Leave No Virtual Trace: Thanks to social media sharing, mobile phones are now weapons of mass wildland destruction
New ethics needed to address Internet-enabled mobbing of natural areas
Entry 21: April 15, 2018
By Chris Carvalho
Less than a quarter-century ago, recreationists had only paper maps, guidebooks, and word of mouth to discover new places to visit. A few online articles were beginning to appear. Then the Internet snowballed. In 2018 smartphones are almost universal, putting cameras, data access, global positioning, search engines, and instant social media sharing in the hands of nearly every tourist and hiker. This profound change has made it possible to show a sensitive landscape to a multitude of people at the push of a button, complete with driving instructions. The Internet’s viral quality of unlimited replication can multiply one picture to millions of copies and views in a few days. As a result, delicate places have become overrun by selfie-snapping visitors eager to document their trip to a cadre of virtual “followers.” The integration of these technologies into smartphones has weaponized our mobile devices into tools for wildland destruction.
Before the arrival of the Internet and smartphones, we had to do real research to find places to enjoy solitude and the beauty of nature. It cost us money and time to do it, and those costs put a brake on visitation impact that kept wildland overuse in check. In today’s world, finding information is fast and free thanks to search engines such as Google, whose original motto of “Don’t be evil” was dropped in 2015. Libraries, bookstores, and hiking clubs used to be where we went to gather hiking trip ideas. Now, they are largely irrelevant.
Readers shouldn’t get the impression of a conspiracy here. What’s happened is that a number of enabling technologies were invented and combined over a relatively short time period. These developments had the unintended consequence of greatly multiplying the number of people who can advertise and promote the beauty of a natural site to a hungry public anxious to find new destinations, and it’s happened at a speed that far exceeds anything we might have imagined.
If we consider the rapid pace of change in only 25 years in the timeline below, the next 25 years could thrust us into a situation where serious damage to wild places may be irreversible. We need to take action now before it’s too late.
What can be done to address the problem? Hikers now consider mobile phones the Eleventh Essential to summon help in an emergency. What’s missing is guidance on limiting the impact from social media sharing. We need a new addition to the code of outdoor ethics, part of what we know as the Leave No Trace principles. The idea of “Leave no Virtual Trace” with the hashtag #LNVT is that new ethic. We need it because it’s no longer enough to hike, bike, or ride our stock responsibly and with minimal physical impact. Even when we clean up after others, we need to take responsibility for the real-world impact of sharing our experience online, because we can’t be sure what others might do if they visit a spot based on our social media posting. Leave No Virtual Trace means, “Don’t post photos, routes, or coordinates on social media of any place that would be harmed by increased visitation.” The slogan isn’t my creation; it came from a fellow member of an online hiking discussion forum who suggested it in a thread I opened on this topic.
I shared this idea with Dana Watts, the executive director of the Leave No Trace Institute for Outdoor Ethics. Her response was measured, believing that no new principles beyond what's currently adopted are needed. Rather, she felt social media sharing can be related to the organization's existing principles of Leave What You Find and Be Considerate of Other Visitors. I don't think this approach is enough to meaningfully create the changes that are needed. I've included her response below in the Appendix.
Other measures that might help include the following:
As little as ten years ago, recreation officials were worried that hiking was in decline and would never recover, forcing funding cutbacks and reducing the acreage of protected land. In some ways we can be thankful that the rise of social media has produced the opposite problem: too many users. Unfortunately funding cutbacks did arrive, courtesy of governments that have diverted taxpayer dollars from public lands to other wasteful expenditures.
Social media sharing can be good when it rallies public support to protect threatened habitat. What’s lacking today is a nuanced understanding of when to use it properly and when to turn off the smartphone in the interest of keeping secrets a secret. The lure of online popularity is a calculated enticement that social media companies use to eliminate any discretion on the part of those who post. I’m not optimistic that people will learn to resist that temptation.
While some argue that sharing photos is harmless and it’s irresponsible people who do the damage, it’s important to realize that a considerate hiker who leaves no physical trace yet shares the experience online opens a door to impact from any number of users who might view the post and visit later. Social media sharing makes us feel isolated from the impacts of many who follow our footsteps in the future, but that’s a false perception. Opponents of leaving no virtual trace say no one should control the actions of others because it violates one’s personal freedom and responsibility. Yet, most ethical hikers would never invite a group of strangers along on our trip, expecting no harm will come from it. Even if we don’t see the impact from sharing on the day of our trip, a year later it will be obvious what happened. It’s precisely because we can’t control others’ actions that it’s not wise to post our photos online.
