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Bipartisan wilderness meeting set for Hood River

On Saturday, Dec. 3, you could help decide the fate of Mount Hood. Congressmen Greg Walden (R-Oregon) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) will host Mt. Hood wilderness summits in Portland and Hood River to get the public's comments on the proposed expansion of federally designated wilderness areas around Mt. Hood and in the nearby Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The summits follow-up a blueprint offered by the two Congressmen on Tuesday the third and most modest proposal for adding to the mountain's wilderness areas in the past year. The Hood River summit will be at the Best Western Hood River Inn, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 1108 E. Marina Way, Hood River, Oregon. From I-84 take exit 64. The Congressmen will accept written comments as well at either of their web sites. Residents are encouraged to offer their thoughts and opinions on the wilderness proposal. Oral statements are limited to two minutes, and speaker should bring two written copies for the record. The Walden-Blumenauer plan would increase the wilderness area around Mt. Hood by roughly 40 percent, by adding 75,000 new acres permanently off limits to development. But theirs is far less ambitious than an earlier proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), which called for 177,000 acres. That plan failed in the GOP-controlled Congress last year, but the Walden-Blumenauer compromise has as one of its proponents longtime Republican Walden, of Hood River.

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ANWR, Mining, Dumping, and Old Broads

Wilderness was over the news this week, from the debate over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to a plan to open as much as 20 million acres of public lands to mineral leasing. The U.S. House of Representatives decided this week to remove the ANWR provision—which would have opened the refuge to oil drilling—from the controversial budget bill, now stalled until at least next week. But another provision still in the bill would overturn a ban on buying up mining claims--meaning that mineral companies might soon be able to buy public land, including in national parks, at wholesale prices if they think it could contain mineral deposits.

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A Push for More Wilderness

Wilderness advocates will gather Thursday at Missoula’s Wilma Theater for a talk by a retired Lolo National Forest supervisor, and ardent opponent of a proposed destination ski resort on Lolo Peak. Orville Daniels, who was supervisor on the Lolo the last time the conceptual idea for a resort was proposed, will give a talk entitled “The Spirit of the Valley, Protect it or Lose it Forever.”? The forest management plan on the Lolo is up for revision, and some think more wilderness ought to be part of the discussion. Specifically, the group Friends of Lolo wants key parts of Carlton Ridge, east of Lolo Peak, added in to the Bitterroot-Selway Wilderness, or at least designated as a wilderness study area. That would all but stymie plans for a resort, though any expansion of wilderness itself takes an administrative order from higher up, or an act of Congress. The event runs from 6 to 8:30 PM, parkside at the Wilma (formerly Marianne's).

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Which Wheels Are Wildest?

I've been meaning for a while now to call attention to an interesting op-ed piece that ran in the Christian Science Monitor earlier this month. It was written by Erik Schultz, a "paraplegic wilderness advocate" and director of the ABS Foundation, which supports both wildlands conservation and mobility for the disabled—as well as the intersection of those two issues, wilderness access for the disabled. Schultz, who lost the use of his legs in a backcountry skiing accident, wrote about the bill that would designate a wilderness area in Idaho's Boulder-White Clouds mountains; the bill contains a provision to construct two primitive-access trails to accommodate wheelchairs. As Schulz points out, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, contains a section explicitly exempting wheelchairs from the prohibition on "mechanical transport" in the Wilderness Act of 1964. The ADA provision sparked a mini-controversy when the bill was passed, particularly among mountain bikers.

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Cause for a Celebration; Wilderness turns 25

The Rattlesnake Wilderness is turning 25 this Wednesday, and several stories over the weekend, including this one in the Missoulian and a photo spread in the Independent have showcased our little backyard gem’s history. The Snake’s 61,000 wilderness acres and adjoining 28,000 acres of protected recreation land, is undoubtedly the closest wilderness area to a sizable urban center in America.

