This may be letting the bear out of the bag, but I went to a celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Management Area. The Sinlahekin is the beautiful valley that you have seen in thousands of photos on this blog.
The Sinlahekin Wildlife Management Area was the first of its kind in the state of Washington, and the inspiration for many more areas set aside to preserve and conserve the land, and to provide recreational access to the public. It stands as a symbol of the necessity to continue the fight against private interest groups intent on restricting land use to whatever will yield the highest profit.
The Sinlahekin is 14,000 acres, purchased from ranchers in 1938 for $9,000. The money came from the Pittman-Robertson Funds, a fund created in the 30's from an excise tax on guns and ammunition. That fund, and additional funds from excise taxes on fishing equipment, continue to help support the operation of the management area.
This valley was set aside as prime mule deer range, in an effort to save deer herds, and it is still a very busy place during deer season. But the mission of the area has expanded through the years to include the provision of "functional habitat based on historic ecosystem properties and habitat dynamics to sustain populations of all species of fish and wildlife present."
In addition, the purpose of the prescribed burn program that I have noted in my posts is to restore habitat for Bighorn Sheep. The burns duplicate the former natural process of lightning fires. The Bighorns are here now, and should flourish. One more break healed in the Sacred Circle.
So people mingled and learned more about the Sinlahekin. Like me, they all believe the Sinlahekin is a special place, a place to be celebrated.
Then everyone gathered under the awning for speeches.
We heard from lots of different people, including the head of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. We heard letters from a Senator or two. And we heard from this guy. This is Dan Ashe. He is the Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The top dog in the management of my fishing opportunities, and yours. I was impressed, not so much by him, but by the fact that my favorite fishing area could bring someone of his stature here. He sounded like he was 100% behind the kind of conservation efforts that have gone into the Sinlahekin. May it be so.
I was more struck, though, by this speaker. I'm sorry I don't have his name. He is a local tribal representative and holy man, and was asked to open the gathering. He reminded us that his people had known this valley for many generations, and had used it as a hunting ground. He explained how sacred the deer were, how their remains were treated with respect, and how his people lived in harmony with the earth. When I hear his song and look out over the beautiful land preserved here, I'm hopeful that, through the efforts of enlightened people today, maybe, just maybe, we can come full circle.