Another argument I’ve heard is that asking people to not post will encourage the opposite as an act of defiance. I’m not convinced. Most of us obey “do not photograph” policies at museums, concerts, and other events. Museums originally said it was to limit fading from flash photography, but most cameras today are so sensitive that flash isn’t used any more. The real purpose of these policies is to get people to pay to attend in person. Asking the same thing of hikers in order to limit impact is a more noble justification and it would likely be quite effective.
We need to consider that there have been many threats to wild areas: motorized travel, logging, litter, livestock, energy development, mining, housing, etc. When each was new it wasn't believed to be a problem but when it reached critical mass, the threat was recognized and required regulation to keep it controlled. The impact of Internet social media is quite possibly another in this long line of threats. It's still early, but the Internet's rapid pace of advancement is forcing us to recognize the problem quickly and respond before it's too late. Hopefully ethics rather than regulation can be the solution, but history says otherwise. Because solitude is a resource worth protecting, we all must learn to Leave No Virtual Trace.
Appendix: Dana Watts' response:
December 12, 2017
This topic has been front and center lately for many people, including Leave No Trace. My colleague Ben Lawhon responded recently to a similar request for the creation of an 8th principle that would directly address social media. This response accurately captures The Center's position on the issue and I hope is helpful:
Thank you for your support of Leave No Trace, and for your email regarding the use, and potential consequences, of social media. This is an issue that we have been hearing more and more about over the past year, and it’s something that we’re actively working to address.
There is little question that social media plays a role in promotion of various outdoor locations, and in some cases, has led to significant biophysical and social impacts. It’s logical to ask, “Would this place be as impacted as it is now had it not been for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Pintrest?”[sic] Social media, like any tool or technology, can be a force for good or it can have the opposite effect. What if every social media post also included a message of stewardship? Think how different things would or could be if this were the case.
As technologies have evolved over the past 15 years we have explored the potential impact to the outdoors, and in some cases, have addressed such issues with Leave No Trace. For example, in the early 2000s when handheld GPS units were made more accurate, more reasonably priced, and smaller, there was justifiable concern about how these devices, and associated activities such as geocaching, could potentially impact the outdoors. Another example dates back to 2013 when drones began appearing on (or above) public lands. Drones are relatively inexpensive and easy to fly. As such, there were genuine and valid concerns about the use of such devices on public lands, which can impact solitude and wildlife, and present privacy and safety concerns. A final example from just a few weeks ago involves the use of personal locator beacons such as the SPOT or the ARC ResQLink, which can be life-saving devices or lead to costly, impactful, and unnecessary rescue operations where the user has simply run out of beer. In each case, we have been asked to provide specific Leave No Trace guidance by adding additional Principles. In some cases, we have provided guidance (geocaching/GPS use) under the existing Principles and in others we’re still working on the most appropriate strategy for addressing issues arising from such rapidly evolving technology.
Because the current incarnation of the 7 Leave No Trace Principles have been in place for nearly 20 years, we don’t take discussions of significant changes lightly. Such discussions are imperative at times but also need to be strategic, thoughtful, and measured. In the case of addressing appropriate use of social media, we feel that it is possible and necessary to tailor existing Leave No Trace information for this purpose rather than creating a new Principle out of whole cloth. There are two current Leave No Trace Principles under which social media can be addressed: Leave What You Find and Be Considerate of Other Visitors. For each Principle, the message about social media will encourage outdoor enthusiasts to stop and think about their actions and the potential consequences of posting pictures, GPS data, detailed maps, etc. to social media. Furthermore, we urge people to think about both the protection and sustainability of the resource and the visitors who come after them. We generally refrain from explicitly telling people what to do in the outdoors, especially in the context of more ethical issues such as the use of social media. The primary reason for this is that Leave No Trace isn't black or white, right or wrong. It's a framework for making good decisions about enjoying the outdoors responsibly, regardless of how one chooses to do so. That said, if we can simply encourage folks to stop and think about the potential impacts and associated consequences of a particular action, we can go a long way towards ensuring protection of our shared recreational resources.
