Fall is an amazing time here in the Methow, especially along our rivers, where cool morning mists rise from the waters and the fading sun shines brightly on the golden cottonwood leaves. For me, and surely many others, it’s an annual cause for celebration and gratitude.
But this year is different, and perhaps more precious, as there is something else that has joined in on the celebration, Coho salmon. Lots and lots of Coho. Thousands of them – at last count over 24,000 adult Coho had passed through Wells Dam with most bound to spawn and die in the Methow. This is a huge return on par with historical estimates. It is especially amazing considering that Coho had been absent from the Methow for nearly a century as a result of overharvest and blocked upstream passage stemming from construction of the hydroelectric dam just upstream from Pateros.
The fact that a majority of these returning Coho are the product of a hatchery-based aquaculture program enacted to re-establish a self-sustaining run for the Methow does not diminish their value. Returning Coho bring many gifts, including a much needed source of ocean-born nutrients that will fertilize our streams and forests and increase the productivity of future generations of fish. The Yakama Nation and Winthrop Hatchery have worked hard to get Coho back to the Methow and their efforts are commendable.
It’s now up to the home streams of the Methow to take care of the eggs and young fish — the progeny of this year’s adult return. Before they depart for the ocean they will encounter, and benefit from, improved habitat conditions — the result of several decades of stream restoration funded primarily through our tax and rate payer dollars. I’m sensing the Coho think that’s resources well spent.
In an amazing show of Congressional bipartisanship, Republicans Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rogers joined Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “the squad” to vote against the infrastructure act (Build Back Better), previously approved by the Senate. The bill, which passed despite their “nay’” votes, funds much-needed repairs and enhancements to our highways, railroads, bridges, airports and communications.
I fail to see how Congressman Dan thinks he is representing the best interests of the Washington Fourth District with his negative vote on this issue. Voting against this measure was purely petty partisan politics, and clearly not in the best interests of the people. Our district is crisscrossed with federal highways and railroads. They are the arteries connecting us to the rest of the state, the nation and the world. We need the repairs, not to mention the jobs.
The greater good
Recently a contributor to the Letters to the Editor section wrote about her sorrow in seeing our community being divided. She wrote about some businesses saying who can come into their stores and who can’t. I can only assume she is referring to signs indicating a mask is required for entry.
She went on and wrote “Our local economy is important. Our mutual support is important, including letting each of us make our own personal decisions. But seeing fear destroying the common good is something I hoped to never have to witness again. Are we here for each other or aren’t we?”
I fully support people having the right to make their own personal decisions. But if a store has a sign posted that says a mask is required for entry, then support that store owner by wearing a mask. Support the community members inside by wearing a mask. If you don’t want to wear a mask, no problem. Use your personal choice to shop elsewhere. But please don’t breathe your potentially deadly breath on those of us who are trying our best to stay healthy.
And I would argue that fear isn’t what is destroying the common good. What is destroying the common good is community members who choose not to respect their fellow community members by going unvaccinated and unmasked. Thinking that one’s right to make personal choices about masking is more important than another’s right to breath healthy air. This, among other things, is what is driving the divisiveness in our community.
The writer asked “Are we here for each other or aren’t we?” Those of us who choose to wear a mask and get a vaccine are certainly here for our community. We are doing our part to keep this pandemic in check as much as we can. We wear a mask because we don’t want to unknowingly transmit the coronavirus to others. Can you say the same for someone who chooses to go into a store unmasked?
At some point we have to ask ourselves, is my personal choice more important than the greater good? If you really want to support each other, then think of the greater good.
A small action
A letter of Nov. 3 expressed a deep wish for unity among Valley residents as we face the unknowns of this ongoing pandemic. Although I appreciate the sentiment, I would point out that opposition to a tourist attraction is significantly different than concern for public health.
