Contested Terrain
North Cascades National Park Service Complex: An Administrative History
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Chapter 10:

In an ideal world, creating a wilderness park means drawing boundaries around a pristine landscape to ensure its preservation. In reality, this is not as easily accomplished. North Cascades was an amalgam of recreation areas and national park, making the singular mission of wilderness protection more complicated. Recreation areas and national parks had different purposes. In the case of the North Cascades complex, the recreation areas contained permanent residents, artificial lakes, dams, and power plants, and they also offered a variety of other uses deemed inappropriate in national parks. On the other hand, North Cascades National Park was, like all parks, intended for higher uses: preservation of nature in its original state, and human appreciation of this wilderness condition. Yet one theme connecting the management of both recreation areas and national park was the acquisition of private lands.

In the park complex, private lands came in a number of forms, from mining claims to private residences and commercial resorts. During the park complex's first decade of management, park managers set about the task of purchasing private lands, the use of which may have posed a threat to the preservation of park resources, or the acquisition of which would aid in the administration of the park complex. In the late 1970s and 1980s agency officials renewed their efforts to acquire private lands and carry the program forward. In doing so, they encountered some of their greatest controversies. These controversies stemmed from the threat of renewed mining activities in the park as well as legal challenges to the Park Service's land acquisition policies in Stehekin.

To better understand this issue, it is helpful to first look at why there was an issue over private land in the first place. Typically, as in the case of North Cascades, Congress created national parks before it secured ownership of, or cleared title to, any inholdings. Doing so prior to the establishment of a park would have been time consuming and expensive. The saving clause in the language of most, if not all, park legislation was that the creation of a park area was subject to "valid existing rights." This meant that after a park's establishment, Park Service officials set about the task of purchasing private lands, the use of which may have posed a threat to preservation. Acquisition was often a delicate process of reconciling park needs with those of private landowners. If done quickly, acquisition could keep land prices low and thus costs to the government down. If done well, acquisition could keep public perceptions of the Park Service positive, aiding in further land purchases and promoting a positive view of the agency. [1]

Inevitably there were problems. This was especially true where the interpretation of the park's legislation, particularly a park area like North Cascades and the Stehekin country, continued to be the subject of some debate well after the park act was passed. In the first place, when a parkland was created with valid existing mineral rights, conflicts surfaced between the public's interest in the parkland's preservation and the interest of the mineral claimants in mineral development. [2] In the second place, rarely did Congress appropriate enough money for the purchase of all private lands in national parks. North Cascades was not exception. Prior to the 1960s, this did not always present a problem because most parklands were carved from other federal lands and required only a transfer from one public agency to the other. In other cases, state governments might become involved in the purchase of private lands for the Park Service. Similarly, philanthropists might step forward, as in the case of Grand Teton National Park, and buy the land for and transfer ownership to the service. By the 1960s, however, Congress began creating more parks from private lands, necessitating a new approach. The old approach had been to "wait for willing sellers" unless threats to resources were imminent. The new approach was that each area's enabling legislation guided the process of land acquisition. [3]

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the Park Service's approach was similar: first the agency would buy land from willing sellers, and then acquire lands needed for park management and use through condemnation. The situation was slightly different at North Cascades, given the political controversy and compromises surrounding the creation of the park complex (in particular Lake Chelan NRA). The area's legislation instructed the Park Service to buy lands from willing sellers only and not to purchase lands unless it was to protect an area from an incompatible use. In other words, it would not use condemnation as a general tool of land acquisition.

One can gain a sense of how important land acquisition was in the new park's management by the fact that acquisition preceded the completion of most formal planning documents and the implementation of other park programs. Complications arose in this process, however, that were common throughout the park system. Congress authorized new parks faster than it authorized appropriations for land acquisition. This led to delays in land purchases and the related problem of inflated land prices -- one reason why the Park Service used up its appropriation so quickly in Stehekin. Problems also surfaced with the Park Service's treatment of private land owners. During the 1970s, some land owners charged the agency with mistreatment; its acquisition program, they contended, was forcing inholders out of parks in which they were legally allowed. In other cases, agency officials were accused of harassing land owners until they sold out. Addressing these concerns, a series of General Accounting Office (GAO) reports, including one assessing the agency's practices in Stehekin, concluded that the Park Service had purchased too much land rather than employing other forms of protection such as easements and zoning. These latter methods would have allowed private owners to remain inside park areas. [4]

The result of these controversies was a new Park Service policy toward land acquisitions. In 1979, the Carter administration required that all parks have land acquisitions plans; these set forth overall strategies for the agency's acquisition program before it began purchasing land. The plans would provide a general order for land purchases, clarify what interests would be acquired -- such as full fee or scenic easement -- and identify what were compatible and incompatible uses on private lands. In doing so, land owners would know what was an acceptable use of their lands within the larger park or recreation area setting. More than one hundred plans were produced under the new policy for existing park units, North Cascades among them, over the next several years. Still more changes to the land acquisition program came in 1981 when Secretary of the Interior James Watt took office. Watt tightened the policy on land purchases even further; he replaced the land acquisition plans with land protection plans. The main intent of these new plans was that their programs were to be cost effective to the federal government. Put another way, they needed to find other "practical" means -- whenever possible -- other than federal purchase to protect lands within park areas. What followed was the development of a more methodical process (set down in more plans) to determine that federal funds were spent to buy only the "most critical parcels." [5]


A Story of Two Mines

One of the main priorities of the land protection program was to acquire all of the patented mining claims within the park complex. Dating to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mining in the North Cascades was a colorful subject in the region's history. Here, as elsewhere in the American West, hopeful prospectors flooded into the range looking for its hidden wealth of gold and other valuable minerals. Leaving more often than not with empty pockets and little to show for their hard life in the extreme mountain conditions, prospectors left a legacy in the landscape; it was a legacy of environmental conquest as well as their own failure. River beds and mountain slopes bore the physical scars of prospecting and excavation. Mining machinery lay scattered among the ruins. Nevertheless, the hope of finding new wealth persisted. That hope persisted in both patented and unpatented mining claims. When the park complex was established in 1968, there were ninety-one patented mining claims, amounting to approximately 1,660 acres, all of which were south of Highway 20, and there were some 7,000 unpatented claims throughout the park complex. Despite the large number of unpatented claims, the most serious threat from renewed mining activity came from the patented claims. The owner of a patented claim, having proven his claim contained a commercially viable mineral deposit, had full fee ownership of the minerals and the surface. More importantly, he had the legal right to develop his claim for any purpose. [6]

Throughout the early 1970s, agency officials carried out a rather successful program of acquisition or invalidation of unpatented mineral claims. But they were less successful in purchasing the patented claims that presented the greatest threat to the park's wild setting. These claims were in the areas of Cascade Pass and Thunder Creek. In 1971, North Cascades managers gave these claims their highest priority, but before they could negotiate and purchase these clusters of claims, the original appropriation for land acquisition was all but exhausted. Around this same time, the owners of the Skagit Queen mining claims, located in the upper Thunder Creek basin, voiced their interest in developing their claims. The claims stretched for several miles along both sides of Skagit Queen Creek, a tributary of Thunder Creek, below Boston Glacier. Park managers considered this drainage "one of the most beautiful areas" within the park, and its "destruction...for commercial purposes would strike a devastating blow to one of the most spectacular areas in the Pacific Northwest." [7]

It had been nearly seventy years since the area had been "improved" for mining. In the first decade of this century, the Skagit Queen Consolidated Mining Company and later the British Mining Company set up mining operations. Surface developments included a power house, a barn, assay office, pumphouse, and machine shop, among other structures. Subsurface developments were never as impressive as those on the surface, but they did include a 670-foot crosscut adit. The operation itself, however, proved less successful than the construction of the mining facilities. By 1915 the mine owners had patented most of the property, most likely with the intent of selling out, and subsequently abandoning the developments to the elements.

But in 1972, the Skagit Queen claims suddenly became a valuable commodity, not so much as a storehouse of minerals but as a piece of real estate. The government needed to purchase these private inholdings in order to protect the park's wilderness character, and the current owner of the mining claims, Glenn Widing, believed the government would pay a substantial amount for his land. He was disappointed. In the summer and fall of that year, the Park Service's mineral appraisals determined that the mining claims had no mineral value, and furthermore, that the traces of minerals discovered were of insufficient quantity and quality to show a commercial value for ownership. Moreover, contractors for the Park Service determined that the timber values of the claims were high, but the costs of removing the timber from such a remote location made the net value of the timber nearly nothing after harvest. Finally, without mineral or timber values, the land was appraised at $168, 700. This was hardly the figure, it seems, Widing had hoped for when he purchased the claims from the Natural Resources Development Corporation, which retained an interest in the mining claims by contracting with Widing to buy the property for a low down payment. When the Park Service offered to purchase the claims for their appraised value in January 1973, Widing turned it down. [8]

In response to this "unsatisfactory price," Widing and his associates informed the Park Service that they planned to conduct more "exploratory work" that summer, their apparent intent was to determine for themselves whether the minerals of the Skagit Queen claims would pay. What followed were two proposals -- or veiled threats -- aimed at forcing the government to increase substantially its offer for the claims. The first of these proposals was to construct a road up Thunder Creek in order to bring heavy equipment to the site for mineral exploration. The road, naturally, would have to cross national park land and into the park's proposed wilderness area. Under federal mining law, mining claim holders retained a right of "reasonable" access to their properties within national parks if their claims existed prior to the park's establishment. For this reason, the Park Service might have been obligated to grant such a permit. Park officials, faced with the possibility of such wholesale destruction to this wild region, planned to condemn the land to prevent the road's construction. Yet before using condemnation procedures, agency managers had a relatively new management tool at their disposal: the environmental impact statement (EIS) required under the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In January 1973, Superintendent Lowell White informed Widing and company that before construction could proceed they would have to provide information for an EIS. Expensive and time consuming, the EIS provides a detailed statement describing the proposed action -- or project -- taking place on federal land, its direct and indirect impacts to the natural environment, the cumulative and long-term effects, alternatives to the proposal (which includes a "no-action" alternative), and identifies any irreversible impacts to natural resources. In short, the EIS, with its comprehensive analysis and public disclosure, could conceivably stall or halt a project altogether.

Perhaps for these reasons, Widing and the Natural Resources Development Corporation met the request with silence. Two years later, in January 1975, they submitted another request for a permit to move ahead with mineral exploration and development, having conducted assessments of ore samples the previous year. Apparently, these samples boosted their interest in the value of the mining claims. Once again, a main feature of the project was the construction of a road up Thunder Creek. And once more, Widing and his associates did not comply with the park's request for information to prepare an EIS. As if to force the Park Service's hand, the owners of the claims flew a crew by helicopter into the millsite that summer to survey the claims and conduct further mineral assessments -- all under careful watch of park rangers. [9]

This work led to the second proposal that seemed intent on pushing the Park Service to pay a higher price for the claims. The proposal had nothing to do with developing the minerals but logging the timber from the mining claims. In late September 1975, Widing and company filed an application with Washington State's Department of Natural Resources to log 220 acres of their claims. The state required the application under the Forest Practices Act, even though the mining claims were privately owned. Similar to their road proposal, the claim owners failed to provide enough information about the proposed logging operations. And a month later, the state, the claim owners, and Superintendent White met to discuss the project. The owners, again, seemed less interested in the logging proposal itself as they did in the threat it posed, for they reduced the amount of land they would log to twenty acres. They also renewed their request to construct a road up Thunder Creek, to aid in the removal of timber and to bring in heavy equipment to the site. [10]

The requests for permission to log and to construct a road -- and thus develop the mining site -- appeared to be more a threat than a reality. By the end of 1975, the owners of the mining claims had not submitted more information to the state in order to receive their logging permit. Under the state's version of NEPA, the logging project might require an EIS, another potentially expensive and time-consuming roadblock. Moreover, Widing and his associates had not supplied enough information about their proposed road up Thunder Creek, and park managers assured them that the road project would require an EIS, since it would enter the park's proposed wilderness area and have such "a major impact." Preparing the report would require a minimum of a year, given the project's extent and the fact that surveys could not begin until the snowpack melted in the late spring or early summer. [11]