As we have thought through this issue we’re left wondering what the future will bring in terms of technology, communication, and outdoor recreation. Will posting pictures to social media be a thing of the past in five years? None of us know. However, we do know that it is currently contributing to some level of impact in the out-of-doors, which is something we are actively addressing. Not only will we encourage responsible use of social media but we will also embolden and inspire social media users to promote and provide a message of Leave No Trace stewardship with any and all relevant post about the outdoors. Social media, if used the right way, is a powerful tool that can motivate a nation of outdoor advocates to enthusiastically and collectively take care of the places they cherish.
Please know that we are actively working to address the intersection of social media and the outdoors through the appropriate channels. As such, we welcome further input, discussion, and constructive feedback.
Again, we appreciate your sincere commitment to Leave No Trace. It is individuals like you who are making a real difference for our shared lands.
Read more from the Leave No Trace Institute on this topic at their blog.
 Manjoo, Farhad. “Jurassic Web: The Internet of 1996 is almost unrecognizable compared with what we have today.” http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2009/02/jurassic_web.html
 Basu, Tanya. “New Google Parent Company Drops ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Motto” Time. http://time.com/4060575/alphabet-google-dont-be-evil/
 Carvalho, Chris. “The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding.” http://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=24810
Knepper, Brent. "Instagram is Loving Nature to Death." The Outline. https://theoutline.com/post/2450/instagram-is-loving-nature-to-death. November 7, 2017
Solomon, Christopher. "Is Instagram Ruining the Great Outdoors?" Outside. https://www.outsideonline.com/2160416/instagram-ruining-great-outdoors
McHugh, Molly. "Loved to Death: How Instagram Is Destroying Our Natural Wonders." The Ringer. November 3, 2016. https://www.theringer.com/2016/11/3/16042448/instagram-geotagging-ruining-parks-f65b529d5e28#.evqrskkyg
Chris Carvalho has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a photographer and blogger on public policy, environmental, and conservation topics.
Forest Service, Hiking Nonprofits Meet to Discuss Eagle Creek Fire Recovery Effort
Nature and funding largest uncertainties on path to future of trail system
By Chris Carvalho
Entry 20: January 12, 2018
This article was updated January 19, 2018 with new information supplied by the Forest Service.
On December 1, 2017 the Forest Service held a meeting to discuss recovery efforts in the Columbia Gorge in the wake of the Eagle Creek Fire. At the meeting were representatives from the Forest Service including Stan Hinatsu and Dawn Stender. Oregon State Parks sent a representative. Also in attendance were nonprofit representatives Roberta Cobb from the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), Ryan Ojerio from the Washington Trails Association (WTA), Maegan Jossy from Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and Steve Kruger, Jaime English, and Tom Kloster from Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO). There was also a prior meeting held in Cascade Locks in October. Together, the group will be called the Gorge Trails Recovery Team.
The focus of discussion was how nonprofits can work with the Forest Service to aid in trail recovery and the role of federal funds in the effort. A follow-up meeting is planned for January 2018. The Forest Service is on track to complete assessments of affected trails by the end of 2017. Trail repair work will wait until spring 2018 at the earliest, until the full impact of winter weather has ended. Click here to read more.
Wake Up And Smell the Smoke
The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire teaches lessons in fire policy and involving the public in crafting it.
Entry 19: October 19, 2017
In the classical Greek legend of Pandora's Box, Zeus was angry with Prometheus for giving people fire. He sent a beautiful woman, Pandora, down to earth with a box, saying it must never be opened. She married Prometheus' brother. Curiosity eventually overcame Pandora and she opened the box, unleashing troubles of every kind on humans. It was the gift of fire that started it all. Click here to read more...
Everyone's a Winner: The 2017 Solar Eclipse
Photographing the Great American Eclipse of 2017 from Central Oregon
Entry 18: September 9, 2017
Depending on who you talked to, the 2017 solar eclipse ranged from a spiritual experience to the media event of the century, or possibly Armageddon. What you wanted to see in it, you found, much like a Rorschach test given to millions of people at the same time. For me, it was the chance of a lifetime and not to be missed. We made reservations a year in advance for a motel in Redmond, Oregon so we could be within the path of totality as Portland is just outside it. Already rooms were getting hard to find. By June we heard all kinds of dire predictions of fuel shortages, traffic jams, food stores and restaurants selling out, cell phone outages, and power failures. Newspapers said that over one million tourists would visit Oregon for the event, causing unprecedented strain on communities fortunate enough to be in the darkest part of the moon's shadow for one or two brief minutes. Click here to read more...
