Archive for May, 2012


Yakima Forever

By Gregg Bafundo, Trout Unlimited

I grow most of my own veggies. I buy my dairy from a local farm and have it delivered to my door. I also hunt for my meat. What do I do when winter arrives or when we have a long cold wet spring and my crops won’t grow? How about when I want something I can’t or don’t grow? Or when I don’t kill an elk?

Well, like most of us, I go to the store. What do I do when I’m there? I’ve heard it’s politically correct to buy local. It makes sense to me that the impact of buying an apple grown in Yakima is less than buying one grown in Ecuador, Chile or China. Did you know that a large amount of honey sold in the United States comes from China? I’d rather get my honey at the local farmer’s market. Meeting the guy who owns the bees is pretty cool. It’s even cooler when he says, “These bees fed in lavender fields all year and this honey here comes from bees that pollinate my apple orchard.”

What am I getting at here? I’m not trying to preach to you. I’m certainly not trying to convince you that what works for me will work for you. What you choose to eat is frankly none of my business. But I’ve heard folks talk about the virtues of “buying local.”

So, we try to buy local – to support our economy, our neighbors and our friends – but is simply buying this food enough? What if the local valley where our food comes from is under an increased threat every year from drought, development and maybe climate change? What happens to the farmers who grow our food? How much do we really owe them?

These fears are coming to life in the Yakima Basin, the “bread basket” of Washington state. There are some folks who believe that buying the local food is enough and that’s fair. I think we should look further.

Before I challenge you to think beyond this, we need to get some of the truths out on the table. Has water been wasted in the Yakima Basin? Yes. Has the Bureau of Reclamation been perfect in their water management and policies in the West? No. But I for one believe in the ability to change. I’ve changed my opinion and my actions before so why can’t the farmers and the Bureau?

Anyway, that’s what I see happening in the Yakima Basin. Many of the farmers have recognized the need to change. And those same farmers are asking our help with protecting the basin that feeds not only Seattle, but in many cases the rest of the world.

That is what the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan is all about. It helps those farmers who feed us healthy, local food. In return some amazing wild lands are protected; hundreds of thousands of salmon are brought back to the river; and necessary upgrades are provided to the water delivery systems in the basin.

Is the plan perfect? No. Is it perfection we need? Not really. We need to be proactive fighting the threats facing the basin and this plan will do it.

So, the next time you head up to the store and grab that Washington grown onion or a crisp Fuji apple, or perhaps a bottle of your favorite Red Mountain wine for your next dinner party ask yourself: “Is this enough?”


Rejuvenation in Teanaway country

By Andrea Imler, The Wilderness SocietyOpen ridge on Yellow Hill hike

Until last Saturday, I hadn’t been out on a hike in months. Typing those words is foreign to me, a hiking addict, but they are true. I spent the winter and spring training for road bike racing season, for once determined to focus on a single athletic activity. The hustle and bustle of living in Seattle – loud sirens, constant connection to technology and the concrete jungle were getting to me. I needed to mix things up. I needed a hike. Teanaway Country was calling my name.

The alarm went off and I sprang out of bed. The sun was shining, birds were singing and I was going hiking. What better way to kick off the weekend? My boyfriend and I ate breakfast quickly, grabbed our pre-packed backpacks and headed out the door.

Less than two hours later we parked at the Yellow Hill trailhead in the Teanaway. Ahh, the Teanaway. The Teanaway is one of my favorite places in the North Cascades. I’m not sure what it is about the Teanaway, but I love it. Perhaps it’s the unofficial motto: “It’s always sunny in the Teanaway!” Or maybe it’s the pine trees or the fact that its home to some amazing rocks, rare flowers and one of Washington state’s rare wolf packs. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s Teanaway Country – it draws you in.

The Teanaway has certainly drawn me in. I’ve hiked up sixteen peaks, some formally named like Navaho Peak, while others not officially labeled on a map. My feet have walked well over a hundred miles in the Teanaway, to sparkling blue alpine lakes and through snowmelt-swollen creeks. And I’ve slept under the stars there countless times.

View from Yellow Hill

A few hours later we reached our destination, the top of Yellow Hill. Well, not exactly the top. The summit of Yellow Hill is covered in trees. We made our way down the adjoining ridge and were treated with an expansive view of the surrounding Teanaway peaks. We sat down on a rock outcropping, ate our lunches and enjoyed the feeling that we were the only people around for miles. I felt rejuvenated.