Whether or not the owners of the Skagit Queen claims actually intended to go through with developing a mine did not matter. The plain fact was that the Park Service could not force the owners off their property by legislative or administrative means. Besides mining, the owners of the claims could not only log the land, but under existing regulations they could also subdivide it for private residences or a commercial backcountry tourist operation. Above all, the threat of mining itself required action. In December 1975, Regional Director John Rutter informed Representative Lloyd Meeds about the issue. The problem, Rutter suggested, was very simple. The only way to solve the threat of mining up Thunder Creek was to acquire the claims through purchase or condemnation. Both approaches required money. (To carry out condemnation, the government needed to have sufficient funds to cover the cost of the land itself.) As of early 1973, however, North Cascades was out of acquisition funds authorized under its enabling legislation. [12] Most likely, Meeds carried this message to Congress, for on October 1, 1976, the president signed into law an omnibus bill that raised the appropriation ceilings for land acquisitions in a number of national parks, and North Cascades was among them. The law granted the park an additional $1 million for land acquisition because the original estimate from 1967 "did not include funds for acquisition of outstanding mineral interests." More importantly, the central reason for the increase was "to forestall" the "imminent" threat of mining in the Thunder Creek Basin. [13]

Meanwhile, in 1976 Congress passed another law, the Mining in the Parks Act, that would allow the Park Service to regulate mines on national park lands. The act's purposes were broad and general, stating that "all mining operations in areas of the National Park System should be conducted so as to prevent or minimize damage to the environment and other resource values." Park managers found little comfort in the law's language or its provisions for strict regulations of mining activities in national parks. The implication was that mining would happen in North Cascades, though the law enabled the Secretary of the Interior to close all units of the park system to further mineral location and mining entry under the Mining Law of 1872. The law also empowered the secretary to declare as invalid all existing unpatented claims within units of the park system not properly recorded by September 28, 1977. [14]

Condemnation was the preferred procedure for dealing with the Skagit Queen claims. In 1978, the Park Service initiated condemnation procedures, and three years later, on September 16, 1981, the court proceedings ended in favor of the agency. The court awarded the Skagit Queen mining claim owners $277,000 for approximately 645 acres. "This action," wrote Superintendent Keith Miller, "assures the visual and resource integrity of this superb area located in the heart of the North Cascades National Park." [15]

Following the resolution of the Skagit Queen controversy, park managers continued to pursue the acquisition of the remaining private lands within the park. Fee acquisition, according to the park's 1983 draft land protection plan, was the "only alternative that adequately satisfies the requirement for complete protection" and preservation of the park's resources. There were six patented mining claims, two mill sites, and one mineral right making up the sole remaining private interests within the park; they encompassed approximately 236 acres. The claims were clustered in and near Thunder Creek, Cascade River, Boston Basin, Bridge Creek, and Lake Anne. [16] Of these, park managers rated the Thunder Creek Mines (or Dorothy claims as they were also known) as their highest priority for acquisition. There were at least two reasons for this. First, this one property totaled around 126 acres; this accounted for more than half of the remaining private lands. The property was made up of six patented claims of approximately 121 acres and one mill site of approximately 5 acres. Second, like the Skagit Queen claims, this property was located in the park's proposed wilderness, and its potential development now represented the wilderness' greatest threat. By comparison, the other claims were much smaller and the likelihood of their development did not seem as imminent. [17]


Like the Skagit Queen mine, the Thunder Creek mines were a going concern early in this century in the upper Thunder Creek drainage. In 1921, the Thunder Creek Mining Company was issued patents for its claims -- the Dorothy claims -- and mill site. The company erected a number of structures as part of its operation and pressed hard for access to the site. In 1929, the Forest Service issued the company a special use permit to construct a roadway up Thunder Creek so trucks could reach the mine. The company also considered a more ambitious plan to construct a narrow gauge railroad from Diablo up Thunder Creek to its property. Neither project was ever realized, and mining had long since ceased on the Dorothy claims. [18] The idea of mining, however, has carried on, especially after the establishment of North Cascades National Park. And in the early 1980s, the new owners of the claims embarked on their own mining venture.

Similar to the controversy over the Skagit Queen claims, this mining venture aimed to profit from rising property values more than it did from the mineral wealth contained in the property itself. After all, the Dorothy claims were surrounded by a national park and some of the country's most spectacular wild country, and the new owners expected great returns on their investment. To protect this pristine landscape, they believed, the government would be willing to pay a substantial sum. Proving the property's value, though, became something of a life-long mission for the mine's owners, for the gulf between what the Park Service and what the owners believed was a "fair" market value for the property was as wide and deep as the Thunder Creek drainage itself. Trying to bridge this gap would lead to one of the park complex's longest cases involving mining properties.

The story begins with an old mining company, the Thunder Creek Silver-Lead Mines, Inc., dissolving in 1965. William H. Webster, an officer in the company, became the liquidating trustee, and continued to pay taxes on the land and thus retained ownership. In the early 1970s, as part of its land acquisition program, the Park Service offered Webster $1,000 per claim. Webster refused the offer, stating that he had been paying taxes on the property for more than fifty years and that several mining engineers had assured him that his claims contained "very valuable ore." Thus, he expected an offer of around $2 million for the property. In the late 1970s, in an attempt to resolve the issue, the Park Service conducted two appraisals of the claims, one for their mineral values and the other for their overall property values. In 1978, the agency determined that the property had no commercial mineral values; that is, similar to the Skagit Queen assessment, gold and other precious metals did not exist on the property in "sufficient quantity and quality" to justify a commercial venture that would realize a profit. Around this same time, the Park Service appraised the value of the property itself at $38,800. [19] Obviously, this was far below what Webster desired.

Matters only grew more complicated. In 1980, William Webster passed away. His two nephews, William C. and John C. Webster, who lived in Tonka Bay, Minnesota, inherited their uncle's estate and eventually gained clear title to the property. In order to satisfy the numerous shareholders in the now defunct mining company, the Websters were forced to purchase the claims at a public auction on June 17, 1983, for $67,000, almost twice the appraised value. Meanwhile, the Webster brothers were anxious to sell their property to the United States, but like their uncle, they believed it was worth "substantially more than $38,000" and, of course, the price they paid at auction. Over time, their figures would range from $3 million to $50 million, far beyond the Park Service's appropriations for the acquisition of all private lands within the North Cascades complex.

Their reasons for such a high asking price were based on independent evaluations, evaluations which markedly differed from those commissioned by the Park Service. In September 1983, for example, George Weaton, a mining engineer, appraised the value of the Dorothy claims for the Websters at approximately $5 million. Two months later, however, Luther Clemmer, a Park Service mining engineer, appraised the mineral value of the same claims at $6,500. Clemmer argued that Weaton's report was poorly done, incomplete, and inconsistent with "proper appraisal technique," for the report failed to demonstrate whether the ore could be mined, processed, and marketed at a profit," which, Clemmer concluded, it could not. Without proof of the claim's economic potential, there was no valuable ore reserve and thus no mineral value that one could attach to the mine, save for "mine-related improvements and exploration potential." Weaton's estimate of value, moreover, was not based upon objective research but "the fantasies and speculation found in old reports prepared 50 years ago." [20]

Although William C. Webster, the main spokesperson of the two Webster brothers, maintained that he wanted to sell his land to the Park Service and "protect" the scenic wonders of the North Cascades, he was adamant about getting a large sum of money in return. To force the issue, he proposed a number of development schemes, none of which actually materialized, but they nevertheless generated concern from park managers. In 1984, Webster proposed the first of several ventures: a logging operation on the Dorothy claims. The operation was highly unlikely. Like the mining proposal, logging would not be economical; the terrain was too steep, the trees were too mature, and the area was too remote. Access, a central issue in any case involving private lands surrounded by a national park, would be a serious problem. In order to protect the wilderness values of the Thunder Creek basin, among other things, Park officials would not allow a road to be built up Thunder Creek, and so the only way to reach the claims and remove timber was by helicopter, an expensive prospect. Furthermore, Webster's proposed logging operation would have to pass a complete environmental assessment by the state, a review open to public comment. The logging proposal faded from sight. [21]

Webster's interest in proving the value of his property remained strong. In 1985, Webster received another report on the potential value of his property, this time from a geologist, that was quite optimistic -- "overly optimistic" in the Park Service's opinion. With this report in hand, Webster announced plans to conduct more ore sampling and map vein exposures. Although it appeared that he might be preparing to develop the mine, Webster's main interest was establishing -- and perhaps proving the Park Service's assessments wrong -- the true mineral values of his property.

While Webster was free to develop his property under the Mining Act, he could not do so without consulting the Park Service first. This stipulation had come with the passage of the Mining in the Parks Act in 1976. To be sure, the act did not enable the Park Service to eliminate mining altogether, but it did allow the agency to implement stricter controls over mine operations, the central feature of which was a "plan of operations." The plan described the proposed operations, set forth the timetable of those operations, provided a reclamation plan, outlined the steps taken to meet federal and state environmental standards, and supplied an environmental analysis of the mine's potential impact. [22]

Naturally, this did not mean that mining would not occur, only that Webster and others would have to supply detailed information about their projects before the Park Service would approve them. On July 9, 1985, the Park Service approved Webster's first plan of operation (phase one) to collect mineral samples by blasting trenches and to map the claims. Without a road, Webster accessed his claims by helicopter. Core drilling (phase two) was to have followed this initial phase, if it proved promising, and also would have been subject to the agency's approval. Apparently, the samples demonstrated what the Park Service had stressed all along -- that the mineral values of the Dorothy group of claims simply were not worth developing; phase two of the project never began. [23]

Webster's plans, however, kept Park Service managers and real estate specialists busy. Mostly, they attempted to convince Webster what the federal government meant by "fair market value." In August 1985, Harlan Hobbs, then the Pacific Northwest Region's Chief of the Division of Lands, informed William Webster that the government has "a responsibility and a duty to pay 'just compensation' for the property we are acquiring." By law, just compensation was "the fair market value of the property at the time of taking." Simply put, fair market value was the price a knowledgeable seller and buyer would agree upon. Moreover, fair market value did not involve the "mere possibility of minerals" or other valued resources; one could not put a fair price on such a possibility. Fair market value also did not involve "any special value of the property to the owner not directly reflected in the market value," such as a sentimental attachment to or associations with a particular place. Finally, the "Fifth Amendment allows the owner only the fair market value of his property; it does not guarantee him a return on his investment." [24]

Nevertheless, Webster, now a partner in the recently formed Thunder Creek Mines company, pressed on with his challenge. His challenge was not only to establish the value of his property but also to test agency policies about access to his property. In May 1986, he informed park managers that he planned to develop a wilderness camp on his claims. The camp would have been for outdoor recreation -- hiking and mountaineering -- as well as for rock collecting, specifically quartz crystals. Quartz crystals were the most recent minerals of value, he asserted, found on his property. In order to make this new operation work, Webster would once again need some means of access to his land. He proposed using helicopters that would leave from Colonial Creek Campground. He also proposed using all-terrain vehicles along the Thunder Creek Trail to reach the camp from, and take materials out to, Highway 20. He would once more be disappointed with the Park Service's response.

