Checkerboard Land Acquisitions
FY08 Requests for Lands Funding
The Sierra Club, along with other conservation groups, has asked Congress to fund several important acquisitions this year in the Checkerboard country. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), new chairman of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, a long time supporter of park and forest conservation, crafted a bill that increases allocations for acquisitions, but did not specify which projects.
Central Cascades Ecosystem – Big Creek - $1.2 million
There are a number of parcels in the Central Cascades Ecosystem project area that need to be acquired, but Section 9 along Big Creek is the top priority. Located in the Manastash Ridge region south of Cle Elum, it includes salmon habitat (Big Creek), spotted owl habitat, and unroaded lands contiguous with Blowout Mountain. The land is currently owned by Plum Creek Timber, who plans to construct a half-mile-long road across national forest unroaded lands to access the timber in section 9.
Wild Sky Area - $1.65 million
Two parcels along the Wallace River, totaling 480 acres, could be included in the Wild Sky wilderness once acquired. Another 120 acres in Bitter Creek, within the proposed wilderness boundary, would also be acquired.
Alpine Lakes - Maloney Creek - $1.5 million
This 320-acre inholding contains low elevation deep forests within an unroaded area adjacent to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, just south of the town of Skykomish.
Mt. Rainier National Park – Carbon River – $4.5 million
This appropriation would allow the Park Service to acquire over 400 acres within the park addition, passed in 2006. This acquisition includes more than a mile of the wild and meandering Carbon River.
Forest Service Acquires Stampede Pass
The square mile around Stampede Pass was purchased by the Forest Service in May. The land was formerly owned by Plum Creek Timber Company and was a high priority for the Sierra Club's Cascade Checkerboard Project. The transaction was arranged by the Trust for Public Land, using $978,000 in Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriations from FY07. The parcel includes over a mile of the Pacific Crest Trail, a small lake and significant forest within this important wildlife corridor.
Significantly, this was the place where the Northern Pacific Railway crossed the Cascades in 1887 to complete the transcontinental rail link. It is the symbolic center of the Cascade Checkerboard country as every other section of land 40 miles north (near Stevens Pass) and 40 miles south (near White Pass) was given to the railway company to subsidize the construction of the railroad. The railroad originally switchbacked over the pass (segments of those grades can still be found) before the tunnel was opened in 1888.