The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, The Lands Council, Idaho Conservation League and Defenders of Wildlife, and were represented by attorney Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West.
Today, world renowned mountain
climber and former Spokane County Commissioner John Roskelley, Fayette Krause,
former Land Steward for the Nature Conservancy, Spokane Audubon Society, and
the Lands Council filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court, challenging
the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission land use classification decision
and approval of ski area expansion in Mount Spokane State Park. The decision was made on November 20, 2014 on
a split vote. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined
that the land in the PASEA provides crucial habitat for wildlife.
Roskelley, who served on the Washington State Growth Management Board said "Mt.
Spokane State Park belongs to all the citizens of the state of Washington, not
just to one small user group of skiers from the Spokane area for less than four
months a year. Their politicized decision to classify critical wildlife habitat
and an intact old growth forest on the northwest slopes of Mt. Spokane as
recreation and authorize 280 acres of clear-cuts and logging damage to this
irreplaceable alpine area fails to follow the Commission's mission."
expansion will permanently destroy some of the best northern goshawk habitat in
Spokane County, and fragment a native old growth forest that has stood for over
two centuries," said Greg Gordon of the Spokane Audubon Society.
David Bricklin, Bricklin and
Newman LLP (email@example.com), and attorney for the plaintiffs said "Classifying
these rare, old growth forests for recreational purposes is not allowed. The Commission ignored its own regulations
and policies which preclude a ski area classification for lands with high
natural resource values" citing Washington State Parks and Recreation
Commission, Policy on Protecting Washington State Parks Natural Resources
(Policy 73-04-1), Policy E.1.:
Areas of a park containing natural resources of regional or
statewide significance, unusual and/or sensitive habitats (e.g., bald eagles), or a species of concern should be classified
restrictively to allow only low-intensity uses and minor facilities
Fayette Krause has been instrumental in the preservation of
forests in the State Parks system. The
Parks Commission approved his recommendations for the first nine State Park
forests to be designated as Natural Forest Areas. Fayette Krause said "I urge that all areas at Mount Spokane State
Park identified in the Washington Natural Heritage Program's 1993 report,
including the proposed expansion area, be fully protected and designated as Natural
Mellgren, Western Law Environmental Center,(541) 359-0990
Petersen, The Lands Council, (509) 209-2406
Coleman,Kettle Range Conservation Group,(509)
Conservationists Challenge Wildlife
Services' Authority to Kill Wolves in Washington
Wildlife Services Activities Threaten Wolf Recovery, Healthy Ecosystems
Wash. - Today, the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) on behalf of five
conservation groups, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services program challenging its authority to
kill endangered wolves in Washington state.
The National Environmental Policy
Act (NEPA) requires USDA to prepare an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) addressing the effects of employing Wildlife Services to kill endangered
wolves in Washington. The agency completed a less-detailed Environmental Assessment
(EA), but the document contains significant gaps and does not address specific
issues that will significantly impact wolves and the human environment. NEPA
review is designed to ensure all environmental impacts are analyzed and that
the public has an opportunity to comment, and therefore influence, activities
conducted using publicfunds.
prepared by Wildlife Services fails to provide data to support several of its
core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves
reduces wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recentpeer-reviewed researchfrom Washington State University
directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually
leads to an increase in
wolf-livestock conflicts. The EA also fails to address the ecological effects
of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in
neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly
bears and Canada lynx.
Services' activities related to wolves in Washington have been extremely harmful,"
said John Mellgren, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. "The
science tells us that killing wolves does not actually reduce wolf-livestock
conflicts, but Wildlife Services is continuing its brutal assault on this iconic
animal and it needs to stop."
Services is a stand-alone federal extermination program under USDA that kills
roughly 4 million animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters,
foxes, coyotes, and birds-with almost no oversight or accountability. A 2013
internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services' accounting practices lacked transparency
and violated state and federal laws. Concerns about the program's practices and
effectiveness are the focus of an ongoing investigation by the USDA's Inspector
has experienced Wildlife Services' recklessness firsthand. Last August, Wildlife
Services' snipers mistakenly shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack's alpha
female during a helicopter gunning operation. The killing was in direct violation
of explicit instructions from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife
(WDFW) to not kill either of the pack's alpha members. The death of the Huckleberry
pack's breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.
Services also ‘advised' WDFW in the contentous 2012 killing of Washington's
Wedge wolf pack. In that instance, WDFW killed seven wolves after depredations
of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher's failure to take sufficient
action to protect his cattle.
Services' refusal to ensure its activities are based on the best available
science strips the public of an opportunity to meaningfully understand and
contribute to decisions impacting the health of ecosystems on which we all
depend," said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians.