Superintendent John Reynolds replied to Webster, stating that he was not opposed to the "idea of a wilderness camp," but he had concerns about the operation and there were regulations with which Wester needed to comply. First, park lands could not be used for helicopter operations without a special regulation. Second, regulations barred motorized vehicles on trails; moreover, the area through which he would travel was proposed wilderness and thus managed as legal wilderness, yet another reason for barring motorized travel. Third, his camp would require a commercial license. And finally, the removal of crystals or other rocks from the property -- even by guests of the wilderness camp -- was considered mining and required a plan of operations. [25]

Webster seemed less concerned about the future of his new business venture than he did about his "constitutional rights" to use his land "in a normal way, including mining gemstones." He suggested that the superintendent was interfering with his "prior existing rights," the language in the national park's legislation which allowed him to continue to use his property after the creation of North Cascades. In a comment that typified his thinking, Webster stated that Thunder Creek Mines would cooperate with the Park Service fully, and promised "not to harm the environment, but we certainly do not need an access permit to enter our property," and "we will not wait for one." [26]

However threatening Webster sounded, he eventually relented and provided the appropriate documentation to the Park Service; it was a pattern that repeated itself over the next decade. One reason Thunder Creek Mines submitted to the Park Service's regulations was that the agency was the only likely buyer for its property. Another reason was the law. In October 1986, for example, the Park Service's solicitor, Richard Neely, asserted that the "right of access is not unlimited" but should be reasonable; access was also subject to regulation. Furthermore, the Park Service was not violating Webster's "constitutional rights" by subjecting his access to "reasonable regulation." Because Thunder Creek Mines acquired its patent long before the establishment of North Cascades, the "valid existing rights" proviso in the park's legislation did not apply. The status of Webster's property, in other words, was that of private land within a national park, the use of which was protected by the Constitution, but still subject to regulation. Congress, Neely pointed out, could "regulate mining in national park areas." Therefore, he advised that Webster "must comply with regulations and obtain an approved mining plan of operations with an access permit before attempting any type of exploratory or mining operations" on his property. [27]

In the meantime, Webster commissioned another mineral report, this time one evaluating his property's quartz crystal and other gemstones, to bolster his assertion that the property was extremely valuable -- and therefore its fair market value was worth considerably more than the Park Service's appraisal. In December 1986, Webster supplied Park Service real estate specialists with another proposal documenting the "potential" income from his property if Thunder Creek Mines developed a quartz mining operation. According to the mine company's authority, Gary Coleman, and its own calculations, Webster estimated that his business could expect an annual net income of $2.8 million over a period of ten years, which was evidently the amount of time it would take to mine all of the quartz. Therefore, Webster calculated that the real value of the property was $28.6 million. Add to this other "gemstones...timber, silver, lead, zinc, and gold, plus recreational income from heli-hiking, mountain climbing school leases, etc.," he noted, and the property's "income potential" increased substantially. The potential value of Webster's property, however, never seemed as attractive as finding a way to get the Park Service to buy it from him. As he concluded, "we are expecting the National Park Service to buy our property," and would be willing to settle for a figure less than $28.6 million. The question again was what was the fair market value? If it was not a figure in the millions of dollars, Webster implied, his company would begin mining at once.

The owners of Thunder Creek Mines spun elaborate plans and threatened to invade a wilderness setting in order to pressure the Park Service into buying its property for a much higher price than the agency's offer of approximately $69,000. The agency, though, stood firm. In 1987, Harlan Hobbs received an independent report appraising the quartz crystal value of the Dorothy claims. It disputed the findings of Webster's report and suggested that the quality of the crystal was not very impressive, and that there was "little probability" that Thunder Creek Mines could "develop a successful crystal-producing venture." Hobbs, whose patience was apparently wearing thin, informed Webster that it appears that "your efforts to rationalize some substantial mineral values have been a waste of time and money." [28]

Not one to give up on a dream, Webster submitted Thunder Creek Mines' plan of operation for crystal collecting, which the Park Service approved in May 1987. The collecting evidently did not produce any new results, and in September of that year, Hobbs reminded the owners of the mine company of his agency's conclusions: mining might produce crystals in better condition but not of better quality. Moreover, he noted that his agency's experts concluded that there was no value to the crystals (or any other minerals) on the claim; even the mining company's own consultant had not attributed a value to the crystals. It seemed to Hobbs that at the very least the Webster brothers wanted to cover the cost of their original investment and expenses to prove the value of their property. William Webster, for example, believed his company could still profit from "a recreational crystal collecting operation," even if the gems did not have any commercial value. For this reason, Hobbs wrote, "he still wanted several million" for the claims "based on the hypothetical income" from this unproven venture. No matter what arguments the Websters presented, it was "simply not the government's responsibility to provide you a return on a bad investment." [29]

Resilient, though perhaps irrational to some, the Websters employed several new strategies over the next several years. In October 1987, they attempted to donate the property (as a tax-deductible charitable contribution) to the National Park Service. In doing so, they would have been able to reclaim their initial investment and through a complicated process have increased the value of the property enough to grant them a substantial profit. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) turned down their proposal. In the IRS's opinion, the Websters did not have a fair market value established and the service would not issue a ruling to establish a value. In addition, the Websters' proposal called for forming a partnership, made up of them, who would buy the mining company and then donate their interests in the company (the mining claims and their "appraised" value) to the government -- provided that the appraisal exceeded "3 1/2 times their initial investment in order to reach an economic break-even point for federal income tax purposes." This proposal, the IRS noted, was not about "furthering a business purpose" but rather about obtaining "a federal tax deduction based upon the appraised value of their partnership interests being significantly in excess of their acquisition cost of the partnership interests." In other words, the Websters wanted to form a dummy company to buy the Dorothy claims, inflate the value of their interests, and then donate their property to the Park Service. What they could not get from the Park Service in cash, they could get as a deduction on their taxes from the IRS. [30]

When this alternative failed, the Websters returned to familiar territory. They once more requested the Park Service to evaluate their property in the Thunder Creek drainage, primarily to determine the value of its quartz crystals. When that was not forthcoming, the Webster brothers laid plans to develop a permanent resort on their property. Presented in October 1988, this latest venture would resurrect the wilderness camp idea; the new operation would combine crystal collecting, mining, as well as recreational activities. The Websters estimated that two to three hundred people would visit their resort in the summer season. They would fly in by helicopter and initially stay in temporary buildings. Other developments included sewage systems and landing areas for the helicopters. The mine owners went so far as to hire recreational consultants to produce a prospectus for this service. Apparently, the venture proved to be more complicated than the Websters anticipated and it never got off the ground. [31]

The plan for a resort evidently did not have the desired effect; the Park Service continued to monitor the Websters' proposals but did not raise its offer for the Dorothy claims. On May 17, 1990, the agency made a second offer for the claims of $56,000, substantially less than its earlier offer. Naturally, the Websters considered this figure "unrealistically low." But the Websters had reason to believe the Park Service was still interested in their property, for the 1990 land protection plan for the park listed it as the highest priority for acquisition. So they began to consider other approaches that would move the acquisition process along in their favor. First, they alerted the Park Service that they had received an offer of $250,000 for mineral exploration rights to their property, but wanted to allow the government time to respond before they made any decisions. Second, when the government did not respond to this new development, the Websters then notified the Park Service that they had connections to Congressman Bruce Vento, who chaired the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, and would take their case directly to him. Apparently, the Websters were interested in receiving a settlement similar to the recent one in Voyageurs National Park, where a park inholder agreed to sell for $1.2 million after a lengthy battle with the Park Service. [32]

Although their sights were still set high, the Websters had little to show for their efforts. William Webster continued to inform park managers of his interest in gaining access to his property to conduct more surface exploration to establish -- yet again -- the property's value. He also suggested that he and his brother might reconsider donating their property to the United States, presumably using another approach to write off the donation at a much higher value. On September 18, 1991, William Webster made his most concrete proposal to date; he offered to sell his property to the government for $3,387,600. The figure's exact amount was important, for it represented how the Websters arrived at their version of fair market value. Although the property was worth $21 million, "based on the projected consolidated appraisal" by Northwest Bank, William Webster stated, the Thunder Creek Mines would sell for the lower amount of $3,387,600 because it was a "fair price to pay." The price was the cost of his family's original investment in the property, compounded for sixty-five years at 4.7 percent interest. The Park Service, of course, legally could not pay the Websters this amount for their property, since it exceeded the fair market value. [33]

Nothing, it seems, had changed. William Webster continued to try and prove his right to have motorized access to his property, and agency officials continued to respond that he had misinterpreted the regulations and that they could deny his requests for access, at least the means of access. In February 1992, Webster offered to accept half of his earlier offer, and continued to strike an old theme -- that the Park Service had denied him his "constitutional rights" to access his property. Perhaps, he hoped, that the threat of a law suit, or the threat of driving a snowmobile or all terrain vehicle up Thunder Creek, would convince the Park Service to buy his land. Two months later, Webster attempted to increase the political pressure on the Park Service to meet his demands. He informed Rick Wagner, Hobbs' successor, that Vento's office agreed with his terms, evidently suggesting that "friendly condemnation" procedures should commence, in which the government would pay Thunder Creek Mines its most recent asking price of $1.7 million. [34]

Once more, Webster did not receive the desired response. Wagner related that it was not that simple. First, Congressman Vento could not dictate to the current administration that condemnation should proceed apace. He simply did not wield that kind of influence. Second, condemnation was a slow process. Third, the Park Service could not even begin to think of initiating condemnation for the appraised value of the Dorothy claims because it barely had enough funds to cover the appraised value. Finally, Wagner suggested that, as an alternative, Webster and his lawyers might try to initiate an inverse condemnation, forcing the government into court and moving the proceedings along. Apparently, Webster was not interested in pursuing this option. [35]

In 1993, the option Webster chose instead was to mount more legal pressure, and over the next several years attempted to build a case of "taking" by the federal government. That is, the Park Service had denied him his legal right to the use of his property, while at the same time the agency had included the Dorothy claims as part of the national park. In support of this allegation, one of Webster's main points was that his company should have had motorized ("all weather") access up Thunder Creek. To support this claim, he argued that the trail and its bridges had been built by the original mine developers in late 1920s and early 1930s, an assertion based more on speculation than fact. This alone should have been enough information to suggest the trail somehow belonged to the current company and allow it to build a road and drive to the mine site. (One section of the mine company's so-called trail was under Diablo Lake.) Superintendent William Paleck notified Webster that, again, building a road where there had historically only been a trail, one which predated his company's ownership and now passed through what was now designated wilderness, did not constitute "reasonable access." The property owners, in his opinion, had not been denied access; they could reach their land by helicopter or by foot or pack animal over the trail. In fact, they could not produce any legal documents to prove ownership of the trail, after the Park Service noted that its historical research suggested that the "road" up Thunder Creek had never been finished by the Thunder Creek Mining Company. Furthermore, the Thunder Creek Trail was on federal land. [36]

Second, Webster argued that the Park Service maintained a trail through his property, and thus encouraged park visitors to trespass on his land -- and thus "use" his property. To this Paleck noted that, while park managers might have relocated the trail at some point, it was more likely that this trail had always crossed the property, for it was built early in the century. Any "trespass" by park visitors was unintentional, it seems. Third, there were other related violations of private ownership. Apparently, park staffers had destroyed one or more structures on the Webster's land, a claim, the superintendent noted, which could not be verified. And Webster claimed that the Park Service was trying to "regulate" commercial activities on private land, that is, requiring a permit for running the proposed wilderness camp. To the contrary, Paleck asserted, the park had required a permit because the camp would run some of its programs on park lands. [37]

Despite making these clarifications, the Park Service failed to convince Webster that it was not denying him or his brother the "real" value of their property. Park managers continued to inform Webster that regulations were legally binding, and yet Webster continued to propose ventures similar to previous ones, apparently in an attempt to build his case that the government had "taken" his land. [38] In support of this tactic, he asserted that the Park Service had been disingenuous in dealing with him and his family. Agency officials had attempted to cover up important facts about his uncle's ownership, such as the amount of money he had invested (and thus the figure of $165,000 the Webster brothers used to calculate their price for the property.) Of course, the Park Service denied this accusation, but in time it became clear that Webster was making this kind of assertion not only to further his legal and political battle but also to mount a media battle. [39]

In 1995, Congressman Jim Ramstad inquired with the Park Service, on behalf of William Webster, regarding the Thunder Creek Mines. At that time, Acting Regional Director William C. Walters responded to Ramstad, assuring him that his agency had followed the letter of the law. More importantly, the Park Service lacked "appropriated funds to acquire the property," and as had been the case for some twenty-five years, "there appears to be a large difference between the potential appraised value [of the mining property] and Mr. Webster's asking price." Ramstad's concern, apparently, was that the agency was not negotiating in good faith. Although Walters' agency intended to "gladly resume earnest negotiations" for the property, it could only do so when "funds become available for a current appraisal and potential acquisition." What Webster believed, and the reason he had contacted Ramstad, was that the Land and Water Conservation Fund could be used to purchase his land for his asking price. While it was true that the fund was the source for the agency's land purchases, the Park Service reminded Webster that it could only pay him the appraised value, for Congress closely monitored any purchases drawn from the fund's trust account in excess of the market value. Congress had to approve any negotiated settlement exceeding market value. Meanwhile, William Webster was submitting information regarding his case to CBS's news show, "60 Minutes," regarding Land and Water Conservation Fund abuses and the unconstitutional taking of private property. Apparently, his case was a prime example. [40]

