"}
Outdoors

Going Public

Confessions of a crew leader

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

If memory serves, my official entrance point into the mountainous mass of federal- and state-managed land that colors the geography of the entire Pacific Northwest came at Boulder Creek Wilderness Area. I was in Umpqua National Forest just a few months after the logging industry and the United States government put a fairly effective end to the long-simmering Spotted Owl Crisis by officially adopting the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan.

Enduring two intermittently snow and rainstorm-addled weeks deep in the moss-draped west slope of the Oregon Cascades, I struggled mightily to lead my 11-person crew in completing a piteously short trail relocation though a towering, cathedral-like stand of old-growth timber that featured, among other curiosities, 500-pound boulders rooted into the dirt like giant prehistoric animal teeth and native rhododendron bushes about the size of a typical two-car garage.

Green to the region and woefully unfamiliar to the inherent complexities of its definitive land management issues at the time, I just assumed that most, if not all, public parcels out there were congressionally designated wilderness preserves and simply went about minding my own business.     

But as I soon discovered on my very next project on and around Mt. Ashland, preserving our nation’s common ground rather than exploiting it to the nth degree has generally proven to be the exception over the years, not the rule.  

For the better part of the following fortnight—while my crew and I maneuvered cartload after cartload of riprap onto denuded, overgrazed slopes in Siskiyou National Forest—I was forced to confront the sobering realization that while several decade’s worth of overly robust sheep driving could be blamed for the actual physical damage we were repairing, it also took a decade’s worth of ill-informed decisions made by citizens, politicians and land managers who all seemed to have acquiesced so fastidiously to their own bottom lines that they essentially lost all meaningful perspective.  

Yet, as dire as this predicament seemed to be, it actually took three more weeks of hardcore tree planting among the apocalyptic coastal clear cuts in Suislaw National Forest before I found myself mired inexorably into the mundane minutiae of cleaning up somebody else’s mess.

Crawling through indeterminable slash piles with my trusty hoe-dad and a rucksack full of Doug fir seedlings as midafternoon temperatures boiled up into the high 90s and dastardly swarms of biting insects threw themselves into all and any of my exposed orifices, there seemed little other viable alternative for me at the time than to stop languishing too morbidly in the tragedy of the commons and simply learn to not only accept it, but to actively anticipate it with the absolute, unwavering conviction that I will continue to do everything in my earthly powers to mitigate the damage—past, present or future—at every turn. 

Fortunately, before my general outlook on public land management tanked completely off the deep end, I managed to secure a two-week “heavy” trail reconstruction assignment in the Mt. Baker Wilderness Area—a project that not only succeeded to expedite my desired extrication from the seemingly endless environmental devastation I kept bumping into in Oregon, but also actively precipitated my subsequent migration northward into the wild, wonderful world of Whatcom County, a place where mountains loom large, snow falls epically and public land accounts for significantly more than half the total available land mass.  

So, on Sept. 28, the 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day, I encourage others to sign up for one of dozens of projects planned around the state—including Mt. Baker’s Heather Meadows—and lend a helping hand. Our wealth of public lands is an incomparable treasure. But this much elbow room hardly comes cheap.

SVCR Don McLean
More Outdoors...
Nordic Night
Putting the kick in cross-country

“It’s the perfect way to fly,” my old trail crew buddy Tryg said as he jammed his ski poles into the snow and pushed off into the night.

He was right. Even moving uphill on a pair of heirloom Madshus 210s he glided over the groomers so quickly and with such little apparent effort…

more »
Couples Therapy
The ins and outs of love

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to commemorate Valentine’s Day by gazing at your paramour across a candle-lit table, we’ve compiled a few alternate ways to spend time with your sweeties of choice in the coming days. They all involve going outside for an extended period of time, so…

more »
SnowSchool
Bringing students into the mountains

My life is focused in the mountains, so it is surprising how many local young people have never had the opportunity to visit our neighborhood peaks.

“So many kids in Whatcom County see Mt. Baker from the lowlands, but some never get the chance to experience the mountain environment,”…

more »
Events
Today
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Farm-to-Table Trade Meeting

8:30am|Bellingham Technical College

Community Preparedness

2:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Baker Backcountry Basics

6:00pm|REI

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Putting the kick in cross-country

6:00pm

Dressings, Sauces and Stocks

6:30pm|Ciao Thyme Commons

Prawn Particulars

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Tides

7:00pm|Village Books

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

MBT Rovers Village Books
Tomorrow
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Community Coffee and Tea

9:00am|East Whatcom Regional Resource Center

Ukulele for Everyone

4:00pm|Everson Library

Garden Design Class

4:00pm|Blaine Library

Handmade Pasta Class

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Kombucha and Kefir

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Frankie Gavin

6:30pm|Leopold Crystal Ballroom

Unsettlers

7:00pm|Village Books

Nothing simple about it

7:00pm

Mike Allen Quartet

7:00pm|Unity Spiritual Center

Panty Hoes

9:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

Northwood Steak and Crab Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Thursday
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Incognito

6:00pm|Ciao Thyme

Pasta Faves

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Ubu Roi

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Between Two Worlds

7:30pm|Make.Shift Art Space

Into the Woods

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Up the Down Staircase

7:30pm|Squalicum High School

see our complete calendar »

IGN Cascadia Trove Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Bellingham Farmer’s Market Village Books Bellingham Technical College Northwood Steak and Crab