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Protection for Washington

Posted: 11/06/2003
by Jason Robertson

The Honorable Maria Cantwell                               November 4, 2003
United States Senate
717 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510.

Re: Protection for Washington State's Carbon River Valley (View Map)

Dear Senator Cantwell:

On behalf of American Whitewater, its members and affiliated whitewater clubs, we are writing to ask that you introduce bipartisan bill, H.R. 265 in the Senate.  This bill would parallel H.R. 265 introduced during the last congressional session by Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.), and would extend the boundary of Mount Rainier National Park by three miles along the Carbon River Valley. In addition to recreational support (hikers, bikers, boaters), extension of this boundary also enjoys strong municipal support in Pierce County, demonstrated by the current effort to purchase an additional 1,000 acre tract just downstream of the three mile extension protected through this legislation.

American Whitewater is a national organization founded in 1954 with the mission to conserve and restore America's whitewater resources, and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely. American Whitewater advocates for whitewater river restoration by linking the interests of human-powered recreational river users with ecological and science-based data.  American Whitewater currently has 240 members in Washington State, as well as the following affiliate clubs: Associated Students, Bellingham; Kayak Pursuits, Redmond; The Mountaineers, Seattle; Paddle Trails Canoe Club, Seattle; Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, Spokane; Washington Kayak Club, Seattle; University Kayak Club, Seattle. American Whitewater is also a member of both Leave No Trace and Americans for National Parks .

The Carbon River Valley, rising from the base of the Carbon Glacier on the northwest flank of Mount Rainier, represents a number of outstanding natural values including lakes, creeks, several peaks, and stunning views of the mountain.  In addition, the Carbon River provides critical habitat for endangered salmon and other species, is home to one of the last inland old-growth rainforests in the U.S., and embodies two separate and dramatic whitewater resources.

The upstream whitewater section is a difficult but beautiful Class V+ whitewater resource beginning approximately three miles above the Highway 165 Bridge (near the old town site of Fairfax) and running nine miles to the take-out at 177th Street East between the towns of Orting and South Prairie.  Downstream, the lower Carbon provides an additional nine miles of beginner/intermediate Class II whitewater.  Together, these sections of the Carbon River watershed contain a rare beauty, represent one of Washington's wildest and most scenic gorges, and provide a unique wildlife corridor running from the park boundary to the Carbon's confluence with the Puyallup River near Tacoma.  For additional information on the whitewater resources of the Carbon River, please see A Guide to the Whitewater Rivers of Washington by Jeff and Tonya Bennett, published by Swiftwater Publishing Company, 1961, or visit American Whitewater's website at www.americanwhitewater.org/rivers/id/2075/

While the proposed legislative expansion would end approximately two miles above the whitewater section of the Carbon, this expansion would provide critical upstream watershed management for this river, an important issue for whitewater paddlers and American Whitewater members.  When combined with the potential purchase by the Cascade Land Conservancy and Pierce County of a 1000-acre forested area just downstream of the expanded boundary, including the Carbon River Gorge, the opportunity to protect this outstanding watershed and wildlife corridor running from Mount Rainier to Puget Sound should not be missed (see attached news article).

This 1000-acre parcel is currently owned by Plum Creek Timber Company, which as a willing seller plans to auction off 19,000 acres referred to as the Wilkeson Tree Farm.  The Cascade Land Conservancy is working with Pierce County to bid this month on the 1000-acre parcel, one part of a $10 to $15,000,000 local bond effort to make conservation land acquisitions in the Carbon, Nisqually, and White River basins.

This month, the Interior Department will be allocating funds to all of the national parks for fiscal year 2005.  We urge you to introduce this bill as soon as possible to ensure that Mount Rainier will receive adequate funding to protect this extension. As a steward for national parks, American Whitewater appreciates your long-standing support of the national parks and environmental issues in general. Please make this issue a priority - the integrity of the Carbon River Valley is vital to the health and future of all of those who enjoy, and would greatly benefit nearby Mount Rainier National Park.  Please introduce the bipartisan bill, H.R. 265, in the Senate.

Sincerely,

John T. Gangemi
Conservation Director
Bigfork, Montana
jgangemi@digisys.net

Tom O'Keefe
Regional Coordinator 
Seattle, Washington
(206) 527-7947
okeefe@riversandcreeks.com

Jennie Goldberg
Board of Directors
Seattle, WA
(206) 933-1178
Jennie@nwwhitewater.org

Richard J. Bowers
Board of Directors
Bellingham, WA
(360) 647-7609
nwrivers@comcast.net


Enclosure:  County, land group pursue prime sale

cc:
Nancy Neyenhouse, Conservation Division Chair, The Mountaineers
Liz Carr, The Mountaineers
National Parks and Conservation Association, Northwest Office
Associated Students
Kayak Pursuits
Paddle Trails Canoe Club
Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club
Washington Kayak Club
University Kayak Club
Representative Jennifer Dunn

Rich and Stephanie Bowers
830 REVEILLE ST
BELLINGHAM, WA 98229-8804


Associated Projects

Puyallup Watershed (WA)
Major rivers of the Puyallup watershed include the Carbon, Puyallup, and White which drain the western and northern slopes of Mt. Rainier which we are working to preserve and protect.