Friendly Preservation

Friendly Preservation

Friends of Badger Mountain are approaching preservation in a model way: Identify a community concern, find a willing land owner, get diverse groups involved and gather grassroots support.

And Friends is tackling it in short order.

Last month, the group of Tri-City hiking enthusiasts announced it had negotiated an agreement to buy 574 acres on the crest and slopes of Badger Mountain now owned by Sheldon Shore of Pasco and a couple of other partners.

Preservation of open spaces has been a growing concern during the recent Tri-City building boom, as neighborhoods in Richland and Pasco showed last year when they mobilized to oppose proposed sales of publicly owned land.

Now, local conservationists are working with The Trust for Public Land to collect the $700,000 necessary to buy the Badger Mountain property. Friends of Badger Mountain is hoping to show local support for the project by raising $75,000 from local individuals and businesses by Dec. 15.

That’s a tall order for a volunteer group that is less than two years old. But as of Friday, the group had raised well over $40,000. (To donate, e-mail or call 375-5705.)

Indeed, the Badger Mountain group has a big circle of friends. With assistance in some form or another from the city of Richland, Benton County, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society and the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau, there is a diverse set of partners pursuing the project.

Add the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to that list. Last year, Bonneville Power Administration gave the council $3.5 million in exchange for the lifting of a requirement that land beneath two unfinished nuclear power plants north of Richland be returned to its original condition.

BPA now has until 2029 to partially restore the site, and the state has money to spend on preserving shrub steppe in and around Benton County. When a potential land purchase elsewhere in Benton County fell through, the energy council began looking more seriously at Badger Mountain.

The council could end up being a big donor to the project. If so, preservation of a piece of Badger Mountain would be, in a roundabout way, a legacy of the Washington Public Power Supply System debacle that left the nuclear plants unfinished.

Friends of Badger Mountain might end up with another ingredient for a successful project: A great story to tell.

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