By Joel Connelly
May 29, 2013
The staid Forterra awards breakfast at Seattle Convention Center took on the momentary feel of a rock concert on Wednesday morning. iPhones were thrust into the air at the command of ex-state Ecology Director Jay Manning, who dictated a message to be sent that moment to legislators in Olympia:
Save the Teanaway River.
The group Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy) has preserved such places as an old growth forest in Lynnwood, a 10-acre wild land in industrial Tukwila, and cedar snags at the mouth of the Olympic Peninsula’s Copalis River, killed by the last “Big One” quake and tsunami in 1701. Its latest triumph, announced Wednesday, was acquiring 535 acres of forest and a 1.5 mile Port Gamble Bay shoreline on the Kitsap Peninsula.
But Forterra has bigger fish to fry. It’s trying to persuade the state Legislature to acquire 50,000 acres of private land in the Teanaway River valley, just north of Cle Elum and gateway to the Wenatchee Mountains.
If successful — the total price tag to purchase the land outright is $97 million — the Teanaway would mark the state’s largest public land acquisition in 45 years.
“It would be an enormously important conservation achievement,” said Charlie Raines of the Sierra Club, who has spent 30 years working on acquisition of “checkerboard” private land interspersed with U.S. Forest Service holdings in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and the Interstate 90 corridor.
The Teanaway is a legendary place. The north fork road gives trail access to a spectacular corner of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area with such destinations as Ingalls Lake, Longs Pass, Sophie’s Tarn and Esmeralda Basin. The wild west fork is home to one of the wolf packs repopulating the Cascades. Wolverines have also been spotted in the upper Teanaway, said Forterra Executive Director Gene Duvernoy.