Table of Contents


General Introduction


Impressions of the North Cascades
Essays about a Northwest Landscape

Part III: Landscapes of Vision

Introduction to Part III

A little over two centuries ago the first European eyes gazed eastward from the deck of a ship in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The white cone of the mountain George Vancouver named Baker rose prominently to the northeast, while southward stretched a horizon of serrated peaks. Here was a wild, untamed land ripe for the taking, a land of empire and opportunity. They claimed the place for the king of England and moved on.

The pace of change on this landscape was slow at first, then increased to a blur of settlement and development. The mountains that are the core of the North Cascades, because of their extremely rugged topography and discouraging climate, were on the margins of this process. Late in the nineteenth century, when thoughtful people began to worry that natural resources were being squandered without thought for the future, the hand of government reached out from Washington, D.C. and decreed that these mountain lands would be "reserved," placed off-limits to greedy entrepreneurs who were claiming land for logging and mining as fast as their schemes would allow. Subsequently these reserves were made national forests, wild and primitive wilderness areas, and parts of them became national park and national recreation areas.

The idea of national park is little more than a century old; of wilderness; less than a century. What seemed useless to those first Europeans—useless because it was wild and would only be useful when tamed—has now become useful because it is wild. Such an idea would only serve to bewilder the early pioneers who encountered this landscape.

We cannot predict what the future of the North Cascades will be, nor can we control that future, but we can and must consider it. How different this landscape would be today had people with foresight not promoted forest reserves late in the nineteenth century. Now, as the twentieth century comes to a close, many concerned people are thinking about what this particular landscape might be for future generations, and how these visions might be achieved. Time and again the grizzly bear appears in our thinking, a symbol of the nature that early settlers sought to conquer and which many of us today seek to restore. We have wilderness now, but is it really wild without the grizzly? As human populations grow in numbers and become ever more dominant all over the earth, some grow thoughtful and downright angry at the prospect of a world without deep wilderness, where a creature of the magnificence of a grizzly can go about its business.

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North Cascades Conservation Council
P.O. Box 95980
Seattle, WA 98145-2980