The outcome of all this was a stalemate. Lawsuits waited in the wings. CBS camera crews might show up at park headquarters any moment. William Webster continued to propose new ways to establish the value of his property. The most recent plan, which emerged in 1995, was to use an air-crane helicopter (Sikorsky) to fly some forty to sixty loads of galena ore from the Thunder Creek mine to trucks on the Cascade River Road, and from there transport the ore to a smelter in Canada, where it would be processed and finally the property's mineral value would be firmly established. As of July 1997, Thunder Creek Mines was still finishing its plan of operations for this latest project, and many questions remained to be answered concerning environmental impacts and restoration. Perhaps the most intriguing was whether or not the project was possible. Could a Sikorsky helicopter carry its maximum load of nine tons, or a load near this, at such a high elevation? Could it then safely ascend and fly over Cascade Pass to waiting trucks? Meanwhile, Webster pressed for purchase of his land through an appropriation from the Land and Water Conservation Fund; his most recent valuation, factoring in potential revenues from galena ore as well as tungsten and molybdenum, came in at $7 million. Once more the idea of a donation surfaced, so that Webster could deal with the IRS rather than the Park Service in justifying the fair market value of the Thunder Creek Mines' property. In the end, in the words of Superintendent Paleck, the "fundamental difficulty is the tremendous difference of opinion" over the value of the Webster's property. [41] And it was on this point that the issue began and currently rests.


Land Crisis in Stehekin

By the late 1970s, the National Park Service's management of Stehekin had a number of unresolved issues. Most of these stemmed from the agency's land acquisition policies and its ambiguous definition of compatible use, that is, the kinds of development on private lands that would not detract from the Stehekin Valley's historic character and its natural beauty. At this juncture, a decade since the park complex's creation, there were divided opinions about which direction the Park Service should take to address these issues. Environmental groups expressed concern for preserving Stehekin's natural and cultural values and pressed the Park Service to assert its authority and do more about restricting new -- and largely -- inappropriate developments on private property. The agency could do so, they believed, if it were more assertive and implemented stricter zoning and, more importantly, purchased the remaining private lands. Others, primarily Stehekin residents and property owners, wanted the Park Service to be more specific about its management objectives, too. Their interest, however, arose from a concern that the Park Service presence seemed to be overwhelming the valley and its "unique" way of life. They reasoned that the agency had purchased too much private land. Of the approximately 1,700 original acres, the Park Service owned nearly half. In doing so, it had reduced the valley's land base and thus its "rich heritage" of pioneering families. Moreover, the agency exercised too much influence in the way the community conducted its daily life. Examples of this ranged from its control over the appropriation of natural resources to the limits it placed on business ventures. Whatever their views, these groups had in mind similar goals for the Stehekin country: protect the historic community and way of life and the valley's scenic and natural values.

Realizing these goals, however, was another matter. It required that the Park Service establish management guidelines and define "compatible use" for the Stehekin Valley, two topics with which the agency seemed to struggle. In this way, agency managers would invariably have to justify their position to opposing interest groups, and there did not seem to be any political high ground to shield park officials from public criticism. To coalitions like the North Cascades Conservation Council (N3C), the goal of park management should have been to preserve, as intact as possible, the community of Stehekin as it was when the park complex was established, not the community it had become since 1968. This new Stehekin, N3C maintained, was dramatically different than the original pioneering community, one characterized by its small population and subsistence economy. What created this new and arguably different Stehekin, N3C contended, were the increase in Stehekin residents (many of whom were recent arrivals) and property owners, and the shift in the community's economic base. In 1980, only a small percentage of the year-round residents called Stehekin home twenty years earlier. A startling figure was the increase in permanent residents. In 1968, there were thirty-five permanent residents in Stehekin. Ten years later, there were nearly one hundred. One could hardly grant the current Stehekin population "pioneering" status. [42]

Just as it would be inaccurate to portray Stehekin as a stable community composed of families with a long history in the area, it would be equally inaccurate to characterize this new community by its subsistence economy. A cash economy dominated now, one dependent on outside income from tourism and the National Park Service, which employed up to thirty-five people on a permanent and seasonal basis. Other evidence of the community's change was written in the landscape. There were some one hundred dwellings in the valley, nearly half of which had been built since 1968. These new structures were not only products of an increased population but also a building boom and land speculation that crested with creation of the recreation area and its ineffective land-use controls; the worst example of this was subdivision. Stehekin, the conservation council concluded, had faded into myth. It was a dangerous myth, for Stehekin had only stopped growing in people's minds. Meanwhile everyone -- longtime residents as well as recent arrivals -- believed that the recreation area's legislation protected his or her way of life. This meant that all were "entitled" to use the valley's limited supply of gravel, sand, top soil, and firewood, when in fact those rights applied to valley residents at the time the legislation passed. Resource consumption, it seemed, would go unchecked if the myth were not destroyed; otherwise, the valley's natural integrity would suffer irreparable damage. [43]

On the other hand, various groups of landowners and residents, represented by the Stehekin Property Owners Association and Stehekin Heritage Defense Committee, believed otherwise. From their perspective, the recreation area's legislation and the agency's mission should have allowed for the continued use of resources without question, and should have limited -- if not prohibited -- any infringements on these rights by the Park Service. They should have also protected the rights of property owners to develop their land, mainly to subdivide it into smaller tracts (which would further increase the valley's population) as they saw fit. In short, less government involvement was better than more. Any change in this regard by the Park Service, such as greater regulation of resource use and further land acquisition, was seen as a threat to the Stehekin way of life. By acquiring more land in the valley, the Park Service was slowly eliminating the Stehekin community from existence; it would become more a display piece than a reality in the parkland setting.

In 1977, responding to public pressure to offset the changes in the valley, Regional Director Russell Dickenson initiated a land-use study. Broadly speaking, a development concept plan (DCP) would have addressed a host of specific problems related to the Park Service's management of the Stehekin country and thus finally provided more substantial guidance for the agency in its management of the recreation area. Previous plans -- the 1970 master plan and land acquisition policies -- were too general. Among the issues were congestion and substandard visitor services at the landing, and the design and location of maintenance facilities and employee housing. Yet a definition of compatibility was central to any planning success. Without it, planning for the valley would have been a difficult task. That no criteria for compatibility had ever been developed, noted John Ochsner, head of the planning team, was a "gross oversight." The reason, ironically, was rooted in what made Stehekin special: its remote location. The Park Service simply had not anticipated the rate of growth and development pressures affecting the valley. [44]

In an attempt to define compatibility as well as chart a direction for managing the recreation area, park planners held workshops and conducted visitor surveys. For the most part, the responses confirmed existing beliefs about how best to preserve the Stehekin country. Nearly everyone in the Chelan, Wenatchee, and Stehekin meetings expressed their desire to maintain the valley's primitive character and slow-paced way of life; however, they almost universally opposed Park Service interference with development on private land, except in cases where pollution and other negative side effects of urban living were concerned. Most participants in the Seattle meeting expressed their support for protecting Stehekin's unique setting and lifestyle, but they emphasized a different approach, one in which the federal agency assumed greater regulatory authority, particularly by establishing limits on private development -- and hence limits on population growth. Furthermore, Seattle participants, most of whom had strongly supported the cause for a national park in the North Cascades, stressed that management of the recreation area should spring from a national rather than local interest; its purpose was after all national, and the concerns of residents and landowners in Stehekin, while valid, should not take precedence over the interest of the American public. Interestingly, a 1978 survey revealed that most visitors thought that the private homes in the valley enhanced their experience. [45]

The planning effort was short-lived. In September 1978, the agency suspended its planning efforts before it had the chance to present any alternatives to the public. The main reason for the suspension was the release the previous September of the Park Service's new land acquisition policy. The new policy, as it would turn out, was one of several in an evolution of the agency's land acquisition program in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As noted earlier, the evolving program tightened controls over acquisitions, leading first to land protection plans with a program of land purchases and a definition of compatible and incompatible uses of private land, and then to land protection plans that identified direct purchase of private land for emergency purposes only and assigned other means of protection whenever possible. These latter policy changes reflected a new presidency in the 1980s. With the installment of the Reagan administration, Republicans sought to restore power to private interests in all matters of federal land policies in the West. [46]

The 1977 land acquisition policy was written to protect the national parks and other parklands from private land uses that diminished the values for which each area had been set aside. Largely written in response to congressional concerns over the large number of new developments in Grand Teton National Park, the revised policy also reflected Congress' concern that these new developments existed in many park areas, both because they detracted from the scenic beauty of the parklands and because they inflated the cost of Park Service acquisitions. At this point in time, the Park Service's policy became more aggressive, and the agency moved to acquire more unimproved lands within park areas with, according to Director William Whalen, great "urgency." The Park Service divided its park areas and acquisition program into two general areas: older parks with remaining pockets of privately owned land, or "inholding areas" (dating before 1960), and "newly authorized areas," more recently established areas, like the North Cascades complex, containing extensive amounts of private lands. Land acquisition would differ in each area. In the older parks, the agency would pursue land purchases from "willing sellers" and use condemnation only as a last resort. In newer areas, the agency would seek interest in private property in order to manage the area effectively and achieve its primary purpose. Thus, direct purchase was not always necessary. In both types of areas, existing private uses could continue provided they did not impair the area's resource values or its primary purpose. For a time, a determining factor in the case of the latter provision was that all areas had specific legislative policies that applied to each kind of park area (park, recreation area, historic site); the Park Service abolished the area categories in 1977, and the specific enabling legislation rather than unit title became the key factor. More importantly, the acquisition policy defined incompatible use rather strictly. Essentially, it stated that any development on unimproved lands or significant alterations to existing improvements was considered an incompatible act. In this respect, any new construction permits or filing of subdivision plats would be interpreted as an incompatible act. [47]

An outcry from land owners in several of the nation's parks, specifically Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Olympic, led to the creation of the National Park Inholders Association (NPIA) under the leadership of Charles S. Cushman. Cushman's group lobbied hard against the restrictive definition of compatible use, painting the Park Service in the national media as an aggressive and arrogant agency infringing on the rights of private property owners. Bowing to public pressure somewhat, the agency released a revised land acquisition policy in April 1979. [48] While offering clearer language about what it intended in older parks, the Park Service policy offered only a general picture of its acquisition plans for newer areas like Lake Chelan NRA; the policy simply stated that acquisition would be carried out in accordance with the area's authorizing legislation. In short, the revised policy spoke more to what was compatible and incompatible use in an older national park area than in a newer area like the North Cascades complex.

