successes only happen because of the support of hundreds of people like yourself.
Supporters of the mission include all types, but here are two generalized descriptions that you may recognize. The obvious ones are the Enthusiasts; the legions of hikers, climbers, skiers, anglers, and all outdoors fanatics who enjoy all that the mountain offers. These are the folks, who, after having not said a word on a long flight, suddenly, at the start of that long descent into PDX, start rhapsodizing to everyone about their mountain, “See that outcrop, near the bottom of that ridge line…” Yes, you know who you are.
Then there are the Romantics. These people may or may not get up on the mountain, but none of them can get a glimpse of Oregon’s iconic peak without a momentary flutter of the heart. It may happen upon walking into a high-rise office, or driving out I-84 and coming around the bend, and, then, there it is. No matter where Romantics are they still can have that moment due to that image stored away in the “my favorite places” part of their mind.
All friends of Mount Hood have one thing in common; we understand the importance of this ongoing fight to stop the overdevelopment and over-commercialization of our mountain. And, at this moment, we are in the middle of one of our most important fights in the history of Friends of Mount Hood.
The highlight of 2013 was the filing in June of the lawsuit to challenge the Forest Service decision to permit a new commercial development at Timberline Lodge. We partnered with the Sierra Club, Bark, and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center in the lawsuit to prevent the construction of a mountain bike riding complex.
This April is the fourth anniversary of the campaign to prevent permanent land disturbance in this important alpine zone that includes two watersheds that feed the Sandy River basin. During the intervening years there have been improvements at the Ski Bowl bike park facility, expansion of the Sandy Ridge Trail System, and the construction of a major downhill complex at Mt. Bachelor, which will rival any in North America when completed. There are more opportunities than ever to engage in downhill bike riding.
However, we have always known that there is another agenda behind the plans of RLK and Co., the Timberline Lodge permit holder. In their Master Development Plan, they describe the bike complex, but, in addition, they also include details for a new lodge and more parking lots to be built nearby. The Forest Service has so far refused to allow the public to comment on or have a discussion of the Master Development Plan. The public is being frozen out of any long range planning for Timberline Lodge and the surrounding land, all of which is owned by the public.
The reality is that RLK is a corporation, and, as such, profit is always the first priority. What is fundamentally unacceptable is that the Forest Service, our agent responsible for protecting our public land, is facilitating this private gain over public interests.
Every highlight has to have an opposite event. It finally can be settled once and for all that RLK is not the “Steward of the Mountain” that it has long claimed to be. In fairness, for years many have challenged this self-promotion. After all, what kind of steward would dump one million pounds of salt annually on the Palmer glacier?
The stewardship controversy was officially settled with the following statement that is buried in the Forest Service’s 354 page Environmental Assessment document.
“Based on comments received from the public during scoping, as well as concerns raised by the interdisciplinary team conducting the environmental analysis, watershed restoration activities are being included as part of the proposed action. Site-specific project analysis afforded the Forest Service the opportunity to identify existing problems in the project area and propose corrective measures.” p. 27 (emphasis added.)
Here is the under reported back story. When the Forest Service scientists went on the ground to conduct their studies they found that RLK had created a network of roads that had been used for years to service the ski lifts; and these miles of roads were already contaminating the very watersheds where the bike trails were to be built. In addition to the roads, they discovered that some of the ski lift infrastructure was also causing sediment release into the stream system. Plus, they found other stewardship failures, such as, nonexistent ground cover that was required after the 2007 lift construction. The Forest Service ordered a massive restoration project covering acres of land to be done before any trail construction is allowed.
Your Help Is Urgently Needed…
Challenging the Forest Service and its legal team at the U.S. Department of Justice is a very expensive proposition. We believe that we have the best environmental law attorneys in the state, and they are doing an exceptional job. Our attorneys charge non-profit rates, not the going corporate rate, but still our funds are rapidly depleting. If you are at all able to make a contribution to this fight now is the time! We hope that you will also tell your friends that you are a supporter of Friends of Mount Hood and ask them to join with you.
And Finally, The Delight!
We are happy to end with some delightful news: a new member to our board of directors. As you know, all the board members are volunteers. We are very please to introduce Suzanne Savell. Suzanne is a professional development coordinator, and she has promised to bring some of her fundraising magic to the Friends of Mount Hood.
Another exciting occurrence in 2013 was our website project. We received grants from the Mazamas and the Oregon Community Foundation to develop a new website that will open the door to the world of new communication and social media. The new site is up so be sure to check it out.
As you well know, Friends of Mount Hood is an entirely volunteer conservation group. There is no paid staff, rent, or overhead. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.
Thank you for joining with us to protect the mountain, and we wish you the very best for 2014.