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Chewin’ the Fat Boy: February, 2017

By Susan Swan

Chewing

Our world seems divided these days and it’s difficult to know what’s real versus imagined. What is worth worrying over, really? What can we do to improve the human condition? Maybe it’s time to shut off the noise and turn our attention to living on purpose… It’s easier than you might think to get involved… I grew up in Seattle, at a time when it was less populated, safer, kinder, some might say. But for more than 15 years I’ve lived in an absurdly unspoiled rural area, on the way to darned near nowhere. Over those years, I’ve made it my business to watch what’s going on, attend meetings, speak my mind as the rural county leaders and their boards draft regulations that can impact every aspect of life here in northeast Washington State. Here, well-intentioned leadership, as is likely true in many places, have their ears bent by folks with an agenda. They need to hear from us too… The agenda’d crowd are developers, realtors, brokers, building trade contractors, personal property rights advocates and would-be politicians. Often those hats are worn interchangeably or even simultaneously. But the main theme is to advantage themselves at the expense of everyone and everything else. The truth is, if there was an actual need of breaking up farm and forestland for residential building lots, if there were any jobs for those who might make this region home, if grocery shopping and medical specialties weren’t 80-plus miles one way to Spokane, the region would perhaps be viable. But this crew of folks, using fear tactics like “If we don’t grow we’ll die,” have already booted those who disagree with their agendas off commissions and boards, and are poised to defy state law and begin breaking up designated resource land without just cause. That’s something I care about (oldboysranch.blogspot.com) and have spent the last decade protecting… Pend Oreille County is called the Forgotten Corner, because it’s really been exactly that (forgotten). Running north to south, it’s long and narrow, dominated by public lands, and has a reputation among wildlife biologists and USFS personnel as being “the zoo” for the abundance and diversity that includes mountain goat, grizzly, woodland caribou, grey wolf, cougar plus the usual suspects. There are no poisonous snakes; it’s not as arid as the Okanogan. It’s more like Western Washington or Oregon with Douglas fir being the dominant tree species… Many of you have likely toured here, dodging whitetail deer, Roosevelt elk, moose and bear and being swept away by the natural rugged landscape aside the state’s second-largest river, the Pend Oreille. Maybe you’ve ridden up to Seattle City Light’s Boundary Dam at the Canada/U.S. border. “Touring To and Through Boundary Dam,” something I wrote years ago, is posted on the SCL website. The nearby town of Metaline Falls has a performing arts theatre, largely supported by a Canadian mining company, Teck. This quiet, walkable community still has homes priced affordably, a small grocery store, two restaurants and a movie theatre too costly to heat in winter. As I write today, we have 15” of snow and it’s -1 degree Fahrenheit… There are places folks can come to recreate, and more sites coming online soon. A website that invites private landowners to share their parcels, make a little coin and use it to conserve these precious places is one that riders might like to learn of. It’s landapart.com… If you tour here, be aware there are no hospitals nearby in the north county, only a small clinic with a doctor one or two days per week. We have good nurse practitioners that we call “Doc,” and residents have subscriptions to a chopper evacuation service out of Spokane, but they can only fly about 20 percent of the time… I’m telling you all this because your visitation can make a difference. Not because you’ll find a host of places to leave money, to eat or take lodging, but because experiencing it firsthand will compel you to care about it, maybe to give voice to seeing it’s not treated callously. Maybe you’ll see its potential to become a Winthrop or place for glamping, dude ranching, agritourism opportunities, eco-tourism or other forms of retreat. Maybe there’s a place you love elsewhere that could be at risk as you assume all is well. Find out… Riders know the value of stargazing without the compromise of streetlights, the rejuvenating state of mind possible when surrounded by nature, beauty and quiet. We can have a hand in seeing such places aren’t lost while we’re distracted by all the noise and drama in the media… Sometimes we feel hopeless to make things better, but if we lend a hand, raise our voices to protect the places we love, places that sustain life, if we talk about it, maybe some good will come. And as a result, young folks who come after us will still have places to farm, to homestead, to manage a forest or to see wildlife passing through. Tell me what you think at susan@tohonor.org.

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