OHS Inv. #2708
Columbia River Dissenters Series
January 22, 1999
Tape 1, Side 1
CW = Chuck Williams
CH = Clark Hansen
Clark Hansen: This is an interview with Chuck Williams at his gallery in The Dalles, Oregon. The interviewer, for the Oregon Historical Society, is Clark Hansen. The date is 1/22/99. This is Tape One, Side One.
So I thought we’d first begin by exploring your own family’s background, and your ancestors, and what your roots are in every direction you could mention...
Chuck Williams: Well, my father Clyde Williams is Cascade Indian, and he was born in the back room of the Skamania General Store, and his great grandfather was Tumove [sp?] - is that coming through okay? - was Chief Tumove, who was the head chief of the western end of the Gorge, and who signed the 1855 treaty, the Willamette Valley treaty that the led to the establishment of the Grand Ronde Reservation. And a few months later, in the beginning of fifty-six, some Yakama Indians, or Klickitats came down from Yakima and attacked the blockhouse there at the Cascades. Then Lieutenant Phil Sheridan, The-only-good-Indian-is-a-dead-Indian Sheridan, was the head of the dragoons at Fort Vancouver, and some of the settlers got away, and came up and blew the bugle, and the Klickitats took off, and the Cascades had just signed the peace treaty, so they didn’t flee, and Sheridan needed a scapegoat, so my great great grandfather was the chief, so he was hung on the spot. The trial consisted of Sheridan putting his finger in my great great grandpa’s gun, [that] had been fired recently, so he hung him on the spot. It was actually one of the lost lyrics of Woodie Guthrie’s “Roll On Columbia,” that they found in the fiftieth anniversary, that had disappeared, and they found the original recording of it, and there was a line in there about Sheridan hung every Indian with smoke in his gun or something [laughs] that was great great grandpa. And so...
CH: So what year would that have been?
CW: Fifty-six. He signed the treaty in 1855, in Dayton, which is where my mom was born. And most people don’t understand that the Grand Ronde treaty goes all the way up to Cascade Locks, the crest of the Cascades is the divider between the Grand Ronde and the Warm Springs treaty ceded areas. So, since the Grand Rondes were terminated for about three decades, they weren’t really ever allowed in the Gorge debate, and still don’t have a voice in the Gorge, even though they have ceded lands, everything from Cascade Locks on the Oregon side through the rest of the Gorge is Cascade territory, down to the Portland Airport, basically.
CH: So, if you were to branch back into your - going back in time to your parents, and your grandparents, and your great grandparents, what are they all composed of? I mean, where did they come from?
CW: Well, my dad’s family were Indians, like I say here, Cascade Indians from the Gorge. [They] had been here since time immemorial. We’re from the village that they built the second powerhouse of Bonneville Dam on top of.
CH: What were the - were these Chinook Indians?
CW: Yeah, we’re Upper Chinook. We’re the same people, basically, as the Wascos and the Wishrams. We lived the village there, where the Bonneville Dam is still on top of. It’s where three treaties come together, basically: the Willamette Valley’s, the Grand Ronde Treaty, the Warm Springs, and the Yakama treaties come together. So my family and all the Cascades were split up. About half of my family was sent to the Yakama Reservation, and that’s where my family traditionally has been enrolled. A lot my family, including Zane [sp?] Jackson, who was the longtime tribal chairman of Warm Springs, his mom was my aunt, and was from our family. So a lot of the Wascos are people from our family, and then Grand Ronde is where a lot of my family ended up now.
The Grand Ronde Reservation was put out towards the coast, because the main purpose was to try to get all the Indians out of the Willamette Valley, to open up the farmlands. Since the reservation ended up over by the coast, we ended up at the - most of us ended up at the Yakama Warms Springs Reservation. It didn’t really have to do with who you were, it was where you were when you were rounded up by the army. So if you were, say, a Wishram, that’s what kind - [indiscernible] are Wishrams - if you were rounded up by the army in what’s now Dallesport, then you were sent to the Yakama reservation, and you Wishram or a Cascade. If that person’s brother was over on The Dalles side when they were rounded up, he was sent to Warm Springs and called a Wasco. If you were down on Sauvie’s Island where we used to get wapato, then you were sent to Grand Ronde and called a Cascade or something. So we were split into three different reservations and such, including my own families, where the...