In Stehekin the main outcome of this revised policy was confusion. When the first policy version appeared, the agency was engaged in planning for the valley, but Park Service leaders were not certain how to apply it to Lake Chelan NRA. They questioned whether or not the new policy applied to the recreation area. After deciding that it did, agency administrators assumed that the policy's definition of incompatibility applied to the Stehekin Valley, and until the revised version appeared in 1979, they worked under this assumption. Some property owners became agitated with the Park Service; they distrusted the agency and its intentions under this new acquisition policy. Moreover, NPIA president Charles Cushman fanned the flames of resentment in 1978 when he spoke at a community meeting in Manson, which a number of Stehekin land owners and residents attended. [49]

The main concern for both the Park Service and Stehekin interests was how the agency would employ these new compatibility standards in the Lake Chelan NRA, specifically in the private use and development zone. On March 1, 1978, Superintendent Lowell White informed Stehekin residents and landowners of the new land acquisition policies and that the bureau would modify them "to some extent" in order to comply with the language of the act establishing the park complex. In May, Superintendent White and planner John Oschner held a public meeting in Stehekin to discuss some of the alternatives. While presenting their alternatives, they suggested that the Park Service might exempt the private use and development zone from the new standards and instead continue to rely on county zoning. But the county would have to implement stricter zoning regulations for this to occur. To bolster their argument, they described a future for Stehekin under current zoning that was anything but attractive. The number of homes would nearly triple, the population would increase nine fold, and the overall quality of life in the valley would decrease. With the right county zoning, then, the private use zone would not have to comply with the new standards, and development could continue. [50]

Although this entire discussion would become moot soon enough, this latter point was important because it revealed how the public could come to question the Park Service's ability to manage the recreation area. It left the impression with Stehekin property owners in the private use zone that they would be exempt from the policy's compatibility restrictions. But Park Service administrators left their interpretation of the policy open. In his meeting with Stehekin property owners and residents, Superintendent White suggested that the Park Service had little control over implementing compatibility standards in the valley, despite the new policy. As White informed Stehekin residents, it was Chelan County's responsibility to develop adequate zoning for the Stehekin Valley; the Park Service hoped these regulations would match their own. Reliance on the county took on a greater importance when the agency's land acquisition policies became official in 1979. It was then the Park Service came to rely on the park complex's legislation for its authority. And since the legislation did not grant it specific power over the county in the recreation area, the Park Service could not override the county's zoning regulations should it not approve of them. In effect, for all of its posturing, the Park Service seemed powerless to control the use of private land in the recreation area.

To agency officials, cooperating with the county presented perhaps the quickest solution to the land-use controversies in Stehekin, particularly since the Park Service's land acquisition policies were currently in a state of revision. This approach, then, was another reason the Park Service suspended its planning efforts. In June 1978, the Chelan County commissioners, moved to action over the problems in Stehekin, renewed its planning efforts in Stehekin. In September of that year, Michael Cecka, an associate planner with the Chelan County Planning Department, informed Regional Director Dickenson that the county's plan would not be ready until the spring of 1979. At the request of the commissioners, Dickenson agreed to suspend the development concept plan, due for release in several weeks, until the county plan was completed. Both the county and the Park Service were prepared to come to terms over acceptable kinds of development in the valley, among other land uses. A truce of sorts was called. Dickenson told the commissioners that his agency intended to define compatible use as clearly as possible, and the commissioners promised to be cautious when they issued development permits in the valley. [51]

The accord, however, did not last long. The county released a draft of its plan in April 1979. The plan, in Cecka's words, was "very permissive" regarding the land-use regulations in Stehekin, and would do little to control development in the valley. [52] As the plan stated, its intent was to "recognize and preserve the values which contribute to Stehekin's uniqueness." In doing so, it focused on "the use of private land within Lake Chelan National Recreation Area...and its relationships with the public lands and their administration." A major tenet of the plan was to achieve what long-time resident Ray Courtney described as the true meaning of Stehekin: self-reliance. Making the valley too accessible and living conditions too convenient would only weaken this quality. Implementing too many regulations, moreover, would destroy this quality as well. In general, the plan's recommendations covered topics specific to Stehekin such as Park Service activities and cooperation. The recommendations also covered a broad range of topics common to all private lands in the county, including floodway construction, water quality, resource use, visual quality, transportation, residential and commercial development, and subdivision. [53]

Although the Park Service had maintained a low profile during the county's planning process, it reacted strongly against the plan. The county suggested that the Park Service should accept the plan, particularly its emphasis that the principles of private land use and development were fully compatible with the intent of the recreation area's legislation. All of this meant, of course, that the county had interpreted the federal legislation as justification for, or at least implicit approval of, its proposals. What agency managers took special issue with was the plan's policies dealing with subdivisions. The two most important subdivision policy proposals were 1) a minimum lot size of two acres for any new subdivision in the Stehekin Valley, and 2) subdivision activity should be restricted to short platting, which would allow for the creation of four or fewer parcels. With a two-acre minimum lot size, the policy would allow 250 new houses to be built in the valley. If some of the restrictions on development on large tracts of private land were followed, then the number of structures in the valley would be around 150. The county plan viewed these provisions as both realistic and restrictive; that is, development would happen, but the extent and rate of that development might be effectively controlled through these and other measures. [54]

Perhaps the most significant outcome of the plan's release and recommendations was that it forced the Park Service to clarify what it meant by compatible use; it was a task the agency would address time and again without producing a satisfactory definition. Regional Director Dickenson characterized the plan as a "spur to development" in Stehekin and prepared a formal statement opposing the draft county plan. Superintendent Miller presented it to the Chelan County Commission at a public hearing in Stehekin on October 6, 1979. Dickenson commended the county's efforts, but he charged that the plan did not provide "adequate zoning and land use controls. The plan would provide for growth of buildings and seasonal population to a degree that would be irreversibly damaging to the nationally significant resources of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area." Second, the plan reflected only local opinions, and eschewed the views of "a national constituency" which should be consulted in regard to plans for a "national area." In shaping its response, the Park Service, Dickenson stated, had consulted this constituency, particularly those who had fought for the park complex, as well as representatives of the county and Stehekin. [55]

Finally, based on these observations and surveys, Dickenson presented his agency's first effort to define compatibility in the valley. And that definition focused intently on subdivision:

The legislative record shows that there was no intent to eliminate uses that existed when the legislation was passed. In existence were modest homesites, ranches, limited food services, and lodges. There also were parcels with no development. It is logical to assume that the type and density of land use that existed when the area was established was compatible with the purpose of the area. Further, the intent was to permit development of modest homesites, ranches, and limited eating establishments or lodges on the then existing undeveloped lots where such development did not conflict with park needs and conservation of the scenic, scientific and historic values of the valley. [56]

The Park Service concluded, the regional director stated, that "Congress intended" for Stehekin to remain as it was when the park complex was established. His agency's primary responsibility then was to make sure that any "appreciable change" in its size and character would be considered incompatible with its purpose and thus opposed. Congress had reinforced this position by authorizing funds to purchase private lands in the valley "in order to reduce the land base available for additional development and to provide for those parcels needed for park management. In this way, Stehekin could remain in "balance," that is, with an "acceptable balance of resource use and services, while preventing congestion and safety hazards on the valley road, in addition to a deterioration of water quality, both surface and subsurface. Therefore, Dickenson asserted, "the time has come to stop all subdivision," and he "urgently" requested that the county implement a two-year moratorium on any subdivision permits, or until both the Park Service and county could work out a solution to "this critical problem." [57]

Dickenson addressed other elements of the plan that were incompatible with Stehekin's purpose or contrary to the Park Service's mission. He proposed that the county plan include a provision to limit only one single-family dwelling on any existing parcel and that it include more provisions for protecting the valley's visual quality, such as having all new construction along the road or lakeshore be setback or screened from view. He also noted that the agency planned to purchase a 156-acre tract on both sides of the lower Stehekin River in order to increase public access to the river and protect the west bank's relatively pristine state. This kind of acquisition was fully justified to preserve the character of the valley, and the agency would acquire other tracts of private lands for similar reasons. The regional director, however, did not mean that his agency would oppose any developments on private lands, but would work toward establishing regulations to soften the physical and visual impact of new developments and ensure that it fit with the character of the Stehekin country. Along these lines, he responded to the plan's discussion of the Park Service's management activities, noting in particular that the agency was not planning any new construction -- or allow others to do the same -- that would increase visitor use. [58]

The Park Service appeared ready defend its definition of compatible use. However, the regional director remained conciliatory. In late 1979, Dickenson noted that his agency would cooperate with the county "to develop a plan that will preserve the area as intended by Congress." He chose this option because it was more direct; the park bureau could achieve the same goal and give the impression that the federal government was willing to work with rather than against the local government and Stehekin community. [59]

But it seemed that the Park Service was bluffing. Unless the bureau's position on compatibility was legally binding, the county would essentially control the future of the valley. This, at least, was how preservation groups interpreted the agency's actions, and what drove them to pressure the Park Service to assume its rightful role as the defender of this national treasure. In the summer of 1979, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (SCLDF), on behalf of the Sierra Club's Cascade Chapter and the North Cascades Conservation Council, entered into the fray. As one of the SCLDF's lawyers, William S. Curtiss, noted, the Park Service was wrong to think that it could not regulate the "threats posed by private land development and increased consumption of Valley resources directly." This was an "unfortunate and erroneous conclusion" and one not "dictated by the requirements of law." According to Curtiss and the SCLDF, Congress did not intend to limit the Park Service's ability to control private development in the valley, especially when that development threatened its wild character. Nor was the Park Service without legal recourse. The agency could regulate inappropriate activities on private land by enforcing existing regulations (under Title 36 CFR), by promulgating new regulations under that title, and by using condemnation. [60]

The lawyer expressed views of those closest to the North Cascades campaign. He echoed Grant McConnell's opinion that the Park Service had overlooked the true purpose of the recreation area's legislation -- protecting the Stehekin country's wild and scenic grandeur with accommodation for the small community's historic uses of the land. The agency's oversight was largely responsible for the valley's current problems. Regulation and land acquisition, in McConnell's opinion, were the two solutions to overdevelopment and resource consumption. Curtiss also contested Dickenson's response to McConnell: that national recreation areas operated under different policies (policies allowing for multiple uses) and that the Park Service interpreted Senate Report 700 to mean that private development should continue in the valley. This was not "entirely correct," Curtiss wrote. He suggested that the recreation area had once been proposed as a park and was only removed from that status to allow those living in the valley "to remain there and to enjoy the existing uses of their land," and to allow local sports hunting to continue. Nothing in the congressional record could be construed to suggest that Congress changed the area's designation to "invite the commercial exploitation of the Stehekin Valley." [61]

One of the most effective management tools, according to the SCLDF, was condemnation. And it urged the Park Service to use it. The defense fund lawyer noted that Secretary of the Interior was not restricted in his power to condemn lands, as the Park Service maintained, if the use of those lands was incompatible with the preservation of the recreation area's values. Nothing in the recreation area's legislation specifically prevented it, and in fact the legislation emphasized that the secretary could use the appropriate "statutory authority" available in the administration of national parks and preservation in general. Nothing in the congressional testimony, furthermore, authorized any continued development, particularly since the recreation area's act gave the secretary such broad powers. Finally, the lawyer pointed out that the agency's solicitor had misled Dickenson. In the solicitor's opinion, condemnation was an ineffective form of land-use control because it placed a "heavy burden" on the Park Service; that is, the agency would have to bear the burden of proof -- to prove that a land-use was incompatible and, it seems, define compatibility once and for all. The agency, the lawyer suggested, should not shy away from court cases with such important outcomes, especially since there was such a good chance of success. [62]

Should the agency not choose to use condemnation, Curtiss proposed a number of other alternatives. First, the Park Service should implement stricter zoning, by reclassifying the lower valley as either "Preservation" or "Public Use and Development" (the Park Service's classifications), thereby eliminating the problem with the private use zone. Moreover, to make this work, the agency would have to "assert itself in the face of local planning efforts which would replace the Park Service authority with County authority." Second, in addition to using existing Park Service regulations, the agency had an obligation to "promulgate and enforce such regulations" in order to "preserve the natural endowments of the Stehekin Valley." The reason for this stemmed from the recent Redwoods Act of 1978, a major piece of legislation that would, in time, play a key role in changing the way the Park Service managed all park areas for the integrity of their natural values. Finally, the SCLDF implored the Park Service "to rethink its timid and gloomy view of the regulatory options" available to protect Stehekin Valley's unique character. "The tools necessary to accomplish the task are at hand." [63]

