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Guest blogger Michelle Swanson rides her bike in Olympia.
Bicycling in Thurston County just got a lot easier with the third and final phase of the Bridging the Gap project.Click to view slideshow.
The Chehalis-Western Trail provides the backbone of the Thurston County trail network, running 22 miles from Woodard Bay in the north to the Yelm-Tenino Trail in the south. A former railroad used to transport timber, it’s now a vital respite from busy motor vehicle traffic for people walking and rolling in a variety of ways.
Fifteen years ago, a coalition of several government agencies and advocates worked together to bridge three major gaps in the north part of the trail. The first bridge over I-5 was built in 2007. The second bridge over Martin Way—which was the main north/south route between Seattle and Portland before I-5—was finished in 2010. Saturday December 13, 2014, the community gathered to celebrate bridging of the very last gap over Pacific Avenue.
Bridging the Gap projects complete trail connections in Thurston County. #bikeOLYClick To Tweet
You can now ride from the Puget Sound to Yelm or Tenino—or both!—almost entirely (save for about 1,500 feet) on a trail in Thurston County. Yay!
Ride from Puget Sound to Yelm/Tenino; trails 99%+ of the way! #bikeOLYClick To Tweet
In addition to linking to the Yelm-Tenino Trail in the south—which many of our friends up north know from riding part of the STP on it—the Chehalis-Western intersects with the I-5 Trail and the Woodland Trail, two trails that run east and west. Both are great off-street links between Olympia and Lacey.
My favorite part of this project is the intersection between the Chehalis-Western and Woodland Trails: the very first bicycle roundabout in Washington State. Squeee! It looks like a flying saucer, doesn’t it?
1st bike roundabout in WA state on Chehalis-Western & Woodland Trails #bikeOLYClick To Tweet
This was a massive project, and a lot of people dedicated significant time and effort to make it happen. I’m so happy to live in a community that values bicycling enough to pull something like this off.
Courtesy of Twitter we have two videos shared by Kevin VanDriel of Olympia. The first is a fast-paced hyperlapse view of his ride to the dedication; the second shows the Boy Scout troop, band, and hundreds of people who showed up to celebrate.
No judgment here if you prefer to keep your bike rides on the dry side — we work for all kinds of riders! If you do want to keep rolling into the wet season you’ll be wondering how to maximize comfort and minimize soggy socks, among other challenges.
Our cold weather riding tips apply on cold wet days too, so start there. Our Instagram friends have been sharing pictures of wet riding, so draw some inspiration from them. Then dig into the advice below that we rounded up from Twitter with tips ranging from brand names to low-budget ideas like plastic bags.
Sharing rainy riding gear tips from plastic bags to fenders #ibikeinrainClick To Tweet
We had our ABC of cold-weather riding; now we have the DEFG of rainy riding. Things to think about as you decide whether you need some additional gear for you and your bike for bicycling in the rain:
Dry feet are happy feet. Spring for foot covers, improvise with plastic bags, wear waterproof boots — tactics vary but everyone said something about feet. As in cold weather, wool socks-wool socks-wool socks to keep feet warm even if they end up damp.
Evaporation is a challenge. As one person said, “waterproof” and “breathable” are mutually exclusive terms. When you keep rain out you keep sweat in; your goal is a balance you can live with.
One of the rainy-riding challenges: “waterproof” & “breathable” don’t coexist well. #ibikeinrainClick To Tweet
Fenders are everyone’s friend. A front fender is your friend; it minimizes spray shooting up at your feet on the pedals. A rear fender is friendly for the rider behind you; it cuts the rooster-tail effect. An extra-long fender works even better for this. If it’s reflective like our WA Bikes fenders (blatant plug), it adds visibility on those dark and rainy days.
Gloves x two. Cold clammy gloves at the end of the day don’t help you stay warm. More than one person suggests using two pair, one for the morning ride, one for going home. They’ll dry faster if you prop them up to air-dry; try standing them on a couple of empty toilet-paper tubes or a piece of PVC pipe with holes bored in it as a DIY project.[View the story “#IBikeInRain: Bicycle Tips for Wet Riding” on Storify]
In a rare stroke of bi-partisanship the U.S. Senate today passed the most significant piece of legislation to protect new Wild and Scenic Rivers in over five years. With the Senate passing legislation identical to a bill passed by the U.S House last week Congress can agree on something—river protections are good public policy when supported by local communities and businesses.