"Its past time that the dark practices of Wildlife Services are subjected to
the sunshine of a transparent public process."
were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a
government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The
species began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British
Columbia in the early 2000s, and the wolf population in the state has grown to 13
confirmed packs. Despite this growth, wolves in the state are far from
recovered and face ongoing threats-including the threat of being shot and
killed by Wildlife Services.
Environmental Law Center is representing the following organizations in the
lawsuit: Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation
Group, Predator Defense, and The Lands Council.
Press Release: February 17, 2015
Safety Now bill Advances in State House
for bill increased with derailment and explosion of oil trains in West
WA –Today, the House Environment Committee voted the Oil Transportation Safety
Now bill out of committee. The bill is prime sponsored by Rep. Jessyn
Farrell and Sen. Christine Rolfes.
This bill is supported by a broad range of local elected officials, emergency
responders, health care providers, and environmental groups.
trains are already traveling under downtown Seattle and along Puget Sound. We
need to pay attention to the risks to our communities," said King County
Executive Dow Constantine. "I ask the legislature to take swift action on this
Today an oil train in West
Virginia derailed and exploded, spilling oil into the Kanawha River and setting
the nearby area on fire. In response Washington Environmental Council,
Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Lands Council issued the
"Today's derailment and explosion in West Virginia shows how
dangerous oil transportation can be to our waterways, communities, and
Today's accident puts the drinking water and homes of West
Virginians on the line and illustrates the frightening risks posed by oil
moving through our communities.
Here in Washington, we have an opportunity to modernize and address current
gaps in our oil transportation safety system by passing a bill that takes
action on public disclosure and oil spill prevention and response needs (HB
1449 / SB 5087). In addition, the state should not allow more oil to come
through our region, increasing the risks of spills and derailments, by saying
no to the terminal proposals in Grays Harbor and Vancouver.
Today's events are a tragedy and a warning. It's up to us to
do what we can to protect our state."
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Snowshoes and science
Mountain becomes classroom on water quantity for Post Falls students
MOUNT SPOKANE STATE PARK, Wash. - For T'ariq Arp, the mile-long trek up the side of a mountain here on Wednesday was well worth the exercise.
The mountain and its snowpack became the classroom for Post Falls High teacher Cindy Rust's Honors Biology class, which is studying snow science from runoff to avalanche danger.
"At least you're not sitting in a classroom learning from a PowerPoint presentation," said Arp, a sophomore, taking a break from collecting data. "A lot of us haven't been snowshoeing. Some students are hands-on, so this field trip helps them understand what's taught in the classroom better."
breath caught in clouds of frosty air, but the frigid temperatures didn't chill
the enthusiasm of the 21 students from the Community School, as they gathered
at Mount Spokane last week for a snowshoeing adventure.
This is the third year Kat Hall, conservation programs director
for the Lands Council, has taken students to Mount Spokane to learn about
winter safety and the importance of the snowpack in our region.
The field trip is part of Project Sustain, the Lands Council's
environmental education program. "The point is for the kids to realize the snow
they're digging in and throwing at their friends, will eventually be the water
they put their canoes in on the river," Hall said.
Field reports: Mount Spokane land classifications affect ski area expansion
PARKS – Land classification proposals that could make or break plans to expand the Mount Spokane alpine ski area will be presented at the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Thursday in Bellingham.
South End Project aims to enlarge ATV access while protecting Colville National Forest land
For years, human activity has trashed the pristine ecosystem of Phillips Lake.
Campsites are strewn with human waste and beer cans. Signs and fences have been shot, pushed to the ground or stolen for firewood. Graffiti tags the boulders that rise high above the lake and reappears after every time it's cleaned off.
Northeast Washington ranchers have begun moving their cattle to remote Forest Service meadows, where many of the herds will spend the summer grazing in territory occupied by the state's growing wolf population.
With a high potential for conflicts, eight environmental groups have petitioned state officials to create rules that would place limits on killing wolves that attack livestock.
A small creek that flows the length of John A. Finch Arboretum will soon become a better home for fish.
But that will require removing some structures built in an attempt to beautify the park.
city parks department and several other groups will restore portions of
Garden Springs Creek with the help of a $154,000 state Department of
The natural creek, fed by springs above Finch
Arboretum, flows through the city park, along a neighborhood, under two
freeways and over a small waterfall before meeting Latah Creek near the
11th Avenue Bridge.
The city is contracting with the Lands Council on a pilot stormwater management project in the Shadle area.
are pretty excited about this," said Mike Peterson, executive director
of the Lands Council. It's the first time the council, a local
nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the quality of life and
the environment in the Inland Northwest has contracted with the city.