In his response, Dickenson stood his ground. The Park Service believed that Congress intended to preserve the historic community of Stehekin but not to freeze it in time. The rub in all of this was that compatibility was not precisely defined; it was somewhere between the Stehekin of 1968 and a Stehekin fully developed for recreation. In other words, Stehekin should continue to evolve. As for the Park Service's legal authority, Dickenson point out that condemnation was not politically expedient, while it may have seemed the clear choice of action to the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. The solicitor's opinion, as the regional director noted, was that the Park Service had no direct judicial or statutory authority for regulating the use of private land; however such an authority might be inferred from recent court decisions. Besides the desire to avoid lengthy litigation, the Park Service appeared to be against condemnation because it would require funds appropriated by Congress and it would be expensive. Perhaps more importantly, it would mean accurately defining compatible use and risking bad publicity. In this regard, the court would have to agree with the agency's interpretation, and if it did not, this legal precedent might further weaken the service's ability to protect the valley. That is why, Dickenson concluded, county regulation was "the most realistic approach" to solving land-use problems in Stehekin at the time. [64]

The outcome of all of this was impasse. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Park Service and Chelan County officials never arrived at mutually agreeable land-use controls for the Stehekin Valley. Without an agreement between the Park Service and the county, private development and expansion of existing facilities in the valley continued with only "minimal county regulation or oversight." Meanwhile, the Park Service continued to develop compatibility standards for Stehekin, and the county proposed alternatives for its draft plan in 1980, none of which came close to meeting Park Service priorities. The main issue continued to be subdivision, and the county suspended its planning process. Until an agreement could be reached, the entire valley was zoned for "General Use," a classification that allowed property owners to subdivide and build on a minimum one-acre parcel using a septic tank and private water supply. [65]

The main reason the county suspended its planning process was that the General Accounting Office (GAO) was investigating the Park Service's land acquisition program in Lake Chelan NRA. Responding to criticism against the Park Service's policies in Stehekin, the GAO, urged on by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, selected Lake Chelan NRA as part of its a larger examination of the park bureau's land acquisition and management practices. [66] The two-person GAO team, led by Charles S. Cotton, conducted its study in the spring of 1980 and produced its final draft on January 22, 1981. The report's title said it all: "Lands in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area Should Be Returned to Private Ownership." [67]

The GAO report concluded that the agency had inappropriately purchased lands in Lake Chelan NRA. Many acquisitions were "contrary to Congress' intent to preserve the private community of Stehekin and to permit additional compatible development to accommodate increased visitor use." At issue, it seems, was the rate and type of purchase. By acquiring nearly half of the private lands in the valley in fee simple, the Park Service appeared to be bent on eliminating the old Stehekin community altogether at a high cost to the government. Moreover, the GAO believed that "much of the land acquired by the Service was compatible with the recreation area and did not have to be acquired." Other land protection strategies would have worked well and at a lower cost to the government, including zoning and scenic easements. Thus, the GAO report recommended that the Park Service develop a land acquisition plan for the recreation area, one that clarified compatible and incompatible uses, and that it sell back "all lands compatible with the recreation area." The report also recommended that Congress conduct oversight hearings to determine why the agency had not followed Congress' intent, and that Congress restrict appropriations for land acquisition in the recreation area until the service had corrected its practices. [68]

The GAO's findings affirmed that congressional intent was open to interpretation, for the report drew a distinct line between what the Park Service believed and what the agency's critics believed Congress had meant when it established the recreation area. The question was whose interpretation was correct? The Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior responded strongly against the report. Agency officials defended their actions, and pointed out that the report was "biased." It was "based upon individual comments" provided to Cotton by several valley residents. Moreover, the report "was filled with inaccurate statements, unsubstantiated conclusions and recommendations based on hearsay and limited investigation of material available for review." [69]

To a large extent, this response was valid. In its preliminary review, the GAO suggested that the agency's land acquisitions were suspect, and that its management did not focus enough on development for recreation and more on managing the area as part of the park. Moreover, Charles Cotton's activities and conduct suggest that his conclusions would be highly subjective and reflect the views of Park Service critics. He was interviewed on a Chelan radio program prior to the report's release in which he implied that the report would find fault with the Park Service. He also maintained contact with some Stehekin landowners -- after his investigation but before the report's release -- informing them of the report's recommendations during its official review. All of this cast his conclusions in a partisan light. [70]

Moreover, the report's portrayal of the Park Service's single-minded drive to literally "purchase" Stehekin was overdrawn. The GAO investigators did not fully appreciate the complex nature of the recreation area's establishment, the point in time it was created, and the conditions in Stehekin at that time -- all of which influenced the agency's management of the area. Nothing about Stehekin's management was as straightforward as the GAO seemed to suggest. One example of this was the Park Service's purchase of commercial property at the landing. The agency needed access to, and visitor service facilities for, the recreation area, but its legislation limited the Park Service to purchasing only those lands offered for sale by willing seller. When the commercial properties at the landing became available, the purchase was carried out. The site was attractive because it would require renovation rather than new construction and it was already an established point of access. In the eyes of the Park Service planners, this deal was mutually beneficial. [71]

Other examples were related to the threats the Stehekin country faced, threats which had led to its protection and thus which influenced agency actions. Logging was one of these threats, and by acquiring the holdings of the Chelan Box Company, the agency eliminated one of the major threats. Subdivision, of course, was another threat. The Park Service tried to reduce the opportunity for overdevelopment by purchasing those tracts offered for sale, including lakeshore and valley properties. Finally, the land acquisition program had hardly dented the number of privately owned parcels in Stehekin. Of the nearly 174 tracts in the recreation area in 1967, there were only seven less owners by 1974 when the agency's acquisition funds were exhausted. Ownerships splintered and multiplied, and improved properties continued to grow. [72]

In March 1981, Regional Director Daniel Tobin stated that the Park Service "has never intended to acquire all the lands in the Stehekin Valley. We are currently unable to acquire even those lands necessary to protect the original atmosphere of this remote community. We believe that we have acted in good faith and within the letter, intent, and spirit of the law." Nevertheless, Tobin and other agency administrators agreed with some of the report's conclusions, including development of compatibility standards and preparation of a land acquisition plan for Lake Chelan NRA. But at the same time, it disagreed with other findings. It renewed its request for an increase in appropriations for acquisitions and opposed the recommendation to sell back compatible lands to private owners. (The Park Service maintained that any sale of land back to private owners would require legislation.) [73]

Naturally, the GAO report caused a stir in Stehekin. Rumors flew that soon the Park Service would be selling land back to the people of the valley and other interested parties. To those who viewed the Park Service's presence with suspicion, the GAO report seemed to offer local interests some advantage over the federal government. But this sense of overcoming a powerful, outside force soon faded. Although it may have appeared to have the force of law, the GAO's study was a document informing Congress of the Park Service's activities. It was up to Congress to follow through with its recommendations. Neither the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee nor the House Committee on Interior Affairs held oversight hearings on the report, as the GAO had recommended. Furthermore, Congress would act in direct contradiction to the report by appropriating funds for more Park Service land acquisition in years to come. [74]

This is not to say, however, that the Park Service ignored the report. To the contrary, the report underscored the fact that park managers still had not addressed one of the most fundamental aspects of the recreation area's administration, to define compatible and incompatible use, despite the mitigating circumstances. On August 6,1982, the service rectified this situation and issued compatibility standards for Lake Chelan NRA. Public review was a long and at times contentious process, but the finalized standards would "provide the documentation" necessary to identify what the Park Service considered as an "appropriate use and development" of the lands within the recreation area. Some of the incompatible uses were the construction of apartments or condominiums, new construction in floodway, any new construction that required the dredging or filling of Lake Chelan or the Stehekin River, the modification of the valley's landscape or conspicuous siting of structures which would alter the scenic and natural qualities of the area, timber harvesting for commercial purposes or use outside of Stehekin, and small lot subdivisions. Compatible uses were defined generally as "existing" and "nonconforming" uses, which referred to those uses which were in place at the time the standards were written, and which, generally speaking, could continue.

The document also spoke to the question of how the Park Service would remedy incompatible uses. Here no new ground was broken. The first step would involve negotiations with private owners when incompatible uses were being proposed or had occurred. Condemnation remained a last resort. Moreover, enforcing these land use standards still seemed ambiguous. The service continued to emphasize its desire to rely on Chelan County to implement these standards by adopting a similar zoning ordinance. At the time, this seemed unlikely. Despite this and even though the standards were subject to clarifications, qualifications, and exemptions, Regional Director Tobin heralded them as an important stage in the recreation area's management. For the standards would "enable the National Park Service" to carry out its administration of the area, and for the first time clearly inform "property owners of the land uses which are compatible with the recreation, scientific and historic values" of Lake Chelan NRA. [75]

There was more to solving Stehekin's management problems, however, than defining compatibility. The land acquisition program was a lightning rod for other problems for the Park Service in Stehekin, for the agency's ability to purchase private lands touched upon the extent of its authority over individuals and the land itself in this isolated valley. If standards were in place, then the Park Service must be in a position to assert its authority. [76] The main issues revolved around the agency's jurisdiction in the recreation area. Did it truly control and own the valley roads? Could it enforce the licensing of vehicles, many of which were decades out of date? Did it own salvage logs, especially those in the Stehekin River? Could it control business operations on private land? Were its policies regarding the removal of firewood, top soil, gravel, and sand valid? Thus, how much control it exerted over everything from land-use planning to natural resource use brought into question what affect this would have on the way of life in Stehekin. Ironically, this way of life celebrated individualism, one which was unhampered by federal regulations and reliant on local initiative, but now its preservation would be ensured by a federal agency. [77]

Ray Courtney, a life-long valley resident and reluctant supporter of the park, summed up this sentiment when he grew disenchanted with the Park Service's presence in the early 1980s. The agency's policy, he stated, was that "the only good resident is a dead resident." The park bureau seemed more at ease with preserving the memory of the old Stehekin homesteader than the homesteader himself. [78] However critical of the Park Service, Courtney was a voice of reason among the valley residents, who were an eclectic group of reclusive old timers, wealthy urbanites with summer homes, passionate preservationists, and employees of the park complex and its concessionaires. When Courtney died in a trail accident in 1982, the valley residents lost a leader, and previously unknown clashes among residents and with the Park Service erupted. In an era of public outcry over federal land regulation, "Stehekin became a tiny mountain outpost of the Sagebrush Rebellion." [79]

Several incidents illustrate how tensions grew in the valley. In the late 1970s, when the Park Service refused to allow a resident (Bob Byrd) to start his own taxi service because it would have competed with the park's licensed concessioner, a handful of protesters stood at the landing and greeted visitors arriving on the Lady of the Lake with a banner that said "Welcome to Poland!" Around the same time, the superintendent of the Stehekin School started a series of anti-Park Service broadcasts on a Chelan radio station. And in the summer of 1983, a major confrontation occurred when Karl Gaskill, owner of the Honey Bear Bakery, began selling baked goods from a cart on the dock at the landing. Gaskill asserted that he was not violating Park Service policy -- selling wares without a permit on Park Service land -- because he was on a narrow strip of land that still belonged to the Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD). Although the entire situation seemed petty, it remained unresolved for several years, the subject of varying legal interpretations. More so, it reflected a number of problems related to the agency's jurisdiction in the recreation area; the list included issues over the Stehekin School, the valley road, firewood permits, and the Park Service's ban on salvaging cedar from the Stehekin River. [80]

Talk of protest rippled through the community and came to a head when the Stehekin Heritage Defense Committee filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service on January 20, 1985. Made up of residents like Roberta Pitts, Ron Scutt, and Cliff and Tom Courtney, the Stehekin Heritage Defense Committee wanted to force a showdown with the federal agency that had, in their view, undermined many of the isolated community's traditional values. The Park Service had pressured residents to become "more modern" and in the process more "dependent upon this federal agency." Someday, "Stehekin could become an historic exhibit...A place where...visitors can come and see how WE once lived." [81] The lawsuit made two general claims. One was a long list of grievances, asserting that the Park Service administration of Lake Chelan NRA had willfully caused economic hardship to the community by limiting the size of tours, trapping, and use of roads, and by generally suppressing the economic development of the "town of Stehekin." The agency's management had also "Perverted the Stehekin cultural life-style intended by Congress and created an artificial Park Service community." And it had wrongfully asserted its jurisdiction over the waters of Lake Chelan and the rivers within the recreation area, which should have belonged to the state, and strip of dock at the landing "actually owned by the Chelan County PUD." The second claim was much shorter and more direct. The group wanted the Park Service to sell back the land it had bought, in accordance with the GAO report, and thus return Stehekin to a viable community. [82]