The legislation conserves Washington’s Illabot Creek, the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, and Pratt River, Pennsylvania and Delaware’s White Clay Creek, Vermont’s Missisquoi River and Trout Rivers, and Oregon’s River Styx as Wild and Scenic. American Rivers and our partners have championed these protections for years.
A Wild and Scenic River designation is the strongest possible protection for a river in the U.S. It preserves a healthy, free-flowing river in its current condition, prohibiting new dams or other harmful water development projects, and safeguards clean water and riverside land. The designation also provides for the creation of a management plan, in partnership with local communities, to guide protection and enhancement of special values such as fishing, recreation, wildlife or outstanding scenery.
The numbers are impressive. As soon as the President signs this bill as expected 140 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers will be protected along with over 17,000 acres of environmentally and recreationally important riverside land.
But the numbers don’t tell the story of the individuals, local groups, and members of Congress that are responsible for this notable achievement. When communities and businesses care deeply enough about their rivers they fight for them, all the way to the desk of the President.
In Washington State, Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congressmen Reichert and DelBene worked with local stakeholders and over 100 businesses to protect the clean waters and salmon habitat of the recreationally important Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers and Illabot Creek, an important tributary of the Wild and Scenic Skagit River. This legislation protects clean water, native trout, and world-class outdoor recreational opportunities in the closest mountain valley to the greater Seattle metro area. Illabot Creek tumbles through a steep, forested valley until it joins the mighty Skagit River. Wild and Scenic designation for Illabot Creek will permanently protect its clean, cold waters and crucial spawning habitat for threatened wild Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, as well as pink, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon. The Skagit River watershed supports one of the largest wintering bald eagle concentrations in the lower 48 states. Abundant salmon and old-growth forest habitat make Illabot Creek the center of eagle activity.Middle Fork Snoqualmie River | WMcDermott
Under the leadership of Senators Sanders and Leahy and Congressman Welch, Vermont’s Missisquoi and Trout Rivers were also designated after a comprehensive study and public involvement process led by the National Park Service. The rivers are important sources of clean water, and are part of the lifeblood of Vermont’s natural and cultural heritage. They are bordered by the largest, and perhaps the highest-quality, silver maple floodplain forest remaining in the state. The Missisquoi and Trout rivers are home to diverse wildlife including brook trout, rare freshwater mussels, and spiny soft-shell turtles. The Missisquoi River also attracts tourism offering great recreation as a part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
And with the help of Senators Coons, Casey and Carper and Congressmen Pitts and Carney, White Clay Creek in Delaware and Pennsylvania will become the first in the nation to have its entire watershed protected as Wild and Scenic, a model for watershed conservation nationwide.
Today’s legislation also includes measures long supported by American Rivers to permanently protect pristine rivers in Colorado and Montana. One provision, the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act, safeguards Southwest Colorado’s Hermosa Creek and its native fish and excellent recreation opportunities. Among the Montana provisions, one protects 430,000 acres of National Forest lands in the North Fork Flathead River watershed adjacent to Glacier National Park from new mining, and another protects 275,000 acres of pristine lands along the Rocky Mountain Front as Wilderness and National Conservation Areas.
This legislation will also jump start a process for communities to work with river experts to formally consider Wild and Scenic River protection for fourteen additional rivers, most notably Massachusetts’ Nashua River, Squannacook River, and Nissitissit River, Maine’s York River, and Rhode Island’s Beaver, Chipuxet, Queen, Wood, and Pawcatuck rivers.
Don’t be surprised if we see these rivers and others fully protected in a few years. In fact, local communities in a dozen states are actively working on efforts to protect their rivers as Wild and Scenic. As we approach the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in just four years, we should soon have a lot more to celebrate.
Last week, our California headwaters restoration team geared up to assess the health of mountain meadows in the Pine Creek watershed in Lassen National Forest, and identify the ones most in need of restoration. Maps, GPS, cameras, and rubber boots in place, we were ready to get out in the field.
The weather, however, had other plans.
Several inches of rain, and snow at higher elevations, fell on the days leading up to the trip and postponed our much anticipated fieldwork. Some of the dirt roads we planned to take have become impassible mud traps, making it near impossible to reach all the meadows.
Why do we want to assess these meadows in the first place? Among the multitude of benefits they provide us, mountain meadows play an important role in California’s water cycle. Catching rain and snow at high elevation, they give water the chance to soak into the ground and seep out slowly through the dry summer months. This maintains base flows when they are most critical, much the way a large snowpack does as it melts. A degraded meadow, on the other hand, can’t soak up water the way a healthy meadow does.