Forest Service Hoards $14 Million from Recreation Fees; Trails Suffer
An Embarrassment of Riches, Poverty of Programs
Entry 17: October 2, 2016.
Hikers in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (CRGNSA) are familiar with the Northwest Forest Pass, a $30 annual permit required at many sites on federal land. The fee program operates in Washington and Oregon, with collections allocated to participating regional forests. Revenues in the Scenic Area have climbed steadily from $100,000 in 2003 to $441,000 in 2015, a 7% annual growth trend. Click here or on the chart below to read more...
An Open Letter to Governor Jay Inslee
Serious flaws in Vancouver oil-by-rail terminal risk analysis create false impression of safety
Entry 16: June 16, 2016.
The recent derailment and fire of a train carrying crude oil in Mosier, Oregon led me to question the reasoning in the draft environmental impact statement for the Vancouver Energy oil terminal and conduct an independent review. What I found was a number of flaws, errors, and omissions in the risk analysis. If the terminal is built, we can expect to see an oil release event in the Columbia Gorge once every 18 months according to industry data. The letter below to Washington Governor Jay Inslee explains what I found. Click here to read more...
A Map Salem Doesn't Want You to See
Is Portland the reason Sherman County has one of the highest cancer rates in the nation?
Entry 15: February 14, 2016.
Sometimes a map is great for improving one's perspective. Residents of Portland, Oregon are upset about recently discovered high levels of arsenic and cadmium at several hotspots in the city, some located near artisan glass manufacturers using the toxic metals to color their glass. As a cancer survivor, I too am angry at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for its pro-business attitude that values corporate profits far above human health, even though corporations don't get cancer.
While I care deeply about the situation and want the DEQ to serve the public's interest first and businesses' second, I found something startling that puts Portland's problem into a wider perspective. My natural suspicion was that cancer rates in Portland would be the highest in the state, owing to the greater concentration of industry, automobiles, and their pollution. I was wrong. Here is a map of cancer incidence (all types and all races) in Oregon showing how cancer rates vary by county.
The map comes from the National Cancer Institute website and one can easily generate a map for any state and most cancer types, categorized by race and sex if desired. The tri-county Portland metro area (Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties) has an average annual incidence rate of 445 cases per 100,000 population. That's slightly below the national average of 454. The average rate for Sherman (dark red), Gilliam, and Morrow counties (from left to right above, with Portland General Electric's Boardman coal plant in Morrow County and Arlington's Columbia Ridge Landfill in Gilliam, serving Portland) is 540 cases per 100,000. That's 21 percent higher than Portland. Sherman County's rate of 587 is an atrocious 32% higher and ranks as the 14th highest of 2,919 US counties with reported data.
While the outrage in Portland over arsenic and cadmium is certainly justifiable, there should be even greater outrage about the situation in Morrow, Gilliam, and Sherman counties. The coal plant (slated for closure in 2020) and landfill deserve careful scrutiny to find out if they are causing these high cancer rates. While the lack of regulation of arsenic and cadmium is troubling, our state authorities need to devote even more attention to understanding and doing something about cancer rates in the rural counties east of us, especially if Portland is exporting its cancer risk there along with its solid waste and coal-fired power emissions. Note: It may not be only Oregon's problem. The Roosevelt Landfill, of similar size, is located in Washington just across the Columbia from Arlington. It handles waste from all over Washington.
The evidence that Portland could be the reason for these rates is admittedly circumstantial. But the high rates in these rural counties are not. I have sent a letter to Oregon's state epidemiologist asking whether this merits concern and will post an update on her response.
Every time we in Portland throw out the trash, turn on a light, or charge our iPhones, we should thank the residents of the counties downwind from Boardman. If they are giving their lives for us to have our electricity and garbage service, will we do anything for them in return?
Chris Carvalho has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a photographer and blogger on public policy, environmental, and conservation topics.
Eat Organic, or Die
Mounting evidence suggests glyphosate in food supply linked to serious diseases
Entry 14: January 18, 2016.