On August 6, 1985, Judge Robert J. McNichols of the United States District Court in Spokane, Washington, dismissed the committee's complaint. Judge McNichols ruled that the court had no jurisdiction over any of the plaintiffs's complaints because the act establishing the recreation area clearly vested administrative authority over the area with the Secretary of the Interior and the National Park Service. Moreover, while the judge could understand the plaintiffs' position, they did not allege any basis for the court to take jurisdiction." The only way for the court to become involved would be if all "administrative remedies" were exhausted. Specifically, the plaintiffs would need to show an instance of damage that was the direct result of a particular Park Service rule or regulation. Another aspect of the suit which the judge ruled against was Curt Courtney's claim that the Park Service coerced him into selling his property (the Boatel) at the landing in 1970. [83]

The Stehekin Heritage Defense Committee, disappointed over the judge's ruling, decided not to appeal the decision, primarily because the judge stated the need for specific examples of damage and the need to exhaust administrative remedies first. There was also the skyrocketing cost of legal fees. The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund had intervened in the suit on behalf of the Park Service at the request of N3C and the newly formed Stehekin Valley Protection Committee. The Stehekin Heritage Defense Committee's budget of $20,000 a year was no match for the Sierra Club's $2.5 million. Thus the committee's hopes "to dispel the emotional tension that has divided our community through far reaching litigation," was "dashed" by the "dismissal order, while turbulent times continue in the Stehekin Valley." [84]

In the minds of defense committee members, Stehekin was in a state of crisis. The Park Service wanted to control residents rather than implement rational and practical policies for the area's management. It wanted to destroy the community and transform the recreation area into a national park. [85] Yet because Stehekin meant different things to different people, the North Cascades Conservation Council and the local Stehekin Valley Protection Committee interpreted the crisis much differently. They advocated the protection of the recreation area's "unique natural environment," and stressed that the agency was not exerting enough control in the valley. As Grant McConnell informed Park Service Director William Penn Mott, Jr., in August 1985, the Park Service's weak administration "has fostered a sense" among "residents here that they have an entitlement to cost-free firewood from the limited forest, topsoil, sand and gravel and other building materials, all without regard to limits of availability or conflict with the purposes [of the recreation area] clearly stated by Congress." This situation has "encouraged demands on an escalating scale for services of many kinds." Meanwhile, a local attitude espoused the view that "any regulation by the Park Service whether for protection of the natural scene or for public safety" was improper and not to be observed. The recently dismissed Stehekin Heritage lawsuit exemplified this. Currently, the crisis emanated from a dwindling supply of firewood, which locals took for granted; a number of new houses under construction, with the prospect of more and inflated land prices; an increase in junked cars; and increased pressure on wildlife. Thus McConnell noted that in "very nearly every respect the deterioration of the area is accelerating and is highly visible." [86]

The solution was twofold and by now familiar. First, the Park Service director should impress upon park managers that they have the "authority (and obligation) to regulate the area as a unit of the National Park System as explicitly provided" in the 1968 legislation. More importantly, the "local illusion that because this is a National Recreation Area Park Service regulations do not apply must be dispelled." Second, he urged the director to press forward with the land acquisition program. The program promised to resolve the crisis. It would not cost much "in the scale of things," McConnell observed, "but continued over a few years can reduce all of the problems indicated above to a manageable scale." McConnell's belief that the "only long term solution" to the area's problems was land acquisition typified the views of other preservation interests, who in 1985 lobbied Congress to appropriate $1 million for land purchases in the park complex (and Stehekin country). [87]

Whatever one's perspective, the Park Service's land acquisition program was a major force in Lake Chelan NRA, (even though no land had been purchased there since 1973 and none would be purchased until late 1986.) Superintendent John Reynolds believed that the main problem in Stehekin was the absence of "clear, written policies and plans." In March 1987, Reynolds expressed these views in a report entitled "Bringing Stehekin to a Manageable State." The time had come, the superintendent stated, after seventeen years of "haphazard" operations, to "resolve Stehekin." The only way to accomplish this was in "an all out, planned, coordinated effort." In this respect, two types of plans would provide the agency with the proper guidance in Stehekin's management. One was a land protection plan; the other was the general management plan. According to Reynolds, land protection was the single most important "component of our program in Stehekin," and the general management plan would serve as the "cornerstone of the policy guidance needed for Stehekin." [88]

Both plans were produced simultaneously and were intended to complement each other. The land protection plan, approved in March 1988, replaced the earlier land acquisition plan. Its most notable characteristic was that it established acquisition priorities. The plan's list of priorities was to be used with the "willing seller/willing buyer" policy to guide land purchases. In this way, agency officials could ensure that the park complex's limited acquisition funds were spent in the best public interest to protect resources. In addition, the ranking system gave Stehekin property owners a guideline for Park Service management concerns, particularly when private lands were being proposed for development or expansion.

The plan proposed five categories for the remaining private lands in Stehekin. The first group focused on the protection of scenic, historic, and wetland/riparian habitat areas; visitor access to the Stehekin River and Lake Chelan; and areas needed for administrative facilities. The second group of properties were those considered to have visual and environmental qualities, but were not threatened by subdivision. These tracts lined the river, lake, or valley road. The third priority group was made up of properties in the upper valley close to the valley road. These tracts, the plan proposed, should be protected for their natural qualities, and any development should follow historic use patterns. The fourth group consisted of those properties with some level of development or subdivision in place. In the case of these lands, the plan was concerned with improving water and sewage treatment and maintaining some control over future development. The final group, labeled "No Interest" or "No Priority," was made up of lands the agency did not consider important to purchase but rather better left to retain the community's historic scene. Finally, the plan also contained a provision for "exchange" tracts. These were unimproved parcels previously purchased by the Park Service that it would exchange for other higher priority private properties. [89]

At long last, it seemed, the plan offered some insight into how the Park Service intended to approach the management of the valley and its remaining private lands. Nearly 700 acres of private lands remained in the Stehekin country, and around the same time the protection plan was being drafted, the agency began an active acquisition program. The renewed purchasing was driven by funding. In 1986 and 1987, Congress appropriated close to $1.5 million. In the summer of 1986, some of this money went towards an important purchase, the Getty property, a riverside parcel containing 153 acres; it was the largest single purchase since the acquisition of the Chelan Box Company's lands and a prime area promoted for subdivision. With the plan in hand and funding available, the agency started negotiations with the backlog of offers from willing sellers. In this regard, the land protection plan's priorities were quite useful; they recommended acquiring in fee simple 92 acres and easements for 345 acres, for a total of 437 acres, all of which were in the first four priority groups. (The last group contained 65 acres.) [90]

On its surface, the land protection plan appeared to seek a compromise between the two political extremes alive in Stehekin. One example of this was the Park Service sale of land it had previously acquired to the Stehekin School District. The school district land had been controversial for some time. Chelan County Commissioner John Wall had been demanding its return to county ownership, along with the valley road and Stehekin community center, and the Park Service approached the sale as a way to demonstrate its commitment to the Stehekin community. The sale allowed for the construction of a larger, modern school facility. [91]

Nevertheless, no group was entirely pleased. To the North Cascades Conservation Council and the Stehekin Emergency Committee (a new group dedicated to protecting Stehekin's natural values), the plan did not go far enough. They particularly thought the "No Interest" category and the policy of land exchange ran counter to the bureau's mission in the valley. Both of these approaches literally wrote off the protection of some of "the most sensitive ecosystems in the Stehekin Valley," and promoted more, not less construction, in the process. On the other hand, despite the sale of the school land, property owners and county commissioners, such as John Wall, thought the plan and recent Park Service acquisitions of small, undeveloped parcels reinforced the agency's intentions to take over Stehekin. Some even suggested returning the valley to the Forest Service, and in what had now become a familiar refrain, returning all Park Service land to private ownership. [92]

Superintendent Reynolds, faced with numerous problems in Stehekin, drafted the plan to appeal to all interests, but his intent was to acquire as much land as possible within the purview of the land protection plan. He believed that acquisition was the most important solution to Stehekin's woes, save redesignating the recreation area as a national park. [93]

At least unofficially, Reynolds' land protection plan seemed bold, and was incorporated into the 1988 general management plan. Although the new plan charted the course for the administration of the valley into the next century, it had serious flaws, according to the North Cascades Conservation Council. Its main problem was that it was one of many plans in various stages of development. The general management plan cobbled them together and confused rather than clarified the bureau's management of Stehekin. In the broadest sense, both the land acquisition and general management plans did not adequately provide for the protection of the valley's natural and cultural values. The plans were too liberal; they did not take a firm stand on the side of preservation. They did not address a number of long-standing issues that would have truly promoted land protection; the most significant of these was the Park Service's firewood management plan, which the conservation council viewed as the "logging" of trees in the valley. Other issues that would have ensured land protection included the acquisition of all the private lands possible, closure of the Stehekin air strip, and the prevention of any further modifications to the valley's natural systems. The Park Service was letting the wondrous Stehekin country be nibbled to death. [94]

The time had come for preservation interests to sue the government. On September 7, 1989, frustrated over what it viewed as years of Park Service neglect and mismanagement of Stehekin, the North Cascades Conservation Council filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service and Department of the Interior. Filed on behalf of N3C by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, the lawsuit contended the Park Service had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not completing environmental impact statements for its various plans for Lake Chelan NRA. It had not assessed their cumulative impacts. Instead, it had produced environmental assessments, a faster yet less intensive analysis, and one not necessarily open to public review. The principal legal issue was that the assessments failed to analyze the cumulative impacts of the agency's plans. After two years of negotiations, the Park Service settled the case out of court, agreeing to a consent decree on April 22, 1991. In doing so, the bureau would produce a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) analyzing environmental consequences of private and public land uses as well as management practices. Until the completion of the EIS, the Park Service agreed to suspend any plans that might alter the recreation area's natural resources. Moreover, the wide-ranging EIS would address many of the concerns expressed by preservationists over the past two decades, such as firewood cutting, sand and gravel mining, transportation services, Park Service developments, and land acquisition. [95]

The Sierra Club and North Cascades Conservation Council treated the consent decree as "a great victory." According to Stephan Volker, lawyer for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, the "Park Service was presiding over the recreation area by private and public development, and refusing to do the environmental studies that would have revealed what was being lost." Once the environmental studies were prepared, the agency would be able "to determine on a rational basis how to preserve the scenic grandeur and ecologic values of this spectacular area." [96] Moreover, the settlement was precedent setting for the entire park system. Prior to this settlement NEPA compliance for general management plans was generally an environmental assessment, though policy required a more thorough analysis. The consent decree provided a wake up call for agency officials and the need to prepare environmental impact studies for general management plans. [97]

The consent decree served as a benchmark in the history of land protection in Stehekin. In order to protect Stehekin's natural as well as cultural environments, there had to be sound land acquisition policies. Yet while planning efforts and environmental studies went forward, Washington's Senator Slade Gorton threatened the new accord. He lashed out at the Park Service for its land acquisitions in Stehekin. On March 12, 1992, Gorton accused the agency of "rabid" land acquisition practices, which ran counter to the intent of Congress as set down in the 1981 GAO report. The agency's stated goal, he noted, was to reduce the amount of private property in Stehekin to sixty-five acres, those tracts in the so-called no interest zone. "I will not stand for that," he said. In addition, there was the bureau's insensitivity towards those who owned property in Stehekin. The Park Service's alleged aggressive tactics, it seems, bordered on harassment. Ultimately, Gorton was responding to the views of his local constituents who disliked the Park Service presence and policies, and who continued to interpret land acquisition as "one of many tools" to transform the recreation area into a national park. [98]

Unless the Park Service took steps to reform its activities in Stehekin, Gorton vowed to amend the Interior appropriation bill to halt it himself. Two months later, on May 15, Senator Gorton followed through with his warning. Senator Gorton's efforts to block land acquisition in the Stehekin country harkened back to the same issues surrounding the 1981 GAO report. However, his efforts met with resistance from environmental groups, who viewed Gorton's tactics as a threat to the consent decree, and other members of Congress. As a compromise, the appropriations committee directed the Park Service to submit a report to Congress that presented the agency's position on its past and proposed land acquisitions. The report was due to Congress by April 1, 1993, and until then the agency temporarily suspended land acquisition. More than twenty years after the park complex's establishment, the agency continued to search for stability in its land acquisition program. [99]

The program, it seems, was often misunderstood, and the Park Service used the recent challenge, as one preservationist noted, to "lay to rest many of the misconceptions" about its land protection policies and to "finally bury the GAO report." [100] In May 1992, the agency took an important step in this direction when it produced a paper on the laws affecting the administration of Lake Chelan NRA. Released as part of the general management planning process, the paper addressed a wide array of issues and had special relevance to land acquisition. Its general message was that "Law and policy are dynamic." Laws and policies governing the management of Lake Chelan NRA extended beyond the area's original legislation and policies in place at that time, and they embraced a host of federal legislation and agency policy revisions that placed a greater emphasis on the preservation of natural resources. Hence, the management of Lake Chelan NRA, the paper concluded, must consider "the whole body of legislation, amendments, proclamations, executive orders, rules and regulations, and directives that are in effect today." [101] Land acquisition, then, was essential to preserving "the scenic, scientific, historic, and other values" for which the area was established as well as providing for public outdoor recreation.