Even with our fieldwork postponed, we can’t be too upset about the precipitation. California is deep in the throes of an exceptional drought. Last year saw only half of the typical precipitation in the Sierra Nevada (the source of nearly 60% of the state’s water), and the snowpack that provides water through the summer was only at 18% of its usual amount by May. In fact, a recent study found that this is the most severe 3-year drought central and southern CA have seen in the last millennium. The rains are a welcome change, but they hardly put a dent in the state’s recent water deficit.
As I watch warnings for an even larger storm scheduled to hit California later this week, my fingers are crossed for a long, wet, winter. Here’s hoping that rain, snow, and healthy meadows keep the flows high and bring some drought relief this year.
WTA has a valuable partnership with the PCTA. Each year, volunteers work the length of the iconic trail, which meanders along Washington's Cascadia spine from the Bridge of the Gods to Manning Park in Canada. And for years, Bob Woods has been our main contact as the North Cascades Regional Representative for the iconic trail.
Regional Representatives are extremely knowledgeable about the section of the PCT they're charged with maintaining, protecting, and managing. They work closely with networks of seasonal staff, volunteers and partners (like WTA) in order to keep the beloved trail usable for thousands of hikers each year.
The work it takes to maintain, protect, and manage a scenic trail is extensive, and after 15 years of vigilance and dedication, Bob is ready for new adventures. We asked him to reflect on his time with the PCTA and let us know what's in store for him in the future.Who introduced you to trails?
From as far back as I can remember, my dad took me on hiking adventures all over the country. Each summer, the family would pack up the VW camper and head out for another adventure visiting National Parks and Forests from coast to coast.When did you start having a vested interest in maintaining trails?
After college I ended up at a desk job working with Nike in Portland, Oregon. My office had a spectacular view of Mount Hood and I remember staring out the window dreaming about my next backpacking adventure. Every Friday I would head up to the mountains, then drag myself back the office on Monday. After a particularly stressful week in the office, I thought to myself that maybe it was time for a change.
At age 28, I decided to quit my corporate job, sell everything that would not fit in the back of my Subaru, and took an unpaid internship working at a National Park. That opened the door and I’ve been working on trails and conservation issues ever since then.
What drew you to PCTA initially?
After my internship, I spent a few seasons as a ranger with Oregon State Parks in the Columbia River Gorge and continued to fall in love with the Pacific Northwest. I spent summers working in Oregon and winters working in Florida on the Florida National Scenic Trail. Eventually, I took a position working for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail as their Regional Representative for the state of New Mexico. I was always looking for a way to return to the Pacific Northwest and when the position with PCTA became available, it seemed like a good fit.
How has the partnership between WTA and PCTA benefited PCTA as well as the PCT?
The North Cascades Region was one of the last regions to get a PCTA representative, partially because of the strong partnership with WTA and all of the work they have done for the PCT. Every year WTA is doing more and more projects on the PCT. There is certainly plenty more to be done to get the PCT back up to standards and it takes a collaborative effort to make it happen. WTA has been critical in keeping the PCT in good shape.
Tell us about a particularly successful work party or a section of the PCT that has benefited from volunteer work.
One project that stands out is the reconstruction of the Goodwin Meadows Bridge deep within the William O. Douglas Wilderness. It was truly a collaborative effort with several volunteer groups working together.
The bridge was damaged over the winter and in desperate need of repairs. The Forest Service did not have the funds needed for new decking materials. So Back Country Horsemen stepped up with a grant from their organization that covered the cost of the materials. They also packed in all the materials, rigging equipment, and supplies. Volunteers from PCTA, WTA, and EarthCorps joined in to help build the bridge. The Forest Service could not have completed that project without the volunteers.
What is your favorite section of the PCT?
A tough question; there are so many wonderful sections of the PCT to enjoy in our area.
One of my favorites is in the Pasayten Wilderness. The trail travels high along a ridgeline, offering expansive views of the rugged peaks of North Cascades National Park.
Another favorite is the often overlooked Norse Peak Wilderness. The abundance of wildlife, colorful wildflower displays and scenic views of Mount Rainier always make a memorable experience.What's next for you?
I have been working on our National Scenic Trails for more than 15 years and it is time for another change. While I still enjoy working on trails I am ready for the next challenge. I am looking to take the next step in my career and am excited about all the opportunities in the Seattle area to work on important conservation issues. After taking some time off, I hope to find a new position with a larger non-profit organization and continue to work on environmental conservation issues.
