Money lacking for Pacific Crest Trail

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2003

SNOQUALMIE PASS, Wash. (AP) For the first time in six years, there's a danger that no money will be coming from Congress to protect additional sections of the Pacific Crest Trail in the coming year.

Neither the House nor the Senate included money for the wilderness trail in their versions of the Interior Appropriations Bill.

''It really puts our land-acquisition program in jeopardy,'' Liz Bergeron, executive director of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Pacific Crest Trail Association told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Many of the association's 4,500 members live in Washington state.

The 2,600-mile trail runs through Washington, Oregon and California. Although sections of the trail are pristine and protected by public ownership, other sections are privately owned, which occasionally causes problems.

About 300 miles of the recreational and historic route are considered unprotected, with about 20 miles in Washington considered ''high priority'' on the association's congressional lobbying list, Bergeron said.

Short- and long-term threats to trail access and enjoyment in Washington include clearcuts and continued logging, mining claims, proposed housing developments or cabins, ski-area expansions and possible detours for lack of easements. There has been strong support in Washington state for the trail, which winds through a critical north-south wildlife corridor.

Last week, the Cascades Conservation Partnership, a non-profit organization based in Seattle, announced purchase of the ninth of 10 parcels it has targeted along the trail between clearcut Snoqualmie and Naches passes. The 650-acre parcel at Stirrup Lake near Stampede Pass cost $184,400.

Like other parcels, it was bought by the U.S. Forest Service from Plum Creek Timber Co. with significant contributions from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Plum Creek is willing to sell the 10th parcel, at Stampede Pass, for about $1 million. Conservationists say the deal could be sealed if the fund money is made available.

Trail supporters and local conservationists have credited hard work by the Washington congressional delegation notably Democrats Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Norm Dicks, and Republican Rep. Jennifer Dunn for helping steer fund monies to Washington.

Some land-protection money is included for other areas in Washington, however. The Senate version of the Interior bill, for example, includes nearly $9 million for land-protection projects in Kittitas, King and Pacific counties, Murray's office said.

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