May 30, 2002                                                                                            No. 65

SEN. PATTY MURRAY AND REP. RICK LARSEN, BOTH WASHINGTON DEMOCRATS, unveiled a proposal Wednesday to designate 106,000 acres north of Highway 2 along the North Skykomish River as a national wilderness area -- the most restrictive federal public lands designation.  (Seattle Times, May 30) The last such designation in Washington was one million acres in 1984, which included the adjacent Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area. The proposal, which requires the approval of Congress, would reclassify land within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. It would close 30 miles of old logging roads and ban all logging, road-building and motorized access, except for wheelchairs. Republican Rep. Jennifer Dunn is considered key to House approval, and environmentalists have gone door-to-door in her Bellevue district urging voters to write letters in support of the proposal.


FARMERS IN THE METHOW VALLEY HAVE LONG CONTENDED THAT WATER FOR irrigation helps recharge underground aquifers. Now a group of fishermen and property owners are making the same argument. (Wenatchee World, May 28) Since the Wolf Creek Reclamation District replaced nearly four miles of open irrigation ditch with pressurized pipe a year ago to leave more water in the creek for fish, water levels in Big Twin and Little Twin lakes have fallen as much as eight feet below normal. The lakes, which have no surface inlet or outlet, are fed by an underground aquifer. The fishermen and homeowners, who argue that the conservation effort is ruining trout fishing, harming aquatic life, and causing their wells to go dry, now want permission to divert water from Wolf Creek to refill the lakes. State and federal agencies acknowledge the lack of recharge from open irrigation ditches may be causing part of the problem, but also point to last year’s drought.    


URBAN SPRAWL, RISING LAND PRICES AND ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS ARE forcing Western Washington dairies to leave “what’s been called the best climate in the world for dairy cows for the wide-open spaces of Eastern Washington.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 30) But even in Eastern Washington, community complaints about water usage, pollution and smell are causing some dairymen to regret their decision. The number of dairies in Western Washington has dropped by more than half, from 1,017 to 488, since 1989. There are now 162 dairies in Eastern Washington, including 71 dairies and 50,000 cows in Yakima County alone. Although environmentalists complain about the size of many Eastern Washington dairies, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency noted that dairies have to be large to afford the technology need to deal with manure and other potential pollution problems. “Smaller operations create more of the problems,” said Bub Loiselle, EPA water-quality compliance manager in Seattle.    


OREGON COULD BE FORCED TO DEVELOP A RECOVERY PLAN FOR WOLVES, EVEN though they were exterminated decades ago. (Portland Oregonian, May 29) Species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, including gray wolves, were automatically included under a state ESA adopted in 1987. Although federal authorities are considering de-listing wolves because of successful reintroduction programs in Idaho and Montana, under state law Oregon must continue to protect any resident wolves and can’t remove them from the endangered list until the species is recovered there. Oregon Farm Bureau and other groups plan to submit a petition to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on June 6, demanding that wolves be taken off the state list since they have already been exterminated. “They can’t be endangered if they don’t exist,” said Glen Stonebrink, with the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. But biologists believe there may still be a few wolves in the hills and forests of Eastern Washington.    


May 29, 2002                                                                                            No. 64

CURT SMITCH, GOV. LOCKE’S TOP NATURAL RESOURCES ADVISOR, IS LEAVING government service at the end of June to become a partner in the Thompson Consulting Group in Tacoma. For the past two years, Tim Thompson, president of the Tacoma-based company, has been the facilitator for the Ag, Fish and Water negotiations that have attempted to find voluntary measures that farmers and ranchers can take to help protect fish. As special assistant to the governor, Smitch has been the lead negotiator for the state in the Ag, Fish and Water process. During his government career, the 57-year-old Smitch also served as director of the state Department of Wildlife and as an assistant regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


WASHINGTON FARM BUREAU WILL HOLD MEETINGS IN EASTERN WASHINGTON next week to explain how the state Department of Natural Resource’s Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan regulations affect small forestland owners and what Farm Bureau is doing to get the rules changed. The University of Washington has estimated that the regulations could cost small forestland owners $375 million to upgrade private roads to commercial logging standards or install new culverts to facilitate fish passage in streams on private property. The first meeting will be at 7 p.m., Monday, June 3, at the Star Steak and Seafood Restaurant in Dayton. The second will be at 7 p.m., Wednesday, June 5, at the DoubleTree Inn City Center in Spokane. Both meetings are open to the public. For more information, go to www.wsfb.com on the Internet, or call Farm Bureau at (800) 331-3276.


WASHINGTON WILL RESTRICT THE USE OF CLOPYRALID TO CEREAL GRAINS AND grass used for hay beginning June 28. The state Department of Agriculture Tuesday banned the herbicide for use on residential or commercial lawns or turf. The one exception is for golf courses, but only if no grass clippings are allowed to leave the site. The herbicide can only be applied by licensed pesticide applicators. 


THE PRICE FOR ALASKA’S COPPER RIVER SALMON FELL TO ABOUT $1 A POUND after 209,000 reds and 11,000 kings were landed last week during the second fishery of the season. (Seafood.com, May 29)      


GROWERS IN GEORGIA HAVE ASKED FOR FEDERAL DISASTER RELIEF FOR WHAT  is being called the worst crop ever of Vidalia onions. (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 29) Temperature extremes and a fast-spreading fungal disease have ruined about 60 percent of this year's crop, costing farmers up to $50 million. Vidalias make up about 10 percent of the U.S. onion market and are one of Georgia's most valuable crops, worth about $80 million per year. The sweet onions gained popularity in the late 1980s through a marketing campaign that touted you could “eat ‘em like an apple.” Georgia's 132 registered growers planted 14,458 acres of Vidalias last November and December, which would normally be harvested between mid-April and early June.

THE THURSTON COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE AND ANIMAL WELFARE OFFICIALS seized 88 miniature horses and mules from a 29-acre farm near Yelm on Saturday after receiving complaints about the animals’ condition. (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 25) Although the animals appeared to have been neglected, sheriff’s deputies said there was no evidence of neglect and the owner was not arrested or charged with a crime.



Ó 2002 Washington Farm Bureau. NewsWatch is a daily update on news of interest to agriculture. Contact Dean Boyer, director of public relations, 1-800-331-3276 or dboyer@wsfb.com, to receive NewsWatch by fax or e-mail.


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