The long wait is over! The Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (H.R. 361 / S. 112) passed the Senate earlier today, marking the full passage of the bill by Congress.A victory seven years in the making
Since 2007, WTA and hikers have supported the Alpine Lakes extension—which will protect 22,000 acres adjacent to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (see map below)—along with many of our partners, including The Wilderness Society, Middle Fork Coalition, Washington Wild and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance.
The victory comes during the 50th anniversary year of the Wilderness Act and at the tail end of a week we've spent in Washington, D.C. advocating for trails and federal trail funding. During our visits to the offices of Sentators Murray and Cantwell and Representatives Reichert and DelBene all were were thrilled to have had such a strong hand in seeing the bill through to passage.
“For everyone in Washington state who cherishes our incredible wild spaces, this is a truly historic day,” said Senator Murray. “This isn’t simply about protecting the natural treasures we love, it’s about passing them along to our children, our grandchildren, and generations of Washingtonians to come.”
Senator Patty Murray worked tirelessly to get it over the finish line in the Senate. The House had already voted and passed the bill, which was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, along with other land protection measures from Washington, including the Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic River Act.
Now the bill will head to President Obama’s desk, where it is anticipated that he will sign it into law.Thank your Alpine Lakes champions
Passage of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness additions bipartisan bill comes seven years after its first introduction by Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Dave Reichert. Both have been stalwart champions for protecting the low- and mid-elevation forests of the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie rivers valleys for future generations to hike, camp and snowshoe along the valley floors.
"I have worked tirelessly with my House and Senate colleagues as well as community members and local stakeholders -– all who share my vision of preserving and protecting Alpine Lakes," said Congressman Reichert when the bill passed the house. "The Alpine Lakes area is a perfect example of the natural beauty of our great state that also contributes to job creation and the success of local economies."
Senator Maria Cantwell and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene have also been strong supporters and cosponsors of the bill.
Join WTA in heartfelt thanks to our champions for their commitment to recreation in Washington:
The legislation expands the popular Alpine Lakes Wilderness by 22,000 acres and protects 10 miles of the Pratt River and 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Only a 30-minute drive from Seattle, the proposed additions offer year-round world-class hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing and camping in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River area.
What is a wilderness area?
These special areas have been granted the highest level of land protection in the United States. They can be in National Forest, National Park or on BLM lands. Washington's has 31 wilderness areas, and hiking is a wonderful way to explore them. Eighty percent of Washington's wilderness is within 100 miles of major metropolitan areas, making our state's wilderness some of the most accessible in the nation.
What is a wild and scenic river?
Winter is just around the corner here in Washington D.C. Temperatures are dropping, we had our first snow, and every day my fellow bike commuters are bundling up even more. On these cold mornings I like to think back to warmer months out on the water. This summer I traveled to the Elkhorn Slough in Castroville, CA and the Puyallup River in Sumner, WA to cleanup with volunteers from Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. volunteers removed old fence posts and barbed wire to restore habitat at the Elkhorn Slough | Allison Skinner
In June National River Cleanup® and Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. brought volunteers to the Elkhorn Slough to restore habitat in this precious environment. Fed by the Carneros Creek and the Pajaro River (during flood events only) at the head of the estuary and the old Salinas River Channel the Elkhorn Slough is California’s largest tract of tidal salt marsh outside San Francisco Bay and provides a link between the sea and the land. The Elkhorn Slough is home to extraordinary biological diversity and one strategy used to expand and create healthier habitat for wildlife and a stronger buffer for water entering the slough is to purchase surrounding land and return it to its natural, wild state.
Working with staff from the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough Reserve together the Keurig Green Mountain volunteers removed 800 pounds of plastic agricultural waste and irrigation taping from the slopes of the Elkhorn Slough. These are materials that would breakdown into smaller pieces and find their way into the water. They also worked hard to tear down and haul out an old cattle pen and over 1200 pounds of barbed wire fencing to create safe passage for wildlife. The work the volunteers did will encourage a more robust habitat and healthier Elkhorn Slough. The volunteers did something else that will help protect this special place for years to come. Together the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Elkhorn Slough Reserve, Keurig Green Mountain, and American Rivers sponsored a community day at the slough where families were invited to take guided trail walks, visit the microscope lab, challenge their knowledge with slough trivia, and work in the greenhouse planting wild grasses. Most of the volunteers at the community day were young children with smiles painted across their faces. The day at the Elkhorn Slough where they had fun volunteering will be a memory that stays with them and as they grow up they’ll return to take care of this special place.Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. volunteers work together to pull a shopping cart out of the Puyallup River! | Jimmy Pasch
A few weeks later I traveled to Sumner, WA. The Puyallup River is cold and fast but that didn’t deter the employees from Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. who volunteered to clean it up with the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and American Rivers. Together with Wild and Scenic Rivers Tours leading our morning shifts rafting the waters and Pudget Soundkeeper Alliance organizing afternoon shifts walking the trails along it’s shoreline we were able to collect an astounding 3,000 pounds of trash and debris from the ecosystem.
