The other day in the Evergreen IGA I ran into Tom and Sonya Campion, two of the valley’s most ardent supporters and benefactors, and we got to talking about the U.S. Army’s proposal to conduct mountain training exercises with helicopters in North Central Washington, including the Methow Valley and its recreational environs. Tom is among the many people who are working to raise opposition to the proposal, which he described as the latest “thing” in a the list of “one thing after another” that has, in the past couple of years, threatened the valley’s best interests.
Indeed, there are times when I think I detect a bit of battle fatigue among the devoted people who have continued to raise challenges — often legal and therefore costly — to what could be characterized as a barrage of bad ideas.
With just 5,000 residents out of the county’s 40,000 or so, the valley has little political clout statewide or at the county government level, given the current board of commissioners. The legion of valley supporters who live elsewhere or have part-time residences in the Methow have been called on often to help in the legal battles that typically ensue from problematic policy actions.
Outside the valley, critics churlishly accuse us of suing over everything. (These are the same people who scream about being told what to do by the government, but have no problem telling us what to do.) Our response: We are left with no choice in the face of harmful and often legally questionable policies. We don’t have the political heft to fight bad ideas except in court, where we hope that the law and sound arguments will prevail over what often seem like punitive ideologies.
Still, it’s tiring and tiresome to always be on guard against bad ideas.
We are still waiting for a decision from the U.S. Forest Service about how a proposal to explore the potential of a copper mine on Flagg Mountain, overlooking Mazama, may or may not proceed. An open pit copper mine, which would cause extraordinarily ugly disruption and not, on balance, help our local economy, is such a bad idea that it’s almost unbearable to contemplate. Not to mention that the whole venture has the look and smell of another opportunistic stock run-up scam.
One only has to take a drive along Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road, recently flagged with new speed limit signs, to understand the folly the county commissioners are about to perpetrate on the valley by opening more roads to ATVs, literally paving the way for vehicles that their own manufacturers say shouldn’t be driven on roads. The commissioners — with Ray Campbell recently withdrawing his support — have spent a lot of time, tax dollars and legal fees kowtowing to a very small, persistent minority of ATV enthusiasts who don’t need the roads open. They just want them open. That’s not reason enough.
It’s up to the towns of Twisp and Winthrop to just say “no” the next time (and there will be a next time) they are asked to open up their streets to ATV traffic. Without those streets, all those 35 mph signs become even more ludicrous.
It’s not worth the additional space it would require to outline how problematic the county’s comprehensive plan and shoreline plan are for the valley. Suffice it to say that they are in robust competition for a top spot among the barrage of bad ideas.
And now comes the Army with a proposal that is stupefying in its arrogance and ignorance.
For the most part, we keep our cool and fight the good fight as required. But I know that I — and I’m sure others — would once in a while like to just say, “Hey, will you please quit screwing around with this wonderful place?”
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been successful so far. I’m afraid the barrage of bad ideas is something we’ll always have to contend with.