Our county commissioners are apparently trying to keep the lid on our over-development with their pretended ignorance of wildlife economics. Binoculars and spotting scopes obviously are almost as big business as real estate around Yogi Bear and Booboo too.
My favorite take on this was provided by a reporter being driven back to the airport after investigating wildlife in Jellystone. When he asked his gruff-looking taxi driver about why all the new construction just outside the park, his driver supposedly replied, “It’s those damn wolves!” Maybe so, but we naturalists suspect the grizzly truth.
Eric Burr, Mazama
An unnecessary fear of grizzly bears has once again reared its ignorant, ugly head. This time it’s in the form of an Okanogan county commissioners’ letter of objection to the current USFWS grizzly recovery plan and its presumed “inconsistency” with local “customs and culture” such as “recreation/tourism activities” (“Commissioners object to N. Cascade grizzly proposal,” June 6).
I’ve spent years photographing grizzly bears in the national parks of Canada, Alaska, Wyoming and Montana where my wife and I lived outside Yellowstone National Park. Each one of these places was gladly bringing in tons of tourist dollars, based in part on grizzly bear-viewing. Speciesism and a closed mind toward bears could have the North Cascades missing the boat.
I learned during my first visit to Alaska 35-plus years ago that grizzly bears deserve a healthy dose of respect, but not fear. One afternoon I was hiking a narrow trail along a spawning stream when I rounded a tight corner in a dog-hair spruce thicket and just about ran head-on into a substantial grizzly. He must have heard me coming (or more likely, smelled me, since a bear’s sense of smell is seven times better than the best bloodhound), while I, the oblivious human, didn’t even notice the 700-pound roadblock fixed squarely in the middle of the path until I nearly poked him with my fishing pole.
Instinctively, I did what anyone meeting a bear up close should do: I slowly backed off the trail while talking to him calmly, courteously and reassuringly. When the bear saw that I had forfeited the trail, he soundlessly proceeded past without even a glance or nod in my direction.
Between 50,000 and 100,000 grizzly bears once thrived across the western Continental United States before incoming settlers shot and trapped them out, quickly snatching up prime valley bottoms for themselves and their livestock. Driven into desolate high country by government hunters, the few grizzlies who survive in the lower 48 are now left with only 2 percent of their historic domain.
Jim Robertson, Twisp
Kudos for Liu
On behalf of the Methow Valley Citizens Council board of directors, I’d like to extend our most heartfelt congratulations to Methow Valley District Ranger Mike Liu on the occasion of his retirement. Mike’s outstanding legacy and record of accomplishment during his service here in our Valley have been well described in this newspaper and at the Winthrop Barn celebration early this month.
I’d like to acknowledge several additional aspects of Mike’s unique contribution from the perspective of an advocacy organization, working to engage citizens in shaping the tough decisions Mike often has had to make.
As well as any district ranger, or in fact any U.S. Forest Service personnel I have ever known, Mike combines personal accessibility, deep knowledge of the land under his stewardship and a commitment to its protection. Mike has, and is willing to share, considerable savvy and insight into how a complex agency like the U.S. Forest Service functions.
Our understanding of how the process works has proved invaluable, for example, in the ability of the Methow Headwaters campaign to make major progress toward protecting the valley from the potential of an industrial-scale open pit copper mine. Mike once told me he didn’t see himself as particularly strategic, yet my experience of him was quite the opposite in working on many issues over many years. His long-term view, combined with his very substantive understanding and a true ecological view of the natural world, has made him a most rewarding partner in conservation.
On a personal note, I’ve been struck by just how many times I’ve encountered Mike out on the National Forest under his charge. On the hottest of hot summer days in the high country or the coldest of late winter afternoons, here he comes hiking or skiing down the trail with his characteristic smile and energetic “hello.”
The good news is perhaps we can expect to see more of that now, though I suspect Mike will be on to other big challenges. His many gifts and his vision will be welcome wherever he goes.
Thank you, Mike!
Maggie Coon, Methow Valley Citizens Council board of directors
Serving the people
Once again, thank you for the kind words and tribute. Quite honestly, the “Legend of Ranger Liu” is growing like a good fish story. I just did my job the best I knew how while honoring my core values and that of the agency’s. My management decisions were also based on the understanding that these National Forests are public lands and that we are entrusted to manage and steward them for all people and for generations to come (the long view). We ultimately serve the American people.
Michael Liu, District Ranger, Methow Valley Ranger District
Sophomores in teacher Scott Barber’s civics class at Liberty Bell High School were recently assigned to choose a “civic action” project which required the students to think about how to make the world a better place and what actions might make that possible. Several of the students chose to write letters to the editor on their chosen topics. Below, we are publishing some of the letters. We hope to publish more in the coming weeks.
Help the firefighters
If a fire broke out at or near your house, you would want your district firefighters to come help you out, right? Who would you turn to call? The fire department is who (I hope). What would you do if you were in need of help and their wasn’t enough help to take control of the situation? You would be unquestionably out of luck.
