THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!
Thanks to your generous help we paid all of the 2013 attorney bills in the ongoing battle to stop the commercial bike park at Timberline Lodge. We are now preparing to cover bills that are accruing for this year.
Your entire donation to Friends of Mount Hood is spent in the fight to protect the alpine environment of the mountain. As you know, we are an entirely volunteer organization. There is no staff, or rent, or any overhead other than the small amount spent on printing and postage.
FIGHTING FOR TIMBERLINE
Why is this fight even necessary when the Forest Service is designated to be our agent to manage our public lands? The decision by the Forest Service to allow a downhill bike park in sensitive watersheds can be summed up in a sentence that is repeated throughout their documents, “The project may impact individuals or habitat, but will not likely contribute to a trend towards Federal listing or loss of viability to the population or species.”
We disagree with this prediction; for that is all it is, a prediction based on models they designed. Why? Because we know from the foremost expert that a “Special Status Sensitive Species” caddisfly, part of the critical food chain, has already experienced “loss of viability” due to existing ski lift infrastructure. Our analysis concluded that the proposed bike park will add to the loss of viability, not only for this caddisfly, but, also for the threatened Lower Columbia River steelhead and other species that depend on clear, cold mountain streams for survival.
Obviously, a commercial activity like a bike park would not be allowed on designated wilderness land. While not wilderness wetlands, the meadows and wetlands of Timberline are as equally important to the overall integrity of the mountain. We do not accept that Timberline is to be treated as the equivalent of an industrial zone; or, even worse, that Mount Hood itself is what some have called a “sacrificial mountain.”
REAL DAMAGE TO A REAL WORLD
There is no debate about the negative impacts of a downhill bike park. The debate is about the extent of the damage, and the effectiveness of mitigation to prevent an environmental disaster. The Forest Service’s decision is based on a ‘perfect world’ in which every grade is perfectly designed, no hillside cut collapses, and every silt trap functions. The record proves that their ‘perfect world’ only exists on paper. The proof is the massive restoration project going on in the exact watersheds where this bike park is planned. This restoration project was ordered because of the failure of the ‘project elements and design criteria’ used for the existing ski lifts.
Based on expert analyses, funded with your donation, we know that a bike park is unsustainable in these watersheds. When the Forest Service designed a different bike trail it was purposely routed away from watersheds for the obvious reasons. They knew not to put a free public trail in a watershed, but now they are permitting a private pay-to-ride project in two watersheds.
Instead of nurturing these streams flowing with clear, cold snow melt the Forest Service is twisting itself into knots to allow RLK and Company another money making enterprise. How did it all get turned upside down?
A FAILURE TO ACT
The answer is that the Forest Service is pulled into consorting with concessionaires as if they were business partners. Our public lands have a long history of commerce taking precedence over conservation. We know that pressure came down through the Forest Service hierarchy to make this bike park happen.
A Forest Service policy analyst has studied the relationship between the concessionaires and the managing agencies. He wrote:
“The profit motive will drive entrepreneurs headlong toward any source of perceived demand, with ‘willingness to pay’ their mantra; cost minimization will drive them away from perceived environmental ‘constraints’ and government ‘interference.’ This is not a condemnation; it is simply a fact – the foregone conclusion of rational economic behavior by private sector entrepreneurs. Federal agencies have no choice but to intervene and play a regulatory role when this behavior is permitted (indeed encouraged) on public lands.”
(Quinn, T. 2002. Public Lands and Private Recreation Enterprise…)
What we are witnessing is the failure of the Forest Service to intervene and protect the mountain in the best interests of the public owners and the land itself. This is why we are all united in this fight.
“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
― Aldo Leopold
Cooper Spur Protection Update
By Ralph Bloemers, Counsel to Hood River Valley Residents Committee
In 2009, Congress passed a bill which President Obama signed into law which provided the Forest Service with a year and a half to complete a land trade and permanently protect thousand of acres on the North side at Cooper Spur as Wilderness. Over five years have passed and the Congressionally-mandated land trade still has not been completed.
The good news is that work on the land trade is still moving forward, although at a much slower pace than hoped. In response to a recent inquiry, Mt. Hood National Forest Supervisor Lisa Northrop reports that the necessary fieldwork has been completed to begin the land exchange process.
As required by the legislation, the Forest Service and Mt. Hood Meadows are in the middle of negotiating a conservation easement for the protection of wetlands and public hiking trails on the property in Government Camp. Once that easement is finalized, the Forest Service will begin preparing an analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act and an appraisal of the properties. The parties hope that will occur sometime in 2015.
Once the required analysis and appraisal are completed, the parties will have to figure out how to equalize any difference in value between the land that has been offered up on the North side of Mt. Hood in exchange for the land on the South side in Government Camp.
There are many steps that still remain, and we remain cautiously optimistic that this historic agreement will be achieved within the next two to three years