I’ve always trusted our foods to be safe to eat. In the summer of 2015, that changed. After some meals I felt miserable, with intense pain in the small intestine. I feared I might be experiencing a return of the cancer I’d been treated for in 2011. That turned out to be wrong, thankfully. After further research and experimentation with my diet, I’ve concluded the pain is from emerging contaminants in the food supply that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be monitoring and regulating. The contaminants are glyphosate and surfactant additives, used in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup® and similar products from other manufacturers. Click here to read more...
Heat Wave Cooks Washington's Monarchs
Record heat decimates fall migrating population
Entry 13: August 19, 2015.
In mid-August, a group of volunteers (including myself) planned to work with Professor David James of Washington State University to tag monarch butterflies at a site near the town of Vantage and monitor their fall migration. The work was cancelled due to poor emergence of the fall migrating population of butterflies. According to Dr. James, only about three potential migrant monarchs per hour were observed around August 17th and 18th. It's a devastating count compared to the same time in 2014, when around 22 per hour were observed.
It's the first year since he's been monitoring the site that the population has declined in August. He believes this is due to a heat wave that happened at the same time that the first generation of butterflies was due to emerge as adults at the site in late June and early July.
A WSU climate recording station 2 miles from the Vantage site recorded an average maximum temperature from June 26-July 10 of 103.1ºF. Every day during this period exceeded 100ºF with a maximum of 109º on June 28.
According to Dr. James, "These temperatures exceed optimal temperatures for Monarchs by a significant margin and appear to have had a detrimental effect on population development and survival."
Monarchs face many threats to their future as a species: habitat loss, loss of milkweed from rapidly expanding herbicide use on farms, deforestation at their overwintering sites in Mexico, and now it appears that climate change may pose yet another threat.
I will follow this story and write more as additional information becomes available.
Oregon's Liquid Gold
Bottled water is big business in Oregon, and the public is the loser
Entry 12: April 23, 2015
It rains a lot in Oregon. So it seemed that the Nestlé proposal to bottle a little bit of spring water in the Columbia Gorge wasn't a big deal. It's only half a cubic foot per second, and one tenth of the total volume coming from Oxbow Springs. It creates 50 jobs and property taxes for the struggling town of Cascade Locks. What could possibly be wrong with that? Click here to read more...
Anatomy of a Clearcut
Entry 11: February 8, 2015
SDS Lumber is a timber company operating out of the town of Bingen, Washington. At the end of 2011, it logged 110 acres of land above the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail in Mosier. The site consists of two parcels, about one third owned by SDS and the remaining two thirds owned by the Warm Springs Tribe. Trees on the site were burned in the 2009 Microwave fire, and a clearcut operation was conducted to salvage the burned timber.
The resulting deforested area was an eyesore that appeared seemingly overnight and angered residents, who had no idea it was happening. The site was on land in the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area designated as General Management Area (GMA) Open Space, where timber harvest was thought to be prohibited. The logged area was visible from towns, trails, and the major highways in both Oregon and Washington. The historic highway trail's character was seriously impacted (Figure 1). Click here or on the photo below to read more and take a virtual tour of the clearcut up close...
U-Develop Closes: The Decline of Photographic Printing and Why Paper Prints Matter
Entry 10: January 11, 2015
Sadly, the preferred lab I've used for printing since 2000, Udevelop/Digicraft in Portland, Oregon closed its doors on December 23, 2014. I've worked with them over those years and together we navigated the transition from traditional darkroom enlargements to digital optical printing on photographic paper. But the handwriting has been on the wall for several years now that there is a shakeout of fine-art print shops in progress. They weren't the first lab to close, nor will they be the last. But the world lost a great resource for making and seeing the beauty of art photography. Click here to read more.
This Picture Is Illegal
Proposed regulations to require Special Use Permits for commercial filming/photography
Entry 9: September 26, 2014
The Beatles, "Taxman"
Yes, this picture is illegal. It was taken while US Forest Service interim directive 2709.11-2013.1 was in effect and is (gasp!) For Sale. I was unaware I needed a Special Use Permit just to carry a camera into a wilderness area, take the photo, and show it to you so you could appreciate the beauty of wilderness free of charge, and if inspired, buy a copy to hang on your wall. The Forest Service is taking comments on this policy, so I wrote the letter below. Please add your voice and support free access for photography. Without a backlash from the public, we'll all suffer a great loss as our government erects another barrier to appreciating nature. Click here to read more.
