No-Bad-DaysBy Don Nelson

When you’re dealing with the “other Washington” from our side of the continent you can never be quite sure how it will turn out. Wading into the swamp of Congressional-level politics can be a perilous venture even for those who know where the trails lead.

So last week’s locally important news out of Washington, D.C., is especially gratifying for the Methow Valley’s residents, advocates and noteworthy supporters. We should add to noteworthy, “influential” and “connected” – powerful coins of the realm in the nation’s capitol.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service said it will take immediate action to protect more than 340,000 acres of federal land at the upper end of the Methow Valley from future mining operations. The Forest Service said it will begin the process of administrative withdrawal, which would prevent new mineral exploration and mining for up to 20 years.

The announcement came at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on legislation introduced in May by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to permanently withdraw 340,079 acres of Forest Service land in and around the upper valley from mining.

The senators’ legislation was introduced in response to proposals for exploratory drilling for copper deposits on Flagg Mountain near Mazama, which is being vigorously opposed by the Methow Headwaters campaign, a local nonprofit. The exploratory proposal has been around for a few years now going through the Forest Service approval process, all the while generating reactions from concern to outrage in the valley and beyond.

We’re used to battling for the best interests of the Methow Valley on the county, state and regional levels with whatever resources we can cobble together. The value of having Murray and Cantwell not just on board but also leading the way in this fight is incalculable, particularly given all the other contentious issues and expectant constituencies they are dealing with. Think about that. Two United States senators believe enough in the Methow’s character and care enough about its future to aggressively push extraordinary measures.

It’s a heady moment finding ourselves in the rarified atmosphere of national policy-making, but we don’t have much time to relax and enjoy it. There is still much work to be done here and in D.C. to ensure that the environmental pillage known as copper mining can never take place here.

Buttoning up

Dress code? At the high school?

Whoa. Land mines. Get me outta here. Not even gonna go near it. Nothing to add. No sir, that’s a dead-end conversation. Done talking about it before I even start. Won’t touch it. Can’t hear you. End of discussion. Not for me to say. Did I mention that I don’t even want to mention it?

But here we are, task forcing the dress code issue at Liberty Bell High School, which gave up on defining and enforcing a dress code a couple of years ago because defining and enforcing are emotionally, politically, culturally and sexually charged issues that make grown-up people squirm.

The story in last week’s paper about a group of students, parents and schools staff exploring the need for and possible efficacy of a dress code set off a discussion in our office. Every one of us had stories to tell about dress code issues and confrontations from when we were growing up, typically many decades and/or a couple of generations ago. The apparel violations that used to get you sent home back then would be laughably quaint today.

But times change, and along with them pop culture’s definitions of acceptable. Who decides? Parents? Students? Educators? Other authority figures like religious leaders or, God help us all, government? More fundamentally, should any of those deciders be men? The history of dress codes is pretty much about arrogant males body-shaming women with a bunch of sexist, moralistic claptrap, and they’ve made a sorry mess of it. No amount of gaseous man-splaining can justify that kind of smirky condescension.

So really, I’m not going to get dragged anywhere near the topic. Keeping my distance. Shutting my mouth right now. Seriously.


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