Go Tell it on the Mountain — To Chop up for Yuppie Skiing, or NOT!

Note — I have been busier than hell, slave waging, running science and outings for Adults with Developmental Disabilities. Whew, slave wager, and I can hardly contain myself in this prefatory section! Which Zionist and racist and ageist and cultural fascist do we want to deny breathing life after so many weeks away listening to Jewish Radio and The Controlled Opposition. Can you imagine, Social Security, disabilities section, has a million people in the USA waiting and squirming and dying to get a measly $1000 a month for survival money because of disabilities. A country that throws billions up the rectums of militarists, IT, the rot-gut media, the bankers, the 20 percenters, all those Little Eichmanns, and those upper middle class soccer moms and dads working for the Boeings- Googles-Et Al of this country’s shame. Read up on that, plus the Nazis who have been collecting social security for years. Imagine, one impotent and spayed country, where we can’t take care of those with disabilities. Where we shut off the water in Detroit. Where this prick of a president and all the thousands and tens of thousands in DC, leaches and slugs and ticks, sucking on the national coffer for the sins of their nothingness. So, another gig. Again, I write for a conservative magazine, a lifestyle rag, and, well, I write about things that get me going, and I am an advocate for the topics and people (most) I write about. Here, a story on Washington State’s largest state park.

Mt. Spokane, and this is universal, connected to the public-private partnerships of the Zionists and bankers, the lobbyists and the capitalists. The park is unique, and well, we must have more ski runs and more traffic and more season passes sold in an age of service-pay economy, the reality of 35 percent of Spokane’s youth on subsidized school lunches, climate change and the fact that people need to get out and walk nature and be in it, not slop around on overpriced skis and all that fashion and foolishness. So, here it is, my paying job, one of many, in America’s quick slide into economic oblivion for the 80- percenters. Read it, and think how many times my Spokane and Eastern Washington stuff ties into the USA-Canada-Europe and all other Western Countries’ failings.

Mt. Spokane Snow and Ski Park Looking for a Seven-Run Expansion
….groups like The Lands Council, Sierra Club, Audubon oppose it

by Paul Haeder, Spokane Living Magazine

The earth too has a voice which someday we must answer. – Frank Waters

Show Me the Greenbacks. . . or Give Me Green Mountains

How big is too big? Can wildlife survive more fracturing of their homes? Does Spokane have to keep up with the Schweitzer’s or Forty-nine Degrees North’s to be a ski player? Global warming and big billowy insulating blankets on snow banks and glaciers – is this insanity or what?

For now, we are looking at a ski run-lift expansion through 800 acres in the 14,000-acre Washington State park that is known as Mount Spokane as a very big deal for several rarified groups of community activists and stakeholders. Interestingly, though, the mountain has zero say in what happens to it.

However, mountains have their human spokespersons, such as Aldo Leopold, Gary Snyder, and Henry David Thoreau, even actor Woody Harrelson (fighting mountaintop removal in coal country).

In Leopold’s essay, Thinking Like a Mountain, he sees the spiritual and ecological core of each species in wilderness vital to wildlands’ survival. The extirpation of the wolf from a mountain can unravel all components of its ecology. “Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf…. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.”

For Spokane, with a bumper sticker axiom difficult to defend or comprehend, Near Nature, Near Perfect, we have large choices about future generations’ ways of living and what might be left of a river, of an aquifer, of grasslands and woods and forests based on our immediate needs, wants, desires based on both good and bad choices, intended and unintended consequences.

Dollars and immediate gratification against holding onto nature, keeping it in reserve, those are the dualistic issues around what we want for ourselves and our future generations. Ironically, 2.5 generations ago – 1964 — politicians and stakeholders set forth a compelling argument in the form of the Wilderness Act. That legislation is applicable for our neck of the woods and for this state park to tread lightly and make decisions for future generations – like, those who will be children of the Inland Northwest, circa 2064:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

Climate Change Will Exact Its Price – Less Snow, More Wet Winters

For the director of the private concessionaire running Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park getting more spring and winter season passes sold at $250 to $500 a pop is one goal for taking out part of an 800-plus acre area. So is increasing the number of visitors and getting more novices involved in the recreational sport of alpine skiing.

The non-profit Mt. Spokane 2000 has been working over the past decade to create a plan for an expansion in a way that balances environmental stewardship and recreational opportunity to benefit the entire region,” says Brad McQuarrie, who has been managing the Mt. Spokane recreation facility since 2001. “The expansion will introduce 79 acres of groomed trails, seven new runs and a chair lift within an 800-acre area designated for potential alpine expansion. The remaining acres will undergo prescriptions for forest health that will enhance backcountry skiing.”

The 45-year-old McQuarrie has four kids, lives at the foot of the mountain and has been embroiled in a public battle around exactly what proposed expansion plans would do to both flora and fauna, but also just how much of an economic impact another set of runs would have on the viability of the public-private operation.

Set along the southern most part of the Selkirk range, the 5,883-foot Mt. Spokane peak and the adjoining park comprising of 14,000 acres has an interesting history tied to some of the City’s early movers and shakers, including newspaperman/ developer Francis Cook, William and Cheney Cowles ( father and son, and owners of Spokesman Review ), and Polly Mitchell Judd.

