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Land swap leads to park improvements, new Skokomish homes

SKOKOMISH, Wash. - A land exchange between the Skokomish Tribal Nation and the State Parks and Recreation Commission will make possible the construction of homes for tribal members and camping improvements at the park.

Skokomish sought an easement from State Parks to improve and use a service road through Potlatch State Park for access to a proposed tribal housing development. State Parks feared the road and development might negatively impact camping; Skokomish proposes to build 130 homes over the next 15 years.

Skokomish agreed to fund the state's acquisition of the privately owned Minerva Beach RV Resort adjacent to Potlatch State Park. The 11-acre resort has about 70 existing RV hook-up sites, several primitive campsites, a small store, laundry service and an office.

The acquisition of the resort will allow Potlatch State Park to offset the negative impact of the proposed access road while increasing the park's total camping capacity. The resort land will be purchased for $750,000.

In exchange, State Parks is deeding to Skokomish 30 acres of undeveloped parkland, including the land required to reconstruct the service road, and an unmanaged parcel of about 34 acres of public tidelands a mile southeast of the Potlatch State Park day use area. The combined land value is $818,000.

To equally balance the value of the land exchange, a public access easement to the tidelands will be reserved for wildlife viewing and nature walks; however, there will be no public access for shellfish gathering.

Makah's Bowechop honored for environmental work

SEATTLE - Chad Bowechop, policy analyst for the Makah Nation, received the 2007 Legacy Award from the Pacific States-British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force for his efforts on behalf of oil spill prevention and response in the region.

Bowechop was one of six honorees at the Clean Pacific Conference, held Sept. 13 - 14 in the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle.

Bowechop was instrumental in obtaining funding for an emergency response tug stationed at Neah Bay during the stormy season. Since 1999, the tug has responded 34 times to help keep ships from running aground and spilling oil.

Bowechop participated in the state Department of Ecology's risk assessment process for the Strait of Juan de Fuca and helped ensure that cultural resources were considered in the assessment. As a result of his efforts, the Northwest Area Contingency Plan incorporated guidance on how oil spill and hazardous material response will protect cultural resources.

''Chad is a tireless educator of the public, federal and state agencies, tribal governments and elected officials regarding the environmental benefits of investing in spill prevention, preparedness and response,'' said Dale Jensen, who oversees the spills program for the state Department of Ecology.

The Clean Pacific Conference included an address by Tom Fitzsimmons, Gov. Chris Gregoire's chief of staff and a former state ecology director.

Skokomish songs, dances performed at ancestral site

SKOKOMISH, Wash. - Today, area residents and visitors know the site as Potlatch State Park. But the Skokomish people know the site as t3bad' as (pronounced t'-BAH-dahs), the location of an ancestral village.

On Sept. 8, songs and dances familiar to the site were performed at ''Tuwaduq Days at t3bad' as,'' part of the state Parks and Recreation Commission's Folk and Traditional Arts in the Parks program.

The free public event was co-sponsored by the Skokomish Tribal Nation Cultural Resources Department and included demonstrations of Native arts and crafts, canoe pulling, performances, field games and a special appearance by Skokomish's Twana Dancers.

Potlatch State Park is located on the Great Bend of the Hood Canal and U.S. Highway 101, between Shelton and Hoodsport. Because of its history as t3bad'as, it was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tuwaduq Days at t3bad' as is part of a broader series of events celebrating Washington's diverse cultures. Additional funding support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Washington State Parks Foundation.

Climate change was key topic at Salmon Forum

SEATTLE - Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, participated in a discussion on climate change Sept. 17 at the Salmon Homecoming Forum, at Seattle's Golden Gardens Bathhouse.

The forum, titled ''Taking Care of Our Futures,'' focused on proactive steps that can be taken in dealing with impending climate change.

''Steps taken now will help us achieve cultural and environmental sustainability,'' said Gerald James, Lummi, president of the Salmon Homecoming Alliance.

Forum presentations were scheduled to address when and how the climate is expected to change and what the ecosystem impacts will be. Approaches to managing watersheds and agricultural and urban water supplies were presented, followed by ways that local government can meet the challenges. The spiritual and cultural dimensions of the challenge were discussed.

Speakers included Ed Miles, University of Washington Climate Impacts Group; Tony Usibelli, state Department of Commerce, Trade and Economic Development; Mike Shelby, Western Washington Agriculture Association; Ron Sims, county executive, King County; Terry Williams, fisheries commissioner, The Tulalip Tribes.

A reception to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Salmon Homecoming rounded out the event, along with a special potlatch ceremony to honor long-time friends and supporters of the event.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at rmwalker@rockisland.com.

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