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Wild Salvation at the Wilderness Congress

The power of religion to shape environmental views and policy is getting a lot of ink of late, particularly the growing divide between the pro-environment Creation Care movement and the anti-environment forces of the Christian right (increasingly under attack from within their own community) holding fast to the archaic view that God made Earth for humans to plunder. At the World Wilderness Congress, which wrapped up Thursday in Anchorage, John C. Nagle, a law professor at Notre Dame University, put an interesting spin on the popular subject of wilderness’s spiritual values. Nagle pored over transcripts of the early ‘60s testimony leading up to the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, and he was struck by how often those who testified mentioned spirituality. Housewives, ranchers, oil executives, members of Congress—they all, Nagle said, hit the same themes. They described wilderness as a place of encountering God, a place of spiritual renewal, a place of solitude and escape. They described wilderness as land the way God created it. While the spiritual language didn’t make it into the text of the law, it was clearly a powerful tool for gaining support—something that’s particularly interesting today when the most evangelical American Christians tend also to be those most opposed to wilderness preservation.

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Eating, Sleeping, and Breathing Wilderness (In a Convention Center)

The 8th World Wilderness Congress in Anchorage is a wilderness wonk’s fantasy, a weeklong whirlwind of PowerPoint presentations, data dumps, and impassioned pleas for conservation. After attending just two days of it (and even with a kayaking interlude in the Chugach mountains), my head is throbbing, my mind overloaded, and I think the only thing that will help me unwind is a long vacation in the wilderness. In the meantime, though, there’s some pretty amazing stuff going on around the world on the wilderness conservation front. As Peter Seligmann, CEO and chairman of the board of Conservation International, said yesterday morning, we have come to a period of “unprecedented opportunity and unprecedented urgency”? for conservation. The time is now, Seligmann implored the crowd of hundreds from around the world, "to elevate conservation to its rightful place among global leaders and make wilderness a core global value."

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Babbitt’s Radical Idea: Save Ecosystems

The day after the House Resources Committee voted 26 to 12 in favor of legislation that would seriously weaken the Endangered Species Act, Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt spoke in Boulder about the need for a radically new form of federal and local land use planning. Babbitt's new book Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America, assesses the "ongoing destruction of the national landscape" and calls for a national land use plan that puts the environment first. Amazingly enough, Babbitt seemed optimistic that such a thing is possible—though, he emphasized, "Not in this session of Congress, not under this President."

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New Things at New West

You've probably noticed some changes this week here at New West, mostly on the city pages. Here's the rundown:

  • On the city pages, we've introduced a feature called "Intelligencer," designed to highlight service features such as travel stories, events, and tips on interesting things to see and do around town.
  • We've also created a section called "Featured Blogs," which will point to interesting sites within the New West Network, and outside it as well.
  • We're now giving a little more glory to our fantastic writers by listing them on the upper left, with links to their own pages. Click on the names of your favorite writers and see all of their stories on their very own blogs.
  • On the Front Page and the city pages, we now have a new type of story on the site and a new term - Blogvertorial. This is a place where our advertisers and marketing partners can tell their stories in whatever way they would like, while taking advantage of our interactive features such as comments. These are paid positions, but we think you'll find the content interesting.
  • And finally, we've changed the name of our Citizen Journalism feature to "Unfiltered," and given it a more prominent spot on the city pages. This is the place that you can write whatever you'd like. The headlines of the "Unfiltered" posts will now appear on the main city pages, and as always we'll take the best unfiltered stories and post them to the main pages as well. Let us know what you think -- either by leaving comments here or by dropping us a line at

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  • It’s All Connected: Why the War in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina Are Bad for the Environment

    Thirty Alaskan small business owners received federal loans for companies affected by the 9/11 attacks, according to an AP story in the Anchorage Daily News. It may seem strange that a bush plane operator in North Pole, Alaska, could qualify for 9/11 aid. But with people across the country suddenly terrified and bracing for economic blows, the appeal of trip to the wilderness on a tiny plane apparently shrank, and his business needed help. It’s just one example of the interconnectedness endemic this teeming cultural ecosystem that is the United States. This is slightly off the wilderness topic, but bear with me, because it’s very much about environmental policies in general. Things don’t happen in a vacuum.

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