Interested in doing this hike? Check out Washington Trails Association’s Hiking Guide entry about Yellow Hill and Elbow Peak. Note: as of posting this blog, consistent snow began at 4800′ on the trail, which is about a mile from the top of Yellow Hill.


Economic benefits of protecting land for fish, families and farmers

By Cynthia Wilkerson, The Wilderness Society

Hiking in Esmeralda Basin

You hear a lot about public lands being an economic black hole for rural communities. A Kittitas County report says that the opposite may be true.

Kittitas County supports the lands and rivers protections of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. Most of the private and public land conservation options are in Kittitas County. The county is taking a hard look at what the citizens of Kittitas County could gain or lose from protecting county lands. Guiding this work is a Citizen’s Advisory Committee. As a Kittitas County resident, I am a member of that committee.

The Citizen’s Advisory Committee provided ideas regarding potential impacts, such as loss of tax revenues, to include in the report. Recently we met to review the initial findings of the analysis.

Here’s how the Kittitas County stands to gain from protecting these important lands:

  • Private land conservation will actually increase property tax revenues to the county.
  • National Recreation Area designations have a substantially positive impact if recreation infrastructure, like campgrounds and trails, is enhanced on those lands.
  • The initial analysis doesn’t quantify the benefits of bringing salmon populations back to historic levels in the Yakima Basin. We’re working to add that in and expect it to be a significant gain for tourism and fishing industries.

I look forward to reading the final report. Stay tuned to hear more about how protecting public lands in the Yakima Basin makes good economic sense.


Ellensburg Daily Record – Editorial: Pragmatic approach to basin plan

Editorial Board

Ellensburg Daily Record

May 17, 2012

It is easy to get tied up in sweeping arguments about “saving the wilderness,” or, conversely, “the steady decline of the taxable land base,” but Kittitas County’s approach to the Yakima Basin water plan must be much more pragmatic: Does the plan make sense for Kittitas County?

The original intent of the plan is to improve water supply in the Yakima Basin. As a county, we would benefit from anything that improves water supply, whether it is an increase in storage or enhanced efficiencies in water delivery systems. At first glance, it seems like a no-brainer. Of course, the county supports improved water supplies in the Yakima Basin.

But, as is always the case with water, the situation is not so simple. As part of the plan, 71,000 acres of land (almost all of which would be in Kittitas County) would be transferred from private to public ownership as part of the mitigation.

It makes for an odd situation because the improved water storage would not be in Kittitas County, but the mitigation land would be in the county. This may only be odd from a Kittitas County perspective. Viewed from two miles high, county boundary lines blur and we’re all one big, happy region.

The reality on the land, though, is the transfer from private to public ownership would have a tax impact in Kittitas County.

Just as it would be wrong to embrace the plan without knowing the details, it would be a mistake to automatically dismiss the idea because of the transfer of private land to public ownership.

This county benefits from public land even if it is not generating taxes. Almost all of our outdoor recreation tourism economy is based on the use of public land. Expansion of that public resource, particularly in the scenic Teanaway basin, could be a net benefit for the county.

Continue reading the story.


Lower Yakima River opens for hatchery spring chinook

By Michael Garrity, American Rivers

May 16th was the opening of salmon fishing on the lower Yakima River.

Thanks to some recent years with good snowpacks, decent river flows and excellent ocean conditions, this year’s salmon fishing season is projected to be a relatively good one, with over 5,000 hatchery spring chinook and over 6,000 wild spring chinook (wild spring chinook must be released if caught – they’re wild if they still have adipose fins) expected to make it back to the Cle Elum hatchery or spawning grounds in the basin’s rivers and streams.

Yet this year’s salmon run will provide only the slightest hint of the kind of salmon runs a restored Yakima River can support.   The fish passage, floodplain restoration, and flow improvements provided by the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan will allow for an estimated average of over 20,000 spring chinook to return to the Yakima.  During good ocean and runoff cycles like this year, spring chinook runs in excess of 70,000 are predicted.  The Yakima Plan will also restore fishable numbers of steelhead, coho, fall and summer chinook, and what may prove to be the largest sockeye run in the lower 48 with an estimated average of nearly 200,000 sockeye making it back to spawning grounds.  At the same time, the plan will improve flow and habitat conditions for the Yakima’s renowned Blue Ribbon rainbow trout fishery.

For more information on fishing for hatchery spring chinook, check out recent articles by the Yakima Herald-Republic and Seattle Times.

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