Look to a model of cooperation in protecting our natural treasures

It was encouraging to read about the recent story reported in the Hood River News regarding the renewed efforts to protect Mount Hood. At a time when most issues are becoming more polarized, it is great to close the year out with this good news story of people coming together to protect the mountain we all love.

The Hood River News story highlighted the recent compromise that will prevent logging from happening at the Vista Ridge trailhead. The compromise resulted in thinning other nearby areas instead, as an outcome of discussions starting with the Hood River Collaborative Stewardship Group, but ultimately involving the Forest Service, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs and others.

Living in the backyard of Oregon’s most iconic peak, we understand its importance for clean water, fish, wildlife and its valuable recreation opportunities. We are fortunate to have such a fine quality of life in the Hood River Valley. We value what Mount Hood and the surrounding natural areas provides the state and beyond. But with this quality of life comes the responsibility to protect these natural landscapes.

In 2009 legislation passed congress that protected some important areas around Mount Hood. While this bill accomplished much, there were several key areas like Boulder Lake, Tamanawas Falls, and Bluegrass Ridge that slipped through the cracks and/or lacked enough consensus to be included in that bill. It’s great to see people from all sides finding the right balance between protecting the most important natural areas and maintaining access to important biking trails and other infrastructure. Clearly a lot of homework has been done to resolve the unfinished business and has led to support from a diverse set of interests ranging from the Hood River Valley Residents Committee to Mount Hood Meadows, Timberline, the International Mountain Biking Association and Oregon Wild.

The cooperation between Wilderness advocates and mountain bikers, two groups with an adversarial history, to protect Mount Hood is an inspiring example of people who may not see eye to eye coming together with the common purpose of protecting Mount Hood. We do not have to look very far into the past to find other examples. Protections for Mount Hood in 2009 resulted from cooperation between Rep. Greg Walden, Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Senator Ron Wyden working with then-Senator Gordon Smith. These two Democrats and two Republicans realized that safeguarding Mount Hood transcended partisan politics.

We are in dire need of more cases like this. The rancor and rhetoric of Washington, D.C., seems to perennially reach new heights, and people are becoming increasingly discouraged with our political process. But our own Mount Hood could provide the counter-narrative. With our current Congressional delegation well situated to guide the “unfinished business” of the Mount Hood Wilderness Bill into law, we could begin setting a new precedent for good will and cooperation. The story of next year’s new Congress being broken and dysfunctional may seem prewritten, but by rediscovering our common purpose to protect our natural treasures and working together to protect Mount Hood, we can prove that it is not predestined.

Polly Wood is its President of the Hood River Valley Residents Committee which is tasked to protect Hood River Valley’s farm and forest land and the livability of its cities and rural communities.