When we moved to the Tri-Cities in 1979, access to the hills and desert was almost unimpeded and native vegetation flourished. Now, 35 years later, it’s hard to find a way out into the steppe to star gaze and wander.
The intervening years have seen an amazing growth in the number of people and houses, fences and limited activity areas. New neighborhoods appear as if by magic taking over formerly pristine shrub steppe. Children who photographed jack rabbits, Balsamroot and Grass Widow and who appreciated bunch grass because it held the soil in place come home to visit and don’t recognize the place.
Change is inevitable and development isn’t all bad, but if our county commissioners can’t act now to help set aside tracts of land for the next generation, we’ll lose the beauty of the area and the wonder it held for previous inhabitants. Our forebears treasured wild places and, with the help of people like Teddy Roosevelt, bought land to preserve into the future.
At $6-12 per year for most home owners (less than the cost of a single trip to the movies), we can set aside places like Candy Mountain and land that’s cleaned up and about to be released on the Hanford Reservation so that visitors can hike trails and photograph areas seen by very few humans since 1943. Photographers will likely catch wild horses, herds of elk and indigenous butterflies and prairie flowers. Vistas that have been off-limits to our citizens will once again be available if we pass Benton County Proposition 14-7.
As the song says “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone — pave Paradise, put up a parking lot.” We have a chance to avoid that here in Benton County. We can give the commissioners the means with which to buy land that’s put up for sale by willing sellers (no lands will be condemned in order to make them available).
I say we jump on it.