Snoqualmie Valley on 'endangered' list
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
CARNATION--Organic farmer Steve Hallstrom likens the Snoqualmie Valley to a glass that has been pushed off the kitchen counter but is still in mid-air. "The glass is still in one piece," he says, "But when it hits the floor it will shatter. And no government agencies are jumping to catch it."
Hallstrom, who farms two acres near the Tolt River, says he has worked for the last 10 years to try to keep development from overrunning farming areas. "I have been unsuccessful," he said last week. "In the Comp Plan this was not supposed to happen, but county policies have not been implemented in an effective way. Recommendations from the rural task force have been watered down. You can see it happening...the dairy farms are almost all gone...they are making way for horse acres and dog kennels, and I have just learned the FFA program has been canceled at Cedarcrest High School."
Hallstrom is a member of 1000 Friends of Washington, an environmental group which last week released a report that listed the Snoqualmie Valley as among 10 "most endangered places of 1998" in Washington state. The report puts the Snoqualmie Valley fifth on the list in danger of "being loved to death" by uncontrolled growth. The group claims rural sprawl, recreational growth and the rise of "big box retail are changing the face of our communities."
Topping the chart as most endangered is Hood Canal, followed by the Methow Valley, San Juan Islands, and Lake Whatcom. After the Snoqualmie Valley, the Stillaguamish Valley, the Columbia Gorge, Downtown Spokane, I-90 Corridor and Mount Rainier complete the list.
The group blames "up-scale suburbanization" for driving out farms, and says growth is "transforming Snoqualmie Valley from a rural landscape of working farms and forests into a haven for upper-income commuters seeking a bucolic alternative to the eastside suburbs." The report states that population in the Valley has increased by 261,600 in the last 10 years. Members of 1000 Friends compiled their information by talking to planners, citizen activists, biologists, elected officials and developers.
The group supports the 1990 Growth Management Act that requires that local governments develop and adopt local and county-wide growth management policies, and identify urban growth areas, outside of which rural character will be maintained. But in spite of the so-called "urban-rural line," required by the GMA, many farmers have been leaving the area due to increased pressure from development and the regulations that follow.
The report does note, though, that small-scale intensive farming on the urban fringe has proven profitable and cites the agriculture commission and ombudsman as positive steps taken by King County as it attempts to save what is left of its agricultural base. "Every day, we are losing a little bit more of the Washington that we love," said Tracy Burrows, Planning Director for 1000 Friends of Washington. "Sprawl development is threatening our state's most treasured places. We need smart growth, not sprawl."