A Plea to Protect Stehekin’s Private Land Base

Calling for an end to further NPS land aquisition, Tom and Liz Courtney, members of a subcommittee of Stehekin Heritage, presented the following on Janaury 10, 2011, at the NPS LLP and SRCIP meeting at the Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin. Since this testimony, more acreage of private land has been acquired. As of this date, no limit to NPS land acquisition has been made.

No Net Loss of Land Base Value

In order for Stehekin to sustain a unique and valuable private community into the future, the security and permanence of the valley’s current private land base is critical.  The value of Stehekin’s private community has been proven over time, and was noteworthy enough to be set aside in legislation, and preferred by the visiting public. Since 1968, the private land base within the valley has been reduced by nearly eighty percent, affecting the future character of Stehekin. With lands being removed from private ownership without limitation, we are at a critical point in time as to whether the value and one of a kind culture can continue to reflect worthy, original characteristics that defined Stehekin.
Our goal is to preserve and protect what remaining private lands exist in Stehekin and call for “No further net loss of private land base value.” We champion the cause that all pertinent governing agencies recognize, adopt and support this principle, thereby displaying support for the future of the private community within Stehekin, by assuring permanence of our land base. 
1730      original private acres  = Approaching 80%  Reduction in Private lands
400.0   remaining private acres (less than)
62,000   surrounding acres of the Lake Chelan Recreation Area
 Affirmation for “No Net Loss of Private Land Base Value”: 
1.  Private Property is Essential for Stehekin’s Future
Any further purchase of private land by the NPS is destructive to the future of the Stehekin Community. The private land base has all ready been reduced by nearly 80% percent of original private acreage in the surrounding 62,000 acres of the designated LCNRA. The original community in 1967 had a total of 1620.58 acres.  A community cannot survive or invest in the future with continual reduction of land base and value. NPS purchase poses an imminent threat to Stehekin’s viable future.
The current planning efforts do not objectively define the value of private property as it relates to the Stehekin Community.
2.  There are no limitations cited in the LPP or any NPS policies regarding how much land in Stehekin will be purchased by the NPS over time. In fact, the Current Draft LPP lists all properties except 4.7 acres as desirable for their ownership.
3. Before the Land Protection Plan is finalized, it is essential that the NPS acknowledge and identify the effects of land acquisition upon the community of Stehekin in a far more comprehensive and in-depth manner than is currently available in the Draft Land Protection Plan. 
   We are currently discussing the concept with Chelan County to find the most applicable avenue for this investigation      and how land acquisition affects: 
  •  Stehekin’s community/culture (historical and current)
  •  Stehekin citizens’ opportunities to create future businesses, investment security, residential security and community life.
  • The human interest currently available to the visiting public: Local, authentic interpretation of history, homes and defining characteristics of mountain life.
  • Effects of NPS land acquisition on land prices, taxes and other economic considerations from 1968 to the present.
4.  Any further reduction of the Private Land Base by NPS purchase in Stehekin creates a deficit which we believe violates Congressional intention when passing PL 90-544. This legislation spoke of the value, character and importance of the Stehekin Community. Legislators listened to public testimony and removed Stehekin and the LCNRA from the North Cascades National Park in 1967 and set aside this area for national recognition and the specific purpose to preserve the unique character of the Stehekin Community. Senate Report 700 is cited below:
SENATE REPORT 700:  Senate Report speaks specifically to the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area  (LCNRA)  On pages 30 and 31 under “Boundary Changes”  (Here the reasons for placing Stehekin in the LCNRA rather than the National Park are listed.)  “Designate the lower Stehekin Valley and upper Lake Chelan areas the Lake Chelan National Recreation area instead of a part of the park.  Many of the yearlong residents of the Stehekin Valley are descendants of the original homesteaders.  Some 1700 acres, mostly on the valley floor are in private ownership, and in the past several decades a number of summer homes have been built … The lake … will serve as the primary access for park and recreation visitors approaching form the southeast.  The village and the lower valley, therefore, will have considerable use, and development to accommodate these visitors will be necessary. … All of these factors were important in the committee’s decision to create a 62,000 acre recreation are here, instead of giving the area national park status.”  (Emphasis added)