CH: So your dad was, was he a one hundred percent Chinook?
CW: No, his dad was white. He’s half, so -.
CH: And where did his dad come from?
CW: He came out - he was Welsh - and came out on the railroad, in the eighteen-eighties, and then came down the Gorge. I’m not - I don’t remember why he came down, but he came down to homestead in the Cape Horn [?] area, and met my grandma, who was full-blood Indian. They sort of were married, but at that time it was illegal in the state of Washington for an Indian to marry a non-Indian, clear into the nine - I think it was like 1906 or something...
CW: ...at that time, so it was a totally illegal marriage. Plus, it took two days to get to Vancouver to get married. So, people around there didn’t really formally get married anyway, that much [laughs]. So, my great grandma, my grandma - my Indian grandma’s mother is Kalliah. She’s very famous, known as Indian Mary, and there’s creeks named after her, and roads and such. So she was five years old when her father was hung by Phil Sheridan and the army. It was such an atrocity that the soldiers took up a collection of gold, and gave it to my great grandma’s older sister, Ray Zane [?] Jackson’s mom. She’s the woman in the famous Edward Curtis photographs of the Indian woman at the mouth Willamette - at Wind River with the big canoe. That’s my great grandma’s older sister. The soldiers gave her some gold, because they felt so guilty about what had been done to her dad. She hung on to that all of her life, and did a tombstone for her husband in the Cascade cemetery there, when he died, or some...
CH: And she lived where?
CW: She lived at the mouth, by where they now call Home Valley, there at the mouth of the Wind River. But they were born down on our family land that’s now part of Frenz Lake National Wildlife Refuge. So when my great great grandpa was hanged, he was - even though he had signed the Grand Ronde treaty, his wife was Wishram, so the family was sent to the Yakama reservation. Like one of my Yakama friends that is on council says, “Indians are like homing pigeons: sooner or later you come back to the reservation.” So, as soon as she grew up - she was five when her dad was hanged by Phil Sheridan - so when she grew up, she came back to the Gorge, and traded some horses to get back land that’s where what’s now the Frenz Lake there, just west of the community of Skamania. Since she was an Indian, she couldn’t legally own land. So white people were filing homestead claims on top of her land, and I actually have a copy of the bill. Actually, I think I have it in the drawer there. She had got a contract with the government to take the mail around the Cascades. When the mail boat would come up from Portland, they couldn’t get around the Cascades. So she would meet the boat on her horse, and take the mail around. She was a government-contracted employee, and so when these whites were trying to steal her land from her, she went - they had an Indian agency in Vancouver at the time, that has been I guess there for years. She went in and met with them. He got a bill through Congress, signed by Grover Cleveland, that held her land in trust. That’s been kept in the family, and so when - and that’s the land that’s now - that I was telling you about, that I wouldn’t let go to the Forest Service. We had held it for decades, waiting for the National Park Service to manage the Gorge, and sell it to the Park Service. Then when it became obvious [that it would be part of] the Forest Service, then I got a rider through Congress, and made it a National Wildlife Refuge. There’s now over a thousand swans a day, on the lake in the wintertime.
