Archive for June, 2012


Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign Monthly Update – Building Momentum

By Cynthia Wilkerson – The Wilderness Society


Since the last update, we‘ve been busy building momentum and support for the Integrated Plan and researching some critical aspects and opportunities.

Michael Garrity of American Rivers, traveled to D.C. with partners from the Yakama Nation, county commissions, Washington State Department of Ecology, and farmers to continue to raise awareness of the plan and ask for support for early implementation actions, such as fish passage at Lake Cle Elum and assessment of technical issues with the Bumping and Wymer dams.

Locally, we’re teaming up with this same cross-section of folks to seek endorsements for the framework of the plan. Key support in the past month has come from the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce and the Mountains to Sound Greenway. Another critical development in terms of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan collaboration is that the U.S. Forest Service has formally joined the Integrated Plan’s Work Group.

Finally, we have been making progress with our public lands partners in exploring how to create a robust and balanced lands protection package that protects and restores underlying watershed values, such as wildlife habitat and clean drinking water, and allows for balanced recreation opportunities for a diverse set of users that are compatible with the needs of the forests and rivers.

Stay tuned for further progress and work to protect the Yakima Basin for fish, farms and families continues.


Flying for the Western Governors’ Association

by Cynthia Wilkerson, The Wilderness Society

There’s nothing like flying in a small plane to illuminate connections at a big scale. In the Yakima Basin, it’s all about the water. From the air, the connections between the snow, streams, reservoirs and the Yakima River cannot be missed.

On a crisp, sunny morning, we meet up with Ecoflight pilot Bruce Gordon to look at the land and water conservation and infrastructure components of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. Steve Malloch of National Wildlife Federation and Jeff Chapman of the Back Country Horseman of Washington and I climbed aboard for this priceless adventure.

Jeff Chapman is public policy chair for Back Country Horsemen of Washington, board member of Washington Trails Association, and an appointee to the Washington Governor’s Association’s Outdoor Recreation Council. This past weekend, Back Country Horsemen of Washington voted to support the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. This is great news and confirms a lot of the partnership work that The Wilderness Society has done in the state as well as with the national Back Country Horsemen of America. Jeff appreciated seeing the upper Yakima Basin from the air and relating it to the opportunity for National Recreation Area designation.

After the flight, Steve, a water policy expert with National Wildlife Federation, said “I’ve been working on this project for three years and the aerial view clearly demonstrated that the Cle Elum River valley above the reservoir is definitely fishy” (i.e. good habitat for fish). The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan includes fish passage above the reservoir and recommends designation of the upper Cle Elum as a Wild and Scenic River. Beyond that, he is even more convinced of the importance of the American Forest Land Company 46,000 acre private lands protection that is also part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.

For me, it was inspiring to be so close to the mountains, rivers and valleys and to see how they connect. It is really striking how close the Stuart Range and Enchantments are to Ellensburg and certainly to Cle Elum and Roslyn, where I live. It is indeed a small world and the basin is all connected. Between this flight and the one I took yesterday, I was also struck by how visible the beetle killed trees were in the Teanaway watershed, how forested the private American Forest Land Company lands were and the quality conditions of the lands in the Manastash-Taneum region. All of this confirmed for me the importance of the work that the Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign is doing and inspires me to get out and about more in my own backyard.

A big thank you to pilot Bruce Gordon and Jane Pargiter of EcoFlight for their superior flight service in conjunction with the Western Governors’ Association annual meeting. Others who were able to take advantage of the flight over the upper Yakima Basin: Michael Garrity, American Rivers; Phil Rigdon, Yakama Nation; Paul Jewell, Kittitas County Commissioner; Peter Dykstra, The Wilderness Society; Marty Leosch, Office of Washington Governor Chris Gregoire ; Mark Rupp, Office of Washington Governor Chris Gregoire; former Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer; and Alan Matheson, Office of Governor Gary Herbert of Utah.



Sunnyside irrigation canal project a success

By Michael Garrity, American Rivers

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony in the Yakima Basin to mark the completion of an irrigation canal improvement project that puts water back in the Yakima River for the benefit of salmon and steelhead, while at the same time providing a more precise and reliable water delivery system for local farmers.

The project will save 30,000 acre-feet of water or nearly as much as what Bumping Lake reservoir holds today.

A variety of dignitaries from the Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District, Yakama Nation, Washington State Department of Ecology and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spoke about the value of cooperation and collaboration in getting this $45 million project completed with a combination of federal, state and Irrigation District funding. Both the Irrigation District and Tribal representatives noted that they entered the collaboration with some trepidation after decades of conflict, but that projects like this help build trust as they seek to work with an even broader community of stakeholders on similar future projects that are part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. The Integrated Plan includes a wide assortment of new water conservation and efficiency projects that will put an additional 170,000 acre feet of water back in the river for salmon and steelhead.

Read a Yakima Herald article about the ceremony.


Wilderness and Water

by Cynthia Wilkerson, The Wilderness Society


Wondering why Wilderness Designation is part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan?

We all know that healthy lands produce healthy waters, but a new report by The Wilderness Society looks specifically at the relationship between Wilderness and watershed health.

The bottom line is that Wilderness areas are the healthiest watersheds of all Forest Service lands.

The report found a striking correspondence between watershed health and protected lands. Specifically, 80 percent of the Wilderness land is located in the healthiest watersheds, while 18 percent is in moderately healthy watersheds. The Roadless Areas came in second place, with 64 percent of the land in the healthiest watersheds. The remaining national forest lands were a distant third, with just 38 percent in top watershed condition.

Read more here:


Ellensburg Daily Record: Kittitas County looking at forest trust

By Ellensburg Daily Record

June 1, 2012

Kittitas County might apply to the state Department of Natural Resources to formally designate 46,500 acres of American Forest Land Company holdings in the Teanaway area north of Cle Elum as a community forest trust.

County commissioners will meet about the application at 4 p.m. Monday in the commissioners’ Conference Room, part of Room 108 at the courthouse.

Jill Scheffer-Arango, senior managing director of the conservation department of the nonprofit conservation group Forterra, said various groups and agencies are supportive of the designation as preparation if and when the American Forest company lands are sold to the state as part of the integrated water enhancement plan for the Yakima River basin. Such a sale could be years in the future and is dependent upon government funding.

The designation would allow a collaborative, communitywide land-use model for managing the lands if they come into state ownership.

Article source.

Fish. Families. Farms.
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