Green Karma? -- PULLMAN, Wash. -- Perhaps in an effort to offset the bad juju settling in around Pullman with the talk of letting Wal-Mart open up shop there, Washington State University announced over the weekend its plans to buy Magpie Forest, 14 acres of Palouse Prairie on the north side of town.
Researchers and conservationists have long treasured the forest for its biological diversity; the 14-acre parcel is home to more than 160 species of plants, birds and other animals. The Pullman Environmental Quality Commission identified it as one of the city's most important and endangered areas. Others have noted that native Palouse prairie is among the nation's most endangered ecosystems.
But booming growth around Pullman led some to wonder if the forest was doomed to end up as a suburban cul-de-sac. According to Alan Davis, Pullman parks superintendent, the city's comprehensive plan estimates a growth increase of 23 percent in the next 15 years. "If this land was not protected now," Davis says, "it would likely have succumbed to major development."
Officials from WSU say the land will make an ideal classroom. "We were able to justify purchasing Magpie Forest as a nearby outdoor environmental science laboratory," says Mel Taylor, the university's director of special projects. He says it's also an opportunity "to be part of a package of native prairie habitat protection." Rod Sayler, a WSU conservation biologist, says they'll use the forest to study the ecology of declining native bees, butterflies and rare plants. -- JOEL SMITH
Upstream Battle -- SPOKANE -- Here's something to ponder in your quieter moments: Fishing can help save salmon. I know. I'm skeptical, too. Isn't that like saying that Godzilla's bloody rampages were an improvement to Tokyo's downtown core?
But that's one of the points the Sierra Club will be arguing during Salmon 101, a half-day symposium they're hosting this Saturday. The symposium will feature speakers who, they say, have "dedicated their careers to the survival of these wonderful fish." That means people like Nez Perce attorney Dave Cummings, the National Wildlife Federation's John Kober and David Moryc from the Portland chapter of American Rivers.
The speakers will focus on the benefits of fishing, the American Indian perspective on salmon and the continued fight to remove the lower four dams on the Snake River (a fight which could pick up in intensity as the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial draws national attention to the area).
Salmon 101 will take place on Saturday, April 30, at the Corbin Senior Activity and Community Center at 827 W. Cleveland Ave. The program begins
at 1 pm, with a reception beginning at 5 pm. Call 456-8802. -- JOEL SMITH
Paint it Black -- SPOKANE -- Angels were abroad in Spokane last Saturday; nearly 400 of them, if you can imagine it. No, these were neither seraphim nor cherubim. The Gonzaga service group, April's Angels, descended on St. Patrick's Elementary School in North Spokane to paint and brighten the place for spring.
Co-chair Megan Sherman says it all went very well, apart from a couple of things. Like the rain, and the "huge stencil that just kept blowing away" when they were repainting the state map on the playground.
But 400 angels can accomplish a lot in one day: They managed to put fresh paint on the exterior of the building, as well as the convent and the halls and classrooms inside.
Sherman says a little more than half the students had worked on the project the previous year, too. "Once they do it, they really enjoy it," she said. Projects from recent years include St. Charles and St. Pascal's schools.
Started 11 years ago by a Gonzaga student, the idea was inspired by the Christmas in April organization, now called Rebuilding Together. The national group focuses on repairing houses owned by the elderly and disabled who wish to remain in their homes.
The board of April's Angel's begins organizing the service project right after school starts in the fall. Sherman says students are encouraged to perform public service as a part of Gonzaga's mission, but it's not an academic requirement.
April's Angels works with schools, says Sherman, because they want to perform a service project that benefits children. Private school projects are easier to set up, she adds, because there is less red tape than with public schools. Pleased with the day's efforts, Sherman says, "It looks so different. We livened everything up!" -- SUZANNE SCHREINER