Open Letter to Mt. Hood National Forest
Improved bridge needed to stop hiker deaths
Entry 8: August 22, 2014
Dear Ms. Wade:
I'm going to take some heat from the Forest Service for not sharing this letter privately. However, I've watched this situation evolve since I moved to Oregon in 1981 and hiked to Ramona Falls at least once a year, and I'm fed up. Public pressure is the only way to change it. On August 12, 2014 Brent A. Ludwig, a 34-year-old man visiting from New Lenox, Illinois, was crossing the Sandy River on the Ramona Falls trail during a severe thunderstorm that poured around an inch and a half of rain in less than an hour on the slopes of Mt. Hood above the trail's bridge, where he was crossing with a group of 19 others. A flash flood washed away the bridge, and he was carried to his death as his wife looked on. The day of Ludwig's death I was planning a hike on Mt. Hood, but canceled it when I checked weather radar and saw severe thunderstorm warnings on the mountain.
This isn't the first time. In August 2004 Sarah Bishop, who was a skilled hiker, died under similar conditions in another rainstorm. Click here to read more.
The Eighth Wedge
Entry 7: November 7, 2012
If you have read Al Gore's book "An Inconvenient Truth," Page 280 has a chart of seven wedges representing different approaches to controlling carbon emissions contributing to climate change. The chart is based on a paper by Robert H. Socolow and Stephen W. Pacala published in the journal Science. The paper proposed seven strategies to level off emissions: energy efficiency, renewables, clean coal, forests, soils (stop deforestation and agricultural tilling), fuel switch (coal to gas, oil to heat pump, etc.), and nuclear power.
Source: Pacala, S., and R. Socolow. "Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies." Science 305 (August 13, 2004):968-972.
The premise of the paper is that there is a way to control carbon emissions through these techniques that could successfully mitigate human impact on climate. However, even though the paper talks about current technologies, there are many uncertainties in the success of these strategies. Clean coal, for instance, could be too costly to implement and it relies on unproven technology such as carbon capture and storage. But what if we were overlooking an eighth wedge, a strategy that doesn't require any new technology at all?
Click here to read more on this article
Roadside Trash: Causes and Solutions
Entry 6: March 29, 2012 (updated October 23, 2012)
For several years I've picked up trash along different stretches of roadway. I do it to make the world a better place and as a way to do exercise that produces a benefit to society rather than just to burn calories. Trash pickup is an endless job though; it's hard sometimes to realize that there's no way to make permanent progress.
While doing all that work I have plenty of time to think and I've come up with some ideas that might make a dent in roadside litter. It started with analyzing what gets thrown away. Much of the trash comes from products involved with addiction, such as beer cans, liquor bottles, and cigarette boxes and butts. A lesser amount is fast-food packaging and cups, followed by food packaging from the grocery, and finally random non-food items. Below is what I found on a recent cleanup trip along Old Highway 8 near Lyle, Washington. This road is near a lake, so there's a disproportionate amount of fishing items such as bait cups. Other than that, it's fairly typical. Contrary to what most think, I've never found drugs or syringes over the several years I've done this work. We hear about it on the news a lot, but most trash is quite boring.
Just like on TV commercials, I tried to turn most items so their corporate logos are visible. Click here to read more.
Washington Parks' Discover Pass: The $10 Picnic
Entry 5: March 8, 2012
"They took all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum / And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em." -Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi"On March 7, 2012 I visited Beacon Rock State Park in Washington to hike the Hamilton Mountain trail. I knew there was a new user fee for visitors because Washington is facing a budget shortfall and wanted park users to pay up. What shocked me was the $10 fee for one day's use at Washington parks. This is called the "Discover Pass." What it looks like to me is that Washington is doing everything it can to discourage people from using their state parks, especially if the visitors aren't wealthy. Perhaps a better name for this fee is the "Discourage Pass." Click here to read more.
Wind Turbines Blow Away Gorge Views
Entry 4: July 2, 2011 (updated January 11, 2013)
In view of the monumental damage this decision will cause to the region's scenery by opening up wind power development to all comers, I think it's time to rename Whistling Ridge to Gregoire Ridge:
Making Conservation Dollars Work: