'In Our Back Yard' - Sierra Club works to save roadless area

Friday, April 25, 2003

By KATHIE DURBIN, Columbian staff writer

Vancouver, WA - Sierra Club volunteers will canvass Vancouver neighborhoods Saturday to promote protection for the Dark Divide roadless area, an amoeba-shaped, 57,000-acre swath of unlogged national forest between Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens.

They hope to place 500 lawn signs bearing the message: "We can do better! Keep the Dark Divide wild" and generate a flood of postcards to U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, urging him to continue working for permanent protection of the Dark Divide and other national forest roadless areas.

"There appears to be an attack on our national forests by the Bush administration," said Holly Forrest of Vancouver, a member of the club's Cascade chapter. "These are our public lands. We have a right to recreate in them, to protect the watersheds and habitat that people and animals rely on, and this one is in our back yard."

The Dark Divide, which lies within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, is the largest unprotected roadless area in the Northwest and a touchstone for advocates of wilderness protection.

It was the setting for author Robert Michael Pyle's book "Where Bigfoot Walks" and the site of last July's Earth First! Round River Rendezvous, a gathering of forest activists from around the country.

Twice in the past two years trees have been spiked in planned timber sales near the Dark Divide.

Gifford Pinchot forest spokesman Tom Knappenberger said his agency has had a policy in place for five years not to plan any timber sales in inventoried roadless areas such as the Dark Divide.

He also pointed out that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently restored a Clinton administration rule that places some 58 million acres of roadless federal lands off-limits to logging.

"The Dark Divide isn't on our radar screen," Knappenberger said. "It really is a nonissue."

'Wild America'

The campaign by the Cascade Chapter is part of the Sierra Club's Earth Day observance.

It's also part of the club's "Wild America" campaign to protect lands along the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

According to Sierra Club campaign literature, "The ridges of the Dark Divide were in the line of sight as (William) Clark looked west from a cliff above the upper Columbia River and glimpsed his first snowy Cascade peak, later determined to be Mount Adams."

Forrest said Baird "has been a real supporter of wild places," and the club hopes to demonstrate to him that there is strong support in Southwest Washington for protecting the Dark Divide.

Teresa Weil, Baird's Vancouver district director, said there's not much happening in Congress on roadless protection right now but "we're all for people telling us what they think."


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