Even with a huge interest in lumber for his newspaper enterprise (Inland Empire Paper), Cheney Cowles stated 75 years ago: “Preserving the timber is important, not only from the standpoint of retaining the beauty of the drive to the summit of the mountain, but also to forestall a serious fire hazard which would be the certain result of the slashings left by lumbering operations.”

There have been some legal maneuverings that have questioned the process around how the Parks Commission worked this expansion proposal and what sort of bias presupposed the science tied to the Environmental Impact Statements tied to this proposed acreage — officially dubbed the Potential Alpine Ski Expansion Area (PASEA).

A River, a Mountain, & Cleanest Water in the State

Mt. Spokane has embedded into the intellectual, religious and creative corpuscles of many folk I’ve come to know in this town. Bart Haggin, retired local teacher, activist and recreationist, recalls the slivers of crystalline snow forming a sky-high halo, with a bright sun pushing through, while skiing the slopes of Mt. Spokane with his wife Lindell. Both are solidly on the side of keeping those 800 acres as natural forest, untrammeled by man, also known as the chainsaw and bulldozer.

Another local bloke I have come to know creatively is Jesse Swanson, an artist who has been commissioned to spend photographic time in that swath of land he sees as old growth “magnificence.” He currently has work displayed as part of the Save Mount Spokane impetus.

The 23-year-old Swanson takes a larger view of his role in those 800 acres: “Photography has a huge role in documenting the changing world: a town, people, culture, a natural habitat, and the environment. Looking at old photos we can compare the differences of how much things have changed. Photography can also showcase the changing face of small towns or reservations across the state, country and world, places most people never see and have no reason to care about unless a photo or something of that place moves them. Photography has also played a huge role in the current climate debate. By simply placing two photos of the same glacier taken 30 years apart it is dramatic at what is happening. You SEE the effects of climate change. They are not abstract numbers or far off predictions. And hopefully the photographs of seaside cities or beautiful landscapes don’t become sad reminders of what once was.”

A Mountain is a Mountain with or without PR Spin or Wonky Reports

It’s easy to get mired in the environmental impact statements, the wonky scientific studies of this old growth forest and the vagaries of economic boom and bust thinking around exploiting nature for economic gain.

Go to Mt. Spokane 2000’s website and you will get one set of definitions and values around cutting seven new runs and constructing a chairlift there: “enhances quality of life,” “generates much needed economic revenue” and “no qualified old growth area” will be touched.

The Executive Director of The Lands Council (TLC) doth protest: “Brad’s just wrong about the science,” Mike Petersen says. “Again, challenge what WDFW [Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife] says, not us. It’s not just about amount of old growth. It’s about not fragmenting what is there. It’s about how species use the forest as old growth, and how little we have in Eastern Washington. And it’s about the great quality of this old growth. And it’s also about protecting the mountain from climate change by keeping old growth forests.”

The power of PR spin and scientific findings many times clashing can muddy the water when it comes to practicing a precautionary principle or making all human actions about jobs, profits, and economic “sustainability.” What Petersen and McQuarrie are facing is not just a difference of opinion, or passions, but deep divides tied to what has become common in the battlefield of economic growth and humanity’s want of profits versus environmental stewardship and conservation: narrative framing.

Looking at the same data sets and reports, unfortunately, does not guarantee consensus or agreement. Here, McQuarrie tells me that there are other areas on the mountain that would better fit the State’s proscribed NFA (natural forest area) status. “I don’t see from the scientists’ reports and studies the impact a new chair lift and runs would have here. Calling this area the last old growth area in Spokane County is just a talking point by the Lands Council.”

Biodiversity versus Economic Sustainability

One scientific outfit, Pacific Biodiversity Institute, conducted a Forest Health Survey and a Biology Survey, with conclusions that this tract of land is “natural forest” with vitality and health. Additionally, wetlands, streams and old growth in the Natural Forest, according to PBI, point to the area’s complex biodiversity, as does the fact that the biodiversity has been unchanged by logging or development.

Here’s one example of many letters (pleas) to the Washington State Parks Commission concerning stopping this proposed expansion:

There are ample areas outside of the Natural Forest for recreation facilities such as trails and ski area improvements including the adjoining Inland Empire Paper land,” wrote Jeff Lambert with the Spokane Mountaineers. “The additional revenues to Parks from a recreation designation are small to nil. A recreation classification and associated construction of a lift, base station, service roads and cleared ski runs would be a devastating blow to the integrity of the Natural Forest. For generations to come, please assure the Natural Forest will be permanently protected as a Natural Forest Area.”

For McQuarrie, who runs the private ski concessionaire contract (with the state’s benediction), he sees his own love of forests as powerfully embedded in who he is as an entrepreneur. Someone like Laura Ackermann, who is working on the Save Mount Spokane fight for the Lands Council, disagrees with McQuarrie’s spin on this chairlift and seven new ski runs.