There is a shortage of volunteer firefighters many places in the world, including here in the Methow Valley. A shortage of volunteer firefighters could be incredibly dangerous when certain situations arise. There are really two main reasons for the lack of volunteer firefighters. One reason is because they are spending their own money (on food, gas and other necessities) all year with no income for their efforts. Here at Okanogan County Fire District 6, the volunteers get paid ($15 for each call). They get all that money at the end of each year. Different districts have different benefits and compensations.
Another reason is, volunteers may not be able to leave their day jobs. Your employer might not be on board with you leaving.
There is a program called “presumptive medical coverage.” Some fire districts provide this for their “paid” firefighters. It’s a program that covers medical costs if they contract almost any type of cancer relating from their job. And that’s what leads to my goal. Volunteer firefighter save taxpayers roughly $139.8 billion per year. I propose that some of that money should be given back to help the ones who give their time, and risk it all to help others.
Willow Temple, Liberty Bell High School
Bring back blowguns
Have you ever been told that you could no longer practice a family tradition? There are many Native American tribes, such as the Cherokee, that traditionally hunted with blowguns, but blowgun hunting is not legal in Washington state. I think that it should be legal to hunt with blowguns in Washington state.
Another reason to make blowgun hunting legal is cost. Do you know how expensive it is to hunt with a firearm or a bow? It is about $300-$1,000 for a hunting rifle or $200-$700 for a hunting bow. Now a .625-caliber blowgun only costs about $35-$60, which is a fraction of the price of a rifle or bow. To buy ammo for a rifle it costs about $7 – $25 for 20 rounds, and about $30 for 12 arrows, while blowgun darts cost about $20 for 40 darts.
As you can see it would be far less expensive to hunt with a blowgun. Not only is it cheaper to hunt with blowguns, it would be a safer introduction to hunting. A blowgun dart only travels about 50 yards at most, but a rifle bullet can travel 1,000 yards or more making it much more difficult to predict where or what it will hit if you miss your target.
For these reasons I want to make it legal to hunt the following list of small game with blowguns: cottontail and snowshoe hare, turkey, ring neck pheasant, California quail, northern bobwhite quail, mountain quail, chukar and gray partridge, blue, ruffed and spruce grouse, and ducks. If you support the legalization of blowgun hunting for these animals please sign my petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/blowgun-hunting.
Caleb Simmons, Winthrop
Bighorns in the Methow
Have you ever been driving through a windy cannon or a mountain range and look up and see a bighorn sheep jumping through the rocks? Well, I want to make that an everyday experience for all the members of our community. Support me and this movement by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. The bighorn population is decreasing. At the beginning of the 19th century there were over 1 million bighorns, now there are only 70,000. In 2005 there was a massive drop in the population. Since then there has been a steady increase in the population until recently, when the numbers have started to fall again.
Even though they aren’t on the endangered list they’ve been in the talk for the past few years. I don’t want to see the bighorn population to continue to fall like lots of others. Another reason bighorn sheep would make our valley a better place is because they are amazing animals that we have all around us but not in our valley. Being able to see them while hiking would be an amazing experience. Lastly, there aren’t very many down sides to introducing bighorn sheep into the valley. Some would argue they negatively affect the environment, but they don’t cause any harm to the environment and actually affect the environment in a positive way by adding more competition for deer and other animals we have too many of. Overall, the bighorns’ positive effects will outweigh the negative. Bighorns would big a massive addition to our valley.
Shay Crandall, Liberty Bell High School
Time for action
Think about how ignorant it would be to use the bathroom and leave it a mess.
Looking at the bigger picture, that situation will be exactly the same, but in terms of our warming globe in which future generations (your kids) will be the ones dealing with the mess. Looking at our way of life as humans, and what we rely on and take for granted day to day, I believe that there’s a lot of bad habits we can shave off that impact our climate.
One major bad habit is the excess amount of carbon dioxide and other chemicals released into the earth’s atmosphere. According to NPR, CO2 emissions have been steadily rising since 1984, increasing by about .5 billion metric tons annually. Since around 2008, however, U.S emission charts have gone down to 5.3 million metric tons. I’ve latched onto the idea of a carbon tax policy, which would tax businesses a certain amount for every cubic inch of CO2. Fifty percent of the tax revenue would be spread out among different environment healthy projects, for example; 15 percent goes towards funding low-income housing, and 30 percent goes towards the distribution of solar panels/energy in neighborhoods. One chunk of the revenue, however, would help pay for factory workers who have lost their jobs due to the carbon tax, and nurture them into a new workplace.
The ultimate outcome of this policy would be decreasing the amount of CO2 emissions in Washington state. I call on Washington state citizens to take action with me! Email your (our) senators, representatives and governor! Let’s break a trail to lowering the impact of global warming.
Galen Fonda, Liberty Bell High School