Too often I observe the best of intentions become something muddy, unclear and perhaps less successful than what was hoped for. To see the frustration and loss of faith can be the least pleasant experience I observe on my travels in the van with Danny. Luckily for me, this did not present itself in the Yakima Basin over the few days I enjoyed it. Heart, courage, and sacrifice are the founding elements for this Chapter of TU aptly called Headwaters.
The leaders for the Yakima River Headwaters Chapter of TU who have stepped up in this region are driven to succeed. They hear the naysayers, are diligent in preparation, and execute like a professional team. The team is fueled by guides who are working these waters on a daily basis, and their love for it bridges any divides in the community that arise. They stay educated on regional aspects and focus on creating positive local change.
Having the opportunity to learn about what they have done, and what they are pointing themselves at for the future, is inspiring. The approach will hopefully provide a blueprint for the success of future Chapters of TU throughout the West.
From things as simple as creating opportunities each month for residents to learn more about issues affecting fisheries in the region, to providing signage with partnerships on the ethics of angling and boating the Yakima – their successes are increasing, and their habits are creating a fellowship.
Perhaps it is the nature of the environment in these areas that provide a stimulus of desire to protect them. Could the land itself and our connection to it physically, emotionally, and psychologically somehow trigger such a purpose aforethought in our humanity to take action to protect it?
When you hear people like these leaders talk about their places you glean a sense of purpose akin to the love they feel for their children or loved ones. It is as precious to them to seek solutions in protecting their home-waters as it is to ensure the safety of those they love. Such can also be said of those people who are attracted to their programs and the audience is diverse.
I met people from all walks of life during my time here and observed the myriad of uses this community engages in from my camp sites each night.
My first night was spent in a polished campground with showers and other facilities run by the State. I observed a campground nearly full on a weekday that on one side backed right up to the river and the other side was a major freeway not more than an eighth mile away. I asked myself why anyone would pay good money for a campground where you could hear the traffic all night instead of the water or the bugs. It appeared that most of the users here were not from the local area, but from more urban environments with all the amenities brought along.
The following nights were spent in a Community Forest that slowly filled up over the days I spent there. This seemed to be more what the locals who live in these small communities come to call their space in the wild. Dispersed campgrounds abound in the Teanaway and everything from large family groups to mountain bikers to horseback riders descended on the area over time.
Does one of these areas mean more than the other, not really. It is a great example though of the variety of impacts we can have on our forests and rivers. From off trail access points that cause degradation of habitat to fully paved with concrete platform sites and sewers, there is a variety that seeks to benefit all campers and activities. In many ways it reminds me of Central Oregon. It is growing, there’s no stopping it from happening. This TU Chapter recognizes this and seeks to be in front of the potential issues that follow.
This leadership group is made up of lifelong residents, others who have been working in the area for decades, and some newly arrived- such diversity lends itself to an approach which brings the old ways in tune with new. The diversity in the background of those who come to volunteer for their programs is as equal in representation, and their common goal infuses their efforts to create a relationship built on trust.
It is my hope this Chapter continues along its current path, and does not let the politics and fear of change muddy up and bring lack of clarity to their mission. If you have an opportunity to visit with them you will see the same as I have. You just have to be willing to watch and listen.
The changes we experience in our communities requires that some of us take up the mantle of protecting them for the future. The Yakima Headwaters Chapter leaders found they could make this change in themselves, and now they seek to inspire their community to find that in themselves.