 5.  Stehekin residents living on private land provide the following services for the visiting public, valley residents and the National Park Service, historically and currently, creating a quality experience hosted by an authentic mountain community:
  • Overnight Tourist facilities (Quality Experience with local rental cabins located throughout the valley and along the shore of Lake Chelan, Stehekin Valley Ranch providing beautiful up valley location, Private homes where visiting families stay)
  • Quality World-class bakery, nationally recognized and a highly anticipated renewal spot for Pacific Crest Trail hikers
  • Recreational opportunity providers (Horseback riding, kayaking, fishing guide, rafting, horse supported pack trips,)
  • Service providers/private businesses: freight, construction, heavy equipment, boat transportation, bike rentals
  • Historical enhancement (Stehekin Choice writings, private authors, private family documents and photos, homesteading history)
  • Interpretation of the Valley (including authors, art, tours)
  • Human interest for the visitor (People surviving in the mountains is interesting to all)
  • Artistry (many venues — Photography, painting, graphic artists, woodworking, fabric artists. Local creations available to the visiting public through “The House That Jack Built”)
  • Pioneer skills that blend with the valley history (woodworking, leather work, blacksmith skills, horseshoeing, archery,)
  • Gardens as representing survival and enhancing the area with  beauty and practicality-nearly every home has one.
  • Emergency Know-how and Assistance (Knowledge of the area in search in rescue, in fire situations and floods)
  • Survival Skills as examples of a lifestyle gone by, isolated from urban life, living close to nature, value to the rest of the country as a reminder of our ties to the past.
  • Hunting —pack animals and packers provide access to high country hunting
  • Saving $ through contracts with local residents-more cost effective
Overall, Stehekin is a unique community, and unique location to dwell, due to its location in the mountains,  the isolation, the history of pioneer families, seasonal beauty, and the mountain-lifestyle’s influence upon people’s lives.  The visiting public enjoys the difference of this culture that is recognized in enacting legislation.  NPS management philosophy as expressed in the LPP should specifically include the value of these services to the NPS, the visiting public and the Stehekin Community.
 Any further reduction of private lands directly affects the opportunities for similar, creative and diverse experiences for the visiting public. “No net loss of private land value” supports the unique, creative and positive value of the Stehekin Community and serves the public interest.
6.  Elements that support and protect the private community now and into the future dependent on private land base:
On a Local Level:
Private Land Base (foremost and imperative)
Commerce – the ability to make a living
Location and ability to gather – bakery, post office, community hall, church
School property and building
Resources (water, sand, rock, gravel, timber)
Access -Roadway, Airstrip, Trails
Transportation up the lake (Boats and barges)
Private Local Service providers:  Carpenters, Heavy Equipment, Freight Barge, Fuel, Well Drillers,
Power Supplier (Chelan County PUD)
Communication with Emergency Help (Sheriff, medi-vac)
On a cultural level:
Families that wish to stay and reside here, committing time here now and into the future, wanting to raise children here
The determination to live this lifestyle
Love of Stehekin~ pride of place and people’s strong relationships
A unique one room school and excellent program
Individuals tied to the past through pioneering generations
Stehekin Heritage
Social Events~ Trillium Festival, summer square dance, Spinning Rendezvous, school events (graduations), Christmas singing, choir, church events, horse shows, scouting, archery shoots, Mother’s Day picnics
In Summary
“No net loss of private land base value” is essential for these reasons:
1.  Stehekin is a valuable community for visitors, residents and the NPS.
2.  Legislation set aside the LCNRA largely due to the existence of the Stehekin Community
3.  Security, investment and family life into the future depend on a healthy, viable community which can only exist on private lands.
We ask the NPS to:
 1. State overtly in your overall objectives and goals that your goal is to preserve and support an active vibrant community of people living and working in Stehekin as an enhancement to the visitor appreciation and use of the LCNRA.
 2. End land acquisition in the Stehekin Valley due to detrimental effects on the Stehekin Community and consider creative and futuristic land exchange concepts that support “No net loss of private land base value.”
3. Use enabling Legislation as a tool to support these actions (1 and 2)
4. Halt land acquisition immediately until an investigation is complete concerning the affects of Land acquisition upon the Stehekin Community.