While rafting the Puyallup underneath the watchful gaze of soaring bald eagle we stopped at beaches and filled our trash bags with cans, bottles, and the burnt out leftovers of fireworks. Our crews soon became experts at maneuvering their 8-person rafts across the water to nab a piece of trash stuck in low hanging branches. Several boats were soon so full of large pieces of plastic, rusted out metal, and wooden signs that if you didn’t look carefully you might think we had built them right there on the spot with the collected trash! Our afternoon shift set out with trash pickers to cleanup a widely used public running and bike trail and the winding trails that spur off of it to the water’s edge. These volunteers meant business and worked hard in the high heat of the summer sun to leave the trails clean and safe for people in the community to enjoy.
To further support community involvement in environmental stewardship together Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Citizens for a Healthy Bay, Keurig Green Mountain, and American Rivers organized a day of volunteer activities for community members as well. Volunteers cleared invasive plant species from habitat surrounding Silver Creek.
It’s cleanups like these, full of passionate volunteers, that keeps me energized during the winter months. National River Cleanup is excited to keep working with our partners on the west coast and returning to these waters with volunteers from Keurig Green Mountain Inc., next year!
Do you have a favorite cleanup memory from this summer? Look back through your river cleanup photos and submit your favorite memory to the 2014 National River Cleanup Photo Contest!
New Mexico’s Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) decided last week to recommend that the state move forward with diverting the Gila River – New Mexico’s last wild river and one of American Rivers’ Most Endangered Rivers of 2014. The ISC made this decision despite evidence showing that a majority of New Mexicans oppose the project and being under legal scrutiny for conducting secret meetings without public knowledge about the project in violation of open meeting laws. But the ISC decision does not ultimately mean the diversion project will be built. The final decision rests in the hands of Governor Susana Martinez who has until December 31st – less than four weeks – to notify the U.S. Secretary of Interior whether the state plans to move forward with building the diversion or supporting non-diversion water utilization alternatives such as urban conservation programs and water recycling to meet southwest New Mexico’s future water needs.
The decision facing Governor Martinez sets the stage for two alternate futures for the Gila River and the communities that depend on it. Choosing the diversion would place an immense financial burden on the state of New Mexico for decades. The Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) only provides up to $136 million in federal subsidies for construction costs. Studies put the construction cost for the project anywhere between $500 million to $1 billion. Under AWSA, New Mexico is on the hook for any remaining costs (not to mention the ongoing costs of operation and potential litigation). Therefore, if the Governor decides to take the federal handout and build the diversion, taxpayers and water customers in New Mexico can expect higher taxes and water bills for years to come. As noted in my previous posts, deciding to build the diversion also presents a future of increased federal oversight in the region, along with decades of court battles and threats to river health and outdoor recreation opportunities enjoyed by thousands of New Mexicans.
Governor Martinez can avoid this troubling future by deciding to NOT build the diversion and instead using AWSA funding to pursue cost-effective, non-diversion alternatives. A recent Western Resource Advocates report found that water conservation and reuse can meet the entire gap between existing urban demand and future demand with minimal costs to water customers and taxpayers, while preserving the Gila River. Pursuing these options would also help farmers in the region by providing necessary funding for upgrading irrigation infrastructure, which can reduce labor costs, increase crop yields and help working farms and ranches adapt to drought and future water shortages in the region. By selecting non-diversion alternatives, the Governor also avoids subjecting the state of New Mexico to increased federal intervention in Gila River management and a lengthy permitting process that will likely generate considerable litigation costs for the state.
There is still time to save the Gila River. Contact Governor Susana Martinez today and ask her to avoid a future of financial burden and increased federal oversight by saying NO to diverting the Gila River and supporting cost-effective non-diversion alternatives that will help save taxpayers money, ensure a strong agricultural and recreational economy and protect the Gila River for future generations to enjoy.