One of the most exciting things is for - for Chinook people and all of the lower Columbia native people, wapato was our main starch, was our potato. It’s the tuber that grows in shallow wetlands, and it was an incredible source of starch. The Indian women would pick - would walk through the wetlands, and pick it with their toes. [If] you pick it the same time - the right time of year, it floats to the surface. They would have little, miniature canoes with them, a few feet long, and then they just put it into that. Cattle grazing wipes it out. It’s really sensitive. When I came back to our land there, in the mid seventies, there was only one patch of wapato left, and it was in Rooster Rock State Park. Dave Talbot, who was then head of the state parks, who is one of the main villains in my mind [laughs] in the Gorge battle, leased Rooster Rock out to cattle, Rooster Rock State Park, and wiped out the wapato there. The biggest patches left had been in Sauvie’s Island. So the rest of Frenz Lake - once we got our family land, and I got it authorized, then U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bought the rest of the lake. The brothers that owned most of it had been leasing it out for duck hunting, and for cattle grazing, to pay the taxes on it. They were like me, they had ended up living in California during a lot of their childhood, and came back the same time I did, to the family land. We were real close friends, until they tried to build an airport on my wetlands [laughs], then ran for county commissioner. But anyway, once we got it into wildlife refuge, we got the cattle off there. And now the whole north shore of the lake is solid wapato, a massive patch. I assume it was probably brought in by the swans, coming up from - in their poop or something [laughs]. I assume, because the nearest patch was Rooster Rock, and that had been almost wiped out. So, wapato, our main plant now, has come back really great on Frenz Lake. I was talking to the Wasco chief the other day about when they do a root feast there, soon, for - it would be the first wapato root feast in probably a century, or something. So it’s one of those few success stories in the Gorge.
CH: Now the wildlife refuge is called the Frenz Lake?
CW: Right, F-R-E-N-Z. Frenz Lake National Wildlife Refuge. And it’s the most protected part of the Gorge. The national wildlife refuge, we got three of them in the Gorge, and one that I can tell you later, that was supposed to be - and that’s the most - that’s the best managed lands now in the Columbia Gorge, are U.S. Fish and Wildlife lands.
CH: Okay, now going back to your great grandmother, Indian Mary, her husband was who?
CW: Her husband was - my grandmother’s father was Johnny Stooquin who was Wishram. He was a jockey. He’s actually the grandfather of Chief Johnny Jackson, who lives at the mouth of the White Salmon River. And then her - my grandma’s younger sister’s father is Calitz [sp?] in French, so it’s a different husband. She had a different husband for the younger daughter, but my great grandpa is Johnny Stooquin, who is enrolled in Yakama.
CW: Stooquin. S - actually I got our BIA file here [laughs].
CH: Do you actually have a copy of your family tree? Did you ever put that together?
CW: Yeah, I do. Here’s...
CH: Because I’d love to have that for our file.
CW: Here’s - yeah, this is how you spell...
CH: Oh how wonderful.
CW: That’s how the Yakama BIA file is. We’re like the Mormons, we have to keep track of everyone in our family for enrollment [laughs].
CH: Oh, I see, I see. So this is part of your...
CW: Official Bureau of Indian Affairs. It’s my legitimacy [laughs].
CH: Okay, Okay. Stooquin is S-T-O-O-Q-U-I-N.
CW: And since we have verbal languages, there wasn’t any real spelling, but that’s the way it’s kind of been spelled down the years. This is a [Inaudible] that we might be doing things.
CH: [laughs] So...
CW: Where’d you go Watson [?] [laughs]?
CH: Right, exactly. Yeah [laughs]. So, in other words, your - okay, your - this is on your father’s side?
CH: Now - So your great grandmother was Indian Mary.
CH: And her husband was...
CW: Johnny Stooquin.
CH: Johnny Stooquin.
CW: When my grandma was born. That’s my grandma’s father. And then she had another daughter later with her next - with her second husband.
CW: Who was Calitz, Henry Will Wyapy [sp?],
CH: And then your other great great grandparents, on your father’s side?
