Wilderness Alps: Conservation in the North Cascades – and What’s Left to Do
Hosted by the North Cascades Institute
Instructor: Phil Fenner
Class Tuition: $10
Click here to register for this event.
There was a time when commercial interests treated the forests, rivers and mountains of the North Cascades as a limitless resource bank of timber, minerals and hydropower. These industries faced little resistance until the North Cascades Conservation Council came along. Founded in 1957 by now-legendary conservationists like Polly Dyer, Patrick Goldsworthy, Phil and Laura Zalesky and David Brower, the all-volunteer organization lobbied for conservation in the North Cascades — a full decade before the environmental movement took hold across the country.
“Turning out members for hearings, going to court, deploying hiking guides and picture books, (NCCC) has helped preserve 2.21 million acres in Washington state between Stevens Pass and the Canadian border as parks, recreation areas, and wilderness areas,” explains HistoryLink.org.
An early conservation success occurred when the Forest Service designated the Glacier Peak Wilderness area in 1960. In 1961, NCCC decided to advocate for a full-fledged North Cascades National Park, and initiated a series of studies, surveys and imaginative efforts to grow public support. A long road was ahead of them but the group and their friends persevered and on October 2, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the park into law just weeks before his term of office ended.
Phil Fenner, the current president of NCCC, and other NCCC board members will share a program that will take you inside the personal accounts of the individuals who fought this battle and others,, including the many notable women who played crucial roles and the innovative tactics they developed to sway the public. He will also touch on how this region’s tribal peoples played a role in conflicts over resources.
Aside from working to establish the North Cascades National Park Complex, NCCC was a central force in establishing the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center during the Seattle City Light Skagit Hydropower Project’s re-licensing process 30 years ago. The Institute now calls the Learning Center home and our relationship with NCCC continues.
But the story of conservation in the North Cascades doesn’t end there. Recently, a plan for an mining in the headwaters of the Skagit Valley was, thankfully, halted with NCCC’s help, but the threat may return until the area is permanently protected. Today, the impacts of climate change and wildfires have revived the idea of large-scale logging of our National Forests. The conservation effort must continue, with large swaths of unprotected land in the Cascades at risk of industrial damage.
The program will conclude with Fenner sharing how we can take inspiration from NCCC’s early efforts and determination and suggest what we can do now to help protect these lands we love.
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