Do not touch that lookout

Thanks to an insensible lawsuit, the Green Mountain fire lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness is a verb. “Green Mountained,” enviro absurdity visited upon the (mostly) innocent.

A cascade of events, culminating in a 2012 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Seattle to remove the historic structure, does violence to taxpayers, to common sense and to conservationists who understand the legislative history of the 1964 National Wilderness Act.

As The Herald’s Gale Fiege reports, the U.S. Forest Service’s court-compelled scoping report recommends the use of a helicopter to relocate the lookout to Circle Mountain in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The back story is instructive: Restoration of the Civilian Conservation Corps-era gem in 2002 technically violated the Wilderness Act because workers used motorized equipment. Sanctioning a rule-bending Forest Service seems appropriate. Instead, the Court’s remedy — tear it down — stood logic on its head, a solution in search of a problem. The latest strategy is to employ a chopper in violation of the Wilderness Act to uphold the Wilderness Act. (Beware: Restore by the helicopter, die by the helicopter.)

U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene are having none of it. Along with Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, they have introduced legislation to put the kibosh on removal. In a letter to Rep. Doc Hastings, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Larsen and DelBene observe, “Moving the lookout would be an unnecessary and costly expense, putting further financial burden on an agency already contending with challenging budget constraints. “

Congressional sources say the price will far exceed the $100,000 estimate. No small figure in the sequester era.

The cattywampus logic of political fundamentalists values means over ends, consequences be damned. A spokesman for the plaintiff, Wilderness Watch, is OK with violating the act in order to uphold it. Kevin Proescholdt, the organization’s conservation director, told Fiege, “Our focus is restoring Green Mountain to wilderness condition.” Alas, he just undermined efforts to preserve America’s last wild places.

The wilderness gospel, enshrined in the Wilderness Act, points to an area where the earth and its community of life are “untrammeled by man.” That passage, conceived by Seattle’s Polly Dyer, was never meant to blunt proposals such as, for example, the Wild Sky Wilderness, where the human hand is visible. The debate was settled in the 1970s with passage of the Eastern Wilderness Act, in a floor exchange between Sen. James Buckley and a Northwest lawmaker.

Let history and prudence prevail. Don’t touch that lookout.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Nov. 24

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Keillor: Don’t count calories today; count your blessings

Load up your plate with gratitude for the gifts of Providence, from profiteroles to procrastination.

Commentary: Test your knowledge of Thanksgiving

Don’t try talking turkey until your know the facts.

Dionne: Warts and all, reason to be thankful for journalism

How one editor, a World War II vet, encouraged what reporters still strive for in each day’s work.

Milbank: Since you asked, Sarah, this is what I’m thankful for

For starters: I’m thankful for the Founders’ checks and balances that stand between us and despotism.

Having gratitude for others enhances our lives

I am thankful for gratitude because it makes me focus on the… Continue reading

Thankful for care provided by Providence Breast Center

It is always important to take time to count one’s blessings. I… Continue reading

Providence guild’s volunteers make a difference

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and enter this joyful holiday season, I appreciate… Continue reading

Most Read