Dr. Don Johnson’s March 7 letter seems to have turned few heads yet. He asked what a citizen should do if neither the controlling governmental agencies nor non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are addressing important environmental concerns, listing local and regional organizations claiming to represent interests of the Methow Valley. It’s a good question that deserves thought. Consider the following:
• Lost shorelines protections — Until June 26, 2018, Okanogan County was the only county in Washington prohibiting subdivisions within its significant shorelines. The new Shoreline Master Program eliminated that protection.
No organizations opposed the change, and although the press was aware, no mention was made of the loss.
Most importantly, environmental organizations failed to alert citizens to the appeal deadline, although local appeals to the Pollution Control/Shorelines Hearings Board have succeeded in the past.
The results of subdivision within the shorelines in other counties are clearly visible in Chelan and Douglas Counties if you glance across the Columbia on your next trip to Wenatchee.
• Reduced advocacy for the mule deer herd — The Early Winters ski resort proposal focused interest upon the Methow mule deer herd, largest in the state, in the 1980s.
The herd’s importance to state and local economies, the ecosystem, outdoor enthusiasts, and hunters forced mitigation requirements. Studies ensued, citizen committees met for two years, protective county ordinances (now extinct) were written, and the issue progressed, with others, to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court.
Incredibly, over 30 years later, no alternatives for our new county Comprehensive Plan, including recent “Alternative 4,” even mentions the state’s largest migratory deer herd nor its vulnerability to county land use planning.
The herd is affected by continued development and fragmentation of low-elevation habitats; increasing disturbance on winter ranges where mule deer are concentrated; loss of the integrity of continuous migration corridors, and more. (Washington Mule Deer Management Plan, 2016.)
The Forest Plan is now amended to reduce the required deer winter range cover requirements on 388 acres of Libby Creek’s lower elevations for the huge Mission Sale, but virtually the only objections come from the Libby Creek Watershed Association — although a public rebellion occurred in Winthrop over the much less intense Virginia Ridge sale.
• Antiquated land use approach — This valley is packed with scientists who are very aware that a watershed ecosystem is the sum of interactions of all living organisms, from source to mouth of the river drainage, with both each other and non-living elements (such as water, air, minerals and fire.)
Isn’t it about time we recognized the interrelatedness of Methow River Watershed Ecosystem rather than planning around an imaginary line created in 1976 that bisects the valley? Where are the voices of local scientists on behalf of considering each element and issue as part of one whole?
The citizens’ job? I write during Washington State’s “Sunshine Week,” dedicated to promoting governmental transparency.
But if an organization claims to represent a community and is relied upon by the public to do so, does its board have a duty to hold itself to as high a standard of transparency as it expects of government? Are you welcome to attend board meetings of your favorite organization? Does the board actively represent the geographic and economic diversity of the areas it claims to represent?
Consider RCW 42.30.10 as it could be applied by organizations: “The (membership), in delegating authority, do not give their (board) the right to decide what is good for (them) to know and what is not good for them to know.”
With both government and NGOs, ask questions, don’t accept pabulum for answers, and don’t neglect the adage “follow the money.”
Isabelle Spohn lives in Twisp.