The Park Service carried this theme through in its report to Congress on its land acquisitions in Lake Chelan NRA. Released in April 1993, the report gave a detailed account of its past and proposed acquisition program. The report's main conclusion was that agency's acquisitions had been true to the intent of the recreation area's legislation. Since the establishment of Lake Chelan NRA, the Park Service had purchased approximately 1,170 acres under the "willing seller/willing buyer" program; condemnation had never been used. Some 460 acres remained in private ownership and approximately 250 acres were owned by the Chelan Public Utility District. The agency acquired lands to preserve natural resources and to provide public access to Lake Chelan and the Stehekin River. It also purchased lands to provide adequate public facilities and administrative facilities. Other purchases provided employee housing. And perhaps most important of all, the service purchased land to prevent excessive subdivision. [102]

In making these statements, the agency was responding to recurring questions about management of the recreation area and its land acquisitions. Contrary to what some argued, the Park Service claimed that it had not purchased too much land in the Stehekin country. There were no acreage limits placed on land acquisitions within the area, and all acquisitions were conducted in strict compliance with the law and guided by planning documents. Moreover, because land acquisitions were intended to protect natural resources, supply visitor services and benefits, and provide for administrative needs, the Park Service had not acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its land purchases. The agency had consistently used the "willing seller/willing buyer" approach and appraised property at its fair market value, in accordance with federal regulations. The bureau had also used alternatives to fee simple land acquisition, such as life estates and easements (first used in 1994), and allowed the continued use of public land through special use. By the mid-1990s, the agency's report offered a declaration of sorts, a claim that the land protection program was valid and valuable. At long last, it seemed to be on solid ground, especially with the completion of the revised general management and land protection plans in 1995. These two plans, subject to extensive public review and environmental analysis, in a sense reinforced agency practices in the Stehekin Valley. In the end, the Park Service continued to rely on Chelan County zoning, to make land exchange available, to provide firewood and gravel, and to keep the airstrip open. The question of land protection seemed to have been answered, too. The Park Service retired the old concept of compatibility standards and initiated compatibility reviews on a case by case basis; the reviews would parallel the Park Service's evaluation of its own. Land protection issues appeared clearer in Stehekin. [103]


Ross Lake NRA

Some of the park complex's most controversial land protection issues revolved around the mining claims in North Cascades National Park and the Park Service's land acquisition policies in Stehekin. Ross Lake NRA's land protection program fell somewhere in the middle. Compared to the park and Lake Chelan NRA, the land protection issues for Ross Lake NRA seemed almost benign. In the first place, Ross Lake did not have the same kind of impending threats posed by mining in the park, though there were some mining issues. In the second place, as noted at the outset of this chapter, priorities were different for land protection in recreation areas than in national parks. Where the park had preservation of natural resources as a primary goal, Ross Lake NRA had for its main goals the management and development of a "maximum variety of active outdoor recreation experiences." These experiences included boating, camping (both by boat and car), hunting, fishing, hiking, picnicking, and horseback riding. At the same time, park managers were also concerned with conserving the "scenic, scientific, historic, and other values" contributing to the public's enjoyment of the recreation area's lands and waters. [104]

But unlike Lake Chelan NRA, Ross Lake NRA did not have controversies erupt over the meaning of compatible use, and park managers did not find themselves responding to accusations of both heavy-handed and passive acquisition practices. What united the Park Service's management approach to both recreation areas was that it came to regard the protection of their natural values as equally if not more important than their development for outdoor activities. Still, recreation areas differed from national parks, and while important for their natural values, Ross Lake NRA and Lake Chelan NRA served as wilderness thresholds to North Cascades; they were the setting for visitor developments and other facilities deemed inappropriate for the park's larger wilderness setting.

Two of the main goals, then, of the Park Service's land acquisition program for Ross Lake NRA were to protect aesthetic values along the Highway 20 and thus the Skagit River corridor, and to ensure public access to the Skagit River for rafting, camping, and other activities. By the mid-1980s, the Park Service had acquired several large tracts of land along the Skagit, lessening the prospect of logging along the narrow river valley. Several of these were owned by Georgia Pacific and Scott Paper companies. More importantly, the purchase of the Scott Paper Company lands (some 560 acres) made it one of the final purchases under the original $3.5 million acquisition ceiling. By the mid-1980s, just over 876 acres had been purchased in Ross Lake NRA, but there were approximately 2,500 acres of land in nonfederal ownership, while Seattle City Light had limited rights to19,266 acres under federal license for the operation of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. [105]

According to the recreation area's 1985 land protection plan, the recreation area's management was not in stasis by any means. There were a number of important management considerations. First, the existing nonfederal lands fell within Class I or Class II land categories, land designations for high density recreation or general outdoor recreation, respectively. In other words, these were the areas that would see the greatest visitation. Second, some land within the recreation area had been proposed for wilderness designation, a higher land classification which demanded more restrictive management. Third, park management plans had designated the Highway 20 corridor as a prime area for expanding visitor services and facilities, which also included rafting put-in and take-out facilities. This kind of concentrated development contrasted sharply with wilderness use.

Meanwhile, mineral leasing and exploration were potentially on the rise in the recreation area, activities which could have serious impacts on the area's scenic and natural qualities. A recent ruling by the Department of the Interior, however, promised some protection. The ruling identified "excepted areas" within the recreation area which were closed to mineral leasing. In Ross Lake NRA the areas closed to mineral leasing were: all lands within a half mile of Gorge, Diablo, and Ross lakes; all lands proposed for, or designated as, wilderness; all lands within a half a mile of Highway 20; and Pyramid Lake Research Natural Area and all lands within a half mile of its boundary. The ruling also provided strict guidelines for mineral leasing in other areas of the recreation area.

Finally, proposals to construct several small hydroelectric facilities on federal land presented perhaps the greatest potential threat to the recreation area's scenic and natural values. At the time the plan was completed, however, the small hydroelectric projects were on hold pending legal review. (Eventually, the Washington Park Wilderness Act of 1988 would eliminate FERC's authority over these projects and thus the projects themselves since they were included within the park's wilderness area.)

A central component of the land protection plan was its definition of compatible and incompatible uses on nonfederal lands. It described the kind of action the Park Service would take to protect the recreation area's aesthetic values and natural conditions. Compared to Stehekin's issues, these seemed straightforward. Some examples of this were: firewood and Christmas tree cutting were allowed within City Light's transmission line corridor, but clearing forested land or vegetation within the river and highway corridor was not, specifically because it would scar the landscape and impair the visual character of the area; small-scale mineral extraction on private land with an approved plan was permitted, but mineral extraction that would detract from the river and highway corridor's scenic values or degrade the river's water quality was not.

Another consideration in ensuring compatible uses of nonfederal lands and protecting scenery and river access was the type of land ownership. There were three kinds of land owners in the recreation area. Of the 2,500 acres, Seattle City Light owned 1,128 acres, including the towns of Newhalem and Diablo; Washington State owned 480 acres, making up the bed of the Skagit River; private interests owned subsurface mineral rights to 746 acres along the Skagit (the government retained ownership of the surface rights); and the remaining 145 acres were owned by private parties (the majority of this land being a patented mining claim). With lands under municipal, state, and private ownership, park managers proposed a variety of approaches to land protection, primarily through cooperative agreements, regulations, easements, and fee acquisition.

Some of the top priorities for land protection reflected these different ways of acquiring interest in the various nonfederal lands. One of the top priorities identified by the plan was to enter into a cooperative agreement with City Light for public access to the river on a ten-acre parcel at the boundary of the recreation area; this would ensure that there would be a take out for rafters and others using the river once they left the park complex. Another top priority was the direct purchase of the subsurface mineral rights along the river to ensure this landscape's scenic beauty and natural integrity. However, where the other patented mining claims were concerned, the plan proposed seeking conservation easements and fee simple ownership through donation. Other priorities involved not only protecting natural beauty but wildlife habitat as well. High on the priority list was the purchase of a conservation easement for thirty-seven acres of private land adjacent to the Skagit in order to protect wintering bald eagle habitat. The largest land area involved embraced the 940 acres owned by Seattle, a series of tracts along the Skagit corridor. The sole interest here for the Park Service was scenic preservation -- the landscape viewed both from the river and the highway -- which could be accomplished through a cooperative agreement. Finally, there were some nonfederal lands considered to be adequately protected; these were the 188 acres comprising the towns of Newhalem and Diablo.

As with any management program, developing a plan was the first step, implementation was the next. The latter generally took more time than the former. In 1986 and 1987, this changed somewhat; the park complex's acquisition funds increased by nearly $1.5 million, stimulating the protection program. As a result, one of the main accomplishments of the land protection program for Ross Lake NRA was the purchase of private land along the Skagit River bald eagle habitat in 1988. Initially, the land protection plan called for purchasing a conservation easement for these two tracts; however, further study revealed that these parcels were important feeding areas for bald eagles wintering on the river. With this information, park managers revised the plan in order to purchase this land in fee simple for the greatest degree of protection available and gave the purchase top priority.

By the early 1990s, however, this purchase stood out as the only priority satisfied in the Ross Lake plan. Except for the above purchase, the 1990 land protection plan made the same recommendations as the previous plan. But there were two notable differences. The first stemmed from the recently completed 1988 general management plan for the park complex. The plan revised the land classification categories within the recreation area. It identified three: the natural zone, a largely unaltered environment managed to protect its natural integrity; the special use zone, an area for non-Park Service activities, such as City Light's hydroelectric project; and the park development zone, lands that would support the major visitor developments. The second difference was the official designation of the park complex's wilderness in 1988. With the passage of the Washington Park Wilderness Act, 74,000 acres of land within the recreation area's "natural zone" had become part of the Stephen Mather Wilderness. Moreover, this wilderness legislation amended earlier regulations regarding the use of minerals. Briefly stated, the legislation virtually eliminated mining in the recreation areas. It also effectively eliminated the proposed small hydroelectric projects because it clarified and limited the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Ross Lake NRA. That is, it specified that FERC only had jurisdiction over City Light's Skagit River project and its related elements, both existing and proposed. In this way, park managers were free to draw the wilderness boundaries to include more of the recreation area and to assert their authority over the kinds of uses proposed for this area (rather than having the power rest with FERC), all of which ended the threat of small hydroelectric projects.

These changes, it seems, placed the recreation area on relatively firm footing for protection. In December 1993, park officials noted that there was "no real need" to update the land protection plan for Ross Lake NRA. The only potential problem was with the "many split estate situations," which referred to the federal ownership of surface rights and unknown or ambiguous ownership of the subsurface rights. In this regard, condemnation would be the main procedure. Moreover, the most of the nonfederal lands were owned by Seattle as part of the Skagit project, which was operated under a FERC license, and apparently did not present any great threat to Park Service interests. [106]

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Last Updated: 14-Apr-1999