A state appeals court has halted a major expansion at Mt. Spokane Ski
and Snowboard Park, saying that the Washington State Parks and
Recreation Commission erred by not requiring a detailed study of how a
new chairlift and runs would impact old-growth forest, meadows
Tuesday's ruling was hailed by The Lands Council,
which appealed an earlier court ruling on the issue. The Spokane-based
environmental group opposes the nonprofit ski area's expansion into 279
acres on the mountain's northwest face, which is recognized as having
one of the largest unbroken tracts of subalpine habitat left in
"A major decision to turn what was a de facto
natural area into a ski area expansion in a state park, said Mike
Petersen, The Lands Council's executive director.
environmental impact statement required by the Washington Court of
Appeals will take at least two years, Petersen predicted.
"This really sets them back," he said. "We think it just might put an end to it."
from the state Parks and Recreation Commission were not available for
comment Tuesday afternoon. In a 2011 interview, however, a commission
spokeswoman described the ski resort expansion as "the classic paradox for the commission, which has a dual mission of providing recreation and
protecting the resource for future generations.
Mt. Spokane's general manager, had not read the ruling but said the
resort's expansion has been on hold, pending the court's decision.
Spokane State Park encompasses about 14,000 acres. The ski resort has
leased about 2,300 acres from the state since the 1950s, including the
1,450-acre alpine ski resort.
Five years ago, Mt. Spokane
submitted plans for developing the remaining 850 acres. The resort later
pared down its plans, intending to develop 279 acres and leave the
remaining acreage in a natural state.
Mt. Spokane's expansion
plan calls for a new chairlift and seven ski runs on the mountain's northwest side. Proponents say it would give Mt. Spokane's operators
access to deeper snows on the north-facing slopes, helping the resort
extend its season and compete with other ski resorts in the region.
ski area is operated by Mt. Spokane 2000, which would be required to
pay for any improvements. Mt. Spokane 2000 is headed by Jim Meyer, the
husband of Betsy Cowles, who is chairwoman of the company that owns
In May 2011, the Parks and Recreation
commission voted to give the 279 acres a land-use designation compatible
with recreation, allowing the expansion effort to progress. However,
the ski resort was required to prepare an environmental impact statement
when it submitted a detailed development proposal.
Council challenged the commission's decision, saying an environmental
impact statement was required before the commission approved the ski
The Washington State Court of Appeals agreed.
Tuesday's ruling said that state law requires decision-makers to "be apprised of the environmental consequences before the project picks up
momentum, not after."
The ruling also cited the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife's concerns about the ski area expansion.
Department officials said the old-growth area provides important
habitat for elk, moose and rare forest carnivores, including lynx
The Lands Council also wants Mt. Spokane to thrive, Petersen said. But he thinks that resort operators could improve Mt. Spokane's draw through investments in the existing operation, such as renovating the lodge, installing faster chair lifts and developing new runs.
"It's close to Spokane and it's a great family area," he said of the ski hill.
September 17, 2013
For Immediate Release
Contact:Mike Petersen, Executive Director
The Lands Council
THE LANDS COUNCIL WINS LAWSUIT TO
PROTECT OLD GROWTH FOREST IN MT. SPOKANE STATE PARK
The Lands Council has won a court
action that challenged the re-classification of part of Mt. Spokane State Park
to allow a ski area expansion. We are pleased that the appellate court judges
agreed with our concerns that Washington State Parks Commission failed to
follow the law by allowing a ski area expansion in Mt. Spokane State Park.At stake is the largest old growth stand in
Spokane County, which the Commission had said could be opened up to ski area
The Washington State Court of Appeals said that "...the Commission's failure to prepare an EIS for the 2011 classification
decision violated the terms of SEPA and its rules and was contrary to governing
case law. We affirm the trial court's ruling that the Lands Council had
standing under SEPA to bring this action. We hold that SEPA required the
Commission to prepare an EIS for its May 2011 classification decision and,
accordingly, we reverse the trial court's summary judgment order dismissing the
Land Council's claims under SEPA."
Their decision is the first step in permanently
protecting the magnificent old growth on the west side of Mt. Spokane - which
is our largest state park. As the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
wrote in a letter opposing the expansion; "The native old growth forest habitat on the northern aspect of Mount
Spokane is an extremely unique forest ecosystem for the region with a high
value for wildlife and species diversity.The northern aspect is the very feature that makes this forest type
unique from all other forest areas within Mount Spokane State Park.Considering its size, its unfragmented
condition, along with its stage of forest succession structure and complexity,
a similar forest cannot be found anywhere else in the Spokane County regional
area, nor replicated. " The Lands Council found that some of the trees in the proposed lift line were over 200
Mike Petersen of the Lands
Council said "We hope that the Parks Commission now steps back and
questions the plans that the ski area concessionairre has for this park.We hope to work with the Parks Commission and
the concessionairre to improve the existing ski area, and have our own vision
that would bring more visitors and still protect the most important old growth forest
in Spokane County."