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January Conservation Report

Trip date: 01/31/2008
Reported by: Jeff Lambert

January 2008 Conservation Report
Conservation did not have a meeting in January. There was plenty going on however.
1. Big Rock and Dishman Hills: The Dishman Hills Natural Area Assn had their annual meeting on Tuesday January 15. The main topic was the Big Rock trade. The Assn membership voted to increase the size of the board from six to eleven. Eight new board members were elected. Most were supportive of the Big Rock trade. A few notable people elected were Chris Kopczynski, Kelsey Loughlin, Mary Weathers and Jeff Lambert. We have high hopes that progress will be made on that project. Look for hikes to the Big Rock property and the trade property known as the Hallett Road property to better understand the complex exchange being developed. We hope to work with the Dishman Hills Association to protect a wide conservation corridor in the hills for wildlife and nature lovers.
2. Mt Spokane Ski Area Expansion: Washington State Parks has not released the project description for the Ski Area Expansion (known as PASEA) and the Notice of Environmental Significance as of February 4. The Notice of Significance means a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be required and will kick off a 21-day comment period for the EIS Scoping. Jeff Lambert was one of a small group that met with representatives of the Mt. Spokane 2000 ski area operator. They provided a project description that includes two lifts on the west side, a small (Vista House size) lodge on the bottom of the west side and about ten runs with glades in-between. None of the areas would extend below an elevation of 4000' msl compared to the summit elevation of 5883'. The runs would eventually have lights. There are also plans for the existing ski area that the Mountaineers support. A new or renovated lodge is proposed to be built on the east side where Lodge 2 is now. Snow-making equipment is proposed but we are not sure to what extent. Chair 4 on the north side would be bought up so that the load area is not in a swamp - makes sense! There are many elements to the proposal and many can be done at the existing ski area without disturbing the westside forest. A small group is leading the effort to sign-on opposition to the Ski Area expansion with Mike Peterson of the Lands Council, Anne Martin of American Lands, John Roskelley of the Spokane Mountaineers, and Howard Ferguson of Washington Fish and Wildlife leading the way. The Board of Trustees has voted unaminously to oppose the expansion into the PASEA to protect Mt. Spokane's beautiful west side forest that graces us with her good looks, wildlife, clean water and solitude. [I was asked about how the Club arrived at the decision to oppose the expansion. We have had hikes, snowshoes and backcountry skiis through the area, Conservation Committee meetings since at least the fall of 2006, and regular discussion at Board meetings/committee reports. The last backcountry ski through the PASEA was February 2. [If you are a backcountry skier or snowshoer, you should visit the PASEA area. Find a Mt. Spokane State Park map and follow trails 130 and 135 to the summit from the snowmobile parking lot near the Chalet.]
3. Idaho Roadless Area Petition Process: Several Mountaineers went to the public hearings in Idaho held to educate and allow public comment on the State of Idaho's petition to the U.S. Forest Service for their plan to protect roadless forest areas. Their plan is less restrictive than the 2001 Roadless Rule that is in effect right now. The Idaho Roadless Rule would only take effect if accepted by the US Dept of Agriculture Secretary and if the 2001 Roadless Rule is thrown out by the courts. The decision is probably going to end up being made by the courts. John Latta got prominent mention in the top of the first page Spokesman Review story on January 24, 2008. Chic Burge, Andrew Ashmore and Jeff Lambert were among those that attended.
4. Spokane County Trails Plan: The Planning Commission will consider the Trails Plan in February. Several Mountaineers are involved in the Trails Plan including Lunell Haught and Karen Jurasin. They expect the Trails Plan to be adopted as part of the Spokane County Comprehensive Plan. This is a step in the right direction for preserving existing trails and developing new ones throughout Spokane County.
5. Washington Trails Association: WTA is offering a discounted membership to Club members of $25 - information on discount under News & Event Items dated February 5 on our webpage. WTA is doing a spring trail project on the steep, eroded section of trail that most of us take down from Big Rock (east ridge of the Iller Creek Conservation Area). Mountaineer Ken Mondal helped to coordinate the discounted membership and the trail work. For informaiton on WTA just go to their great website at www.WTA.org . The Mountaineers have joined with Conservation Northwest and WTA to put on a Wilderness Trail Work Seminar on May 8 - see your Kinnikinnick.

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