In a letter to potential allies, McQuarrie lays it out clearly: “Over the past decade, we have worked tirelessly to balance environmental stewardship with recreational priorities, and the process has been extensive, lengthy and complicated, involving dozens of technical studies, reports and plans. In the meantime, a local special-interest environmental group continues to work to stop the expansion by creating hurdles for Washington State Parks.”

Those are fighting words to local activist and farmer Ackerman: “As usual the special interest group he is referring to is TLC. When you do one thing and one thing only, like the ski area does, you are special interest. But that’s OK if they exempt themselves! Special interest group has a negative connotation.”

Natural Forest Area or Full-on Recreation Area?

Out of four alternatives proposed to the Parks Commission (alternative one being do nothing and make no cuts or changes to the 800 acres), McQuarrie and his supporters are looking at alternative number four. Here, from Mt. Spokane 2000 written to Friends of Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park and penned by McQuarrie: “Recreation, Resource Recreation and Natural Forest Area. Allows for one chairlift and seven new trails, safeguards natural areas and solidifies the long-term future of Mt. Spokane.”

Again, this debate around a new chair lift and seven runs into the backside of Mount Spokane is tied to lexicon, connotation and one man’s idea of prosperity against another woman’s idea of taking steps backward.

Alternative Four does solidify the long-term future of Mt. Spokane as a fragmented, partially cut old growth forest, in a state park, with an expansion that has significant questions as to whether it can survive global warming and competition with other ski areas,” Ackerman says. “Where’s an economic analysis that they need to expand the areas? Keeping up with the Joneses attitude is not a good enough reason to expand and to cut down parts of a never logged old growth forest.”

I’ve talked to McQuarrie, Ackerman, and Petersen all in the same day, and it’s clear that using the term “special interest group” leveled at an environmental organization like TLC is a pejorative. However, what is more of a special interest lobby than a for-profit organization whose goal is to make more and more money? In fact, ski/snowboard parks in the US have dozens of professional lobbying organizations, some major ones being USSA and NSSA (US Ski and Snowboard Association and National Ski Areas Association) all of whom peddle their own propaganda and slants on what resorts do and do not do for forests or mankind.

Taxpayer money has supported the Spokane ski area in one way or another,” Ackerman insists. “Do Forty-nine Degrees North and Schweitzer get public money?  I think not. But it’s a possibility should the PASEA  be granted that Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park could get money from State Parks for the expansion.   We have the right, as citizens, and as a non-profit to challenge  an EIS, and protect and preserve old growth.”

Getting Down to History – First Nations and Really Old Growth

Let’s reset the issue: The big contention is whether these 800 acres are part of a never-logged old growth forest. Fact: the state has very little of that left. Also, the parks commission has a mission and value statement that reflect not only recreation but preserving nature.

Speaking with Brad recently, I see it’s clear that he has some sense of Mt. Spokane Parks’ legacy and benefit: “I don’t want to devalue any forest. They all provide habitat and recreation. But this patch of land is already degraded with dying and diseased trees. There are a lot of areas in the Park where we don’t have trails that are currently designated resource/recreation that would be ideal as NFA designation.”

At issue for many in the Save Mt. Spokane camp, however, is a purported lack of transparency, odd behavior by the Parks Commission, and basic falsehoods around how Mt. Spokane 2000 got the actual location of the proposed site wrong.

For Petersen, who does backcountry skiing and at one time skied downhill a lot, he wants Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park to thrive: “The ski area needs a new lodge, new parking, summertime events and lift realignments. The Mt. Spokane 2000 plan fails to make improvements where they are needed, which is the existing ski area. They need to read and practice their own Concessionaire Plan.”

Suquamish Chief Seattle’s words are dead-on for someone like me who has been on many continents on top of many mountains from my birth to my current walkabout on mother earth:

“Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.”

No matter where these white men and women fighting both sides of the Mt. Spokane expansion battle end up in the white man’s court of last resort, or which white man’s economic principle wins out, the words of my family’s poet, Robert Burns, really resonates around this mountain that had its birth 425 million years ago: “The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry.”

The fact is Mount Spokane like dozens of mountains in these forty-eight contiguous states is a spiritual location for many of the area’s native tribes, as well as a prime berry and game location.

Suzan Shown Harjo, poet and member of Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee tribe and president of the Morning Star Institute and leader in getting the racist name for the Washington NFL team changed, has been at the forefront of battles in my old neck of the woods – the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona, home to scarred up and denuded forest and peaks as part of the white man’s Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort.

This place I have hiked is a sacred site to over 13 Southwestern native tribes.

Once again we call on Congress to build a door to the courts for Native nations to protect our traditional churches. Many sacred places are being damaged because Native nations do not have equal access under the First Amendment to defend them. We are the only peoples in the United States who do not have a constitutional or statutory right of action to protect sacred places or our exercise of religious freedom there,” Harjo said. “That simply must change as a matter of fairness and equity.”

Paul Kirk Haeder has covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/ community journalism in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, and PK12 districts. He organized part-time faulty. His book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. He blogs from Waldport, Oregon. Read his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.