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An Open Letter to Secretary Zinke: National Parks Should be Affordable

December 20th, 2017 | Posted by in Institute News

North Cascades Institute has joined 15 organizations of great diversity and depth in Washington state to keep entrance fees to Olympic and Mount Rainier affordable and to support a better way to fix the repair needs of the Chinese Teapots.

This proposal has gathered a lot of attention across the country, and almost every reaction is negative. For more backstory on the proposed changes to entry fees, you can listen to this clip from NPR’s “Takeaway” which ran recently.

Photos of Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park courtesy of the National Park Service

Below is our official group letter to Secretary Ryan Zinke:

Dear Secretary Zinke,

Our organizations represent tens of thousands of outdoor and national park users in Washington state. Two national parks in Washington, Olympic and Mount Rainier, have been proposed for significant new seasonal fee increases which are of great concern to our members and supporters.

We are concerned that the fee hike 1) is too steep and would price people out of parks they own, 2) is coupled with a budget proposal that would undermine additional fee increases, and 3) would not raise revenue of the scale required to adequately address the backlog, so we urge the Administration to support the National Park Service Legacy Act.

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White Peaks, Bluebird Skies, Flapping Wingbeats

February 27th, 2012 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

As graduate students spending a year at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, winter is a contemplative and focused time – a time of respite from teaching Mountain School programs to work on group projects for our nonprofit and curriculum classes. This work, along with an in-depth research project on a Natural History topic of our choosing, comprises the bulk of our academic studies.

This kind of project-based learning allows for us to structure our studies around time spend outside naturalizing and exploring the winter world of the Cascades. A canoe paddle on Diablo Lake breaks up hours of writing and research while giving us a chance to feel inspired by icicles clinging to rocky cliff ledges near Thunder Knob. A hike up to Buster Brown Field allows us to the breath in the deep, crisp air while listening for golden-crowned kinglets that have just returned from their winter migrations. Feeling reenergized, we are able to focus again on the work at hand.

As much as we cherish these opportunities to explore the natural world just outside our doorsteps, sometimes we need time away in different places altogether where new adventures, learning, and inspiration can occur. Cohort 11 recently returned from just such an adventure: A three-day Winter Graduate Retreat at Mount Rainier National Park and the Skagit Flats.

A red fox curled up in the snow. Above, the moon rising in an alpine glow sky at Mount Rainier. Photo by Jess Newley.

We began the retreat with bluebird skies and a four-hour car ride that landed us at the base of Mount Rainier. Many of us were so eager to begin our adventure at the Park that we drove straight up to Paradise Meadows on the southwest face of the mountain at 5,400 ft. After orienting ourselves to the winter ecology, glaciology, and geologic history of the Park at the Visitor’s Center, graduate students dispersed to explore this singular volcano in the Cascades Range. In just a few short minutes of hiking around, a number of us turned to see a red fox sauntering along the trail beside us. We gasped, looking around in wonder as a second fox, this one a silver morph of the first, came quietly behind it. Both had their noses to the ground, and neither seemed to be paying us, or their proximity to the parking lot of Paradise, any mind. These habituated foxes were simply out for a dusk perusal of their territory and feeding grounds. Having never seen a fox at such close distance myself, I was delighted. We watched them for a time, following their trails into the trees. Looking up, we spotted a porcupine in a subalpine fir above our heads munching on needle buds and dropping pellets onto the snow. An hour at the Park and already the wildlife count was up! Our first day ended with a stunning sunset and alpine glow across the wintery beauty of Mount Rainier.

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