Not knowing specifics of what “discrimination” the author refers to, I can only speculate as to her larger point. However, the phrase “the terrified will stay home anyway” leads me to believe she is upset over businesses requiring masks. I have never in my life seen sober, reasonable people rail against wearing shoes and shirt in a restaurant or swimsuits in swimming pools. How, then, is asking one to take a small step of wearing a mask to preserve public health any worse than asking one to cover their body while sharing a swimming pool?
I would welcome further elaboration from the author, as unless businesses are posting notices using abusive language (which I have yet to see), it seems unreasonable to shame a private company to set their own standards for making their space safe and healthy. Hindsight may prove some of our choices over-cautious, but I for one can endure 30 minutes of fabric over my face while shopping. It’s a small action to help prevent the elderly, immunocompromised, and otherwise vulnerable members of our community from falling ill, and to more quickly put all the challenges of a global pandemic behind us.
With deep gratitude
For many, November marks a season of thankfulness, and living in the Methow Valley provides ample musings to draw from for gratitude. While I could provide a long list of reasons to be thankful, the top of my list this year is our community’s educators. The past 18 months have heightened stress and worry in many aspects of our lives. Amongst it all, our teachers have been called on to sacrifice their needs for the good of our children and the community.
From a front row seat as a parent of two children attending Little Star Montessori School, an aunt to nephews and a niece in the Methow Valley School District, and as a community member, I can speak to the heights to which our educators have risen. I can speak to the stress they have felt. During incredibly tough times, our teachers have adapted. They’ve shown us what it means to be resilient while putting love first. Their ability to recognize the importance of school, both academically and emotionally, for our children places them on a well-deserved pedestal.
We haven’t seen the end of this pandemic, nor the longer-lasting impacts of the past 18 months, and with that is the possibility of more hard times ahead. Our community owes a deep respect to those who continue to answer the calling to care for our children while helping to guide them through an ever-changing climate.
In this season of thankfulness, I hope you will all join me in recognizing the depths to which the educators of Little Star, Head Start, the Methow Valley School District, and all other caregivers have given of themselves. In normal times, they deserve gratitude; in pandemic times, they deserve admiration, accolades, praise, and all the love our community is capable of giving.
Little Star School board president
Protect local values
Fast tracking the approval of our revised County Comprehensive Plan means that by the time you read this letter, there may be about a week until the deadline for written public comments at noon on Nov. 29.
Fortunately, this revision supports the need for our county to form “More Completely Planned Areas” (MCPAs) to address varying values and landscapes countywide, with citizen advisory committees leading these efforts.
Thanks to a diverse citizens advisory committee that developed the Methow Addendum to the Comprehensive Plan in 1976, the “upper” Methow (north of Gold Creek) still enjoys great beauty despite increased development. It’s been protected by the resultant zoning (Methow Review District) for 45 years; but it’s long overdue for an update by a new advisory committee, mandated decades ago.
However, the new draft Comprehensive Plan prevents our county commissioners from appointing anyone who doesn’t own land to serve on an advisory committee — although commissioners and County Planning Commission members themselves are merely required to “reside” within the areas they represent.
Do we really want to revert to the days of the “landed gentry?” Should wealth be the bottom line regarding land use? Recent events have reduced community connections and threaten the rural atmosphere we’ve cherished for decades. Would landowners who have never resided here know and appreciate local values?
Consider who would be excluded from such advisory committees:
• Retirees, having lived in a Methow Valley community all their lives but having already passed their land off to offspring. Their input regarding land and people would be lost.
• Young people born and raised in the Methow returning with new skills but without the wealth required to own land here.
• Handicapped individuals requiring a dwelling that doesn’t demand the strength and mobility of a landowner.
• Working people, including educators, unable to find affordable property near work places and now renting.
Why not require advisory committee members to simply “reside” in the areas they represent, just as other county officials are required to do? Let committee members be those who actually live in their areas of the Methow Valley. Let’s not risk losing the cherished and historic values of our community.