Friday, August 15, 2008

North Cascades National Park is almost Over the HillOn October 2nd the North Cascades National Park turns 40! Yahoo! The Park Service and many others have started the celebration.. Terry Wood of the Seattle Times wrote a nice piece in yesterday's newspaper on this occasion and what it means to various writers, conservationists, and others connected to the park.

Below is a reprint from my book Day Hiking North Cascades about the creation of the park. Let's celebrate as well as move forward with the next set of parks and preserves.

Preserving America’s Alps

On October 2, 1968, President Lynden B. Johnson signed into law a bill establishing the North Cascades National Park and adjacent Lake Chelan and Ross Lake National Recreation Areas. Today, nearly 93% of the North Cascades National Park complex is comprised of federal wilderness- to be managed in an untrammeled state. A cause for celebration among the conservation and hiking communities, establishment of America’s 34th national park was no slam dunk.
Originally proposed by the Portland, Oregon based Mazamas in 1906, there was little threat to the greater North Cascades ecosystem at that time. In 1937 the Department of Interior (who administers the National Parks Department) agreed that the North Cascades was of national park caliber. However, still no action was taken. By this time, the region’s great river, the Skagit, sporting two dams with another on the way was wild no more.
By the 1950s and 60s mining and timber interests, especially the latter were well entrenched in the region. Roads pushed back deeper into the wilderness. One of America’s largest remaining roadless areas was in danger of being seriously and irreparably destroyed.
In 1956 a group of concerned citizens including guidebook pioneers Harvey Manning and Ira Spring formed the North Cascades Conservation Council intent on finally establishing a national park for the region. Congressman Thomas Pelly (R-WA) introduced a bill that year that failed. The Council however continuously campaigned, lobbied, and publicized (partly through books intended to make people aware at what was at stake) for a park. Their tireless efforts came to fruition in 1968 when Senator Henry Scoop Jackson (D-WA) and Representative Lloyd Meeds (D-WA) successfully pushed through Congress bills for park establishment. Forty years later we continue to enjoy that legacy.
(photo- Mount Ruth)

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