CW: I don’t know too much about him. He was - ironically, my white grandpa - my grandpa that was married Indian grandma, was born in Pipestone, Minnesota, which is where all the pipes come from, where the red stone that all the peace pipes in the country come from that quarry. That’s where he was born, and he kind of left the family. He came out in the eighteen-eighties, to Tacoma, on the railroad, when they completed the railroad. Then [he] ended up coming down to homestead and logged and such in the Gorge, and met my grandma. Like I say, at that time they couldn’t be married. They lived with my great grandma, had a cabin there that’s - if you go down Indian Mary Road to the National Wildlife Refuge, the road makes an S-turn through an orchard, and that’s my great grandma’s orchard. Until we sold it to Fish and Wildlife, my dad and I still harvested fruit there every year. The trees from this was - my great grandma died in 1906, and the orchard’s still producing. Like I say, until my dad and I made it a national wildlife refuge, we still ate off the fruit off of those trees, clear into the - until about ten years ago or so. That’s were she lived. And then my fam - my grandparents then homestead - lived with her, Indian Mary, Kalliah, for a while, and then they homesteaded up in Cape Horn. There’s pictures in my book of that. Then, during the depression ran the Skamania General Store. People think that’s the old one that’s there now, but that’s actually the new one. The old one was just to the west of there, on the land that I lived on when I wrote the book. My dad was born in the back room of the Skamania General Store, in 1918, when my parents were - operated the store there.
CH: So your parents now - your grandparents - your grandfather was a Welshman.
CW: Right, right.
CH: And your grandmother was...
CW: Full-blood Cascade.
CH: Full-blood Cascade. And her name?
CW: Williams, of course.
CH: Amanda Williams.
CW: Yeah, she was known [?] by Tumove or Stooquin, either way, [?] [in her] pre-Mary days.
CH: How did she meet your Welsh grandfather?
CW: I’m not really sure. She was incredibly beautiful, as you can see, so I imagine [laughs] he was probably struck immediately [inaudible]. I don’t really know. Our oral history is so thorough, but it’s one of those things - I don’t really know other than he came down to the area to probably log. You know, there’s a lot of logging, and homesteaders. Like I say, he came down to the Gorge for work, and met her.
CW: And got married, and they ended up having eleven children. It was a cold Gorge - and my dad is the youngest of the eleven.
CH: So you’re probably related to almost everybody that’s in there.
CW: Yeah, exactly [laughs]. About a third of Skamania County is related to me [laughs].
CH: [laughs] Right. Okay, so going on your mother’s side, why don’t you go back there to as far back as you can go.
CW: My mom’s white, and she’s Scotch Irish, and some English mixture. Her grandmother, my great grandma, started out on the Oregon Trail when she was five years old. They got off in Nebraska until my great grandma grew up. Then they moved on, and came on out to Oregon in the eighteen-eighties, and settled in Dayton, were one of the early settlers in Dayton. That’s where my mom was born, and her mom, my white grandma were born in Dayton. It was - kind of talk about a schizophrenic childhood. Dayton’s where my dad’s great grandpa, Tumove signed the treaty. That’s where the Grand Ronde was signed, in Dayton, with Joel Palmer. So my white great grandma used to live, when I was growing up, on the square in Dayton, right across the street from Phil Sheridan’s blockhouse. So Phil Sheridan shot my white great great grandpa [laughs] - or my Indian great great grandpa. So I would be with white great grandma, playing in the blockhouse [laughs], Phil Sheridan’s blockhouse. I kind of had a schizophrenic childhood, there.
CH: [laughs] So, your - going back again, your great grandparents on your mother’s side were - you had two sets of them.
CW: Right, and they settled in Dayton, and lived up there. My mom’s maternal grandmother started out on the Oregon Trail to Oregon, got off for a little while in Nebraska, and came on out, and lived to see men on the moon. She died at ninety-nine in Dayton. Can you imagine, one mind trying to comprehend wagon trains to spaceships in one lifetime? It’s just mind-boggling.
My mom - my white grandma was born in Dayton. Then my white grandpa is from Nebraska, from a farming family near Hastings, Nebraska. He came out - he grew up and was kind of the family rebel - and moved out to Oregon. My mom was born in 1921, so he came out in the teens. Then he worked on the Old Scenic Highway, here in the Gorge, as one of the workers on the Old Scenic Highway. Then he went down and lived in Dayton, working on the locks, the Yamhill locks there, on the Yamhill River. That’s where he met my grandma. Which is ironic, because she wanted to get out of the little town, and get to the big city, and have some excitement, and he wanted a farm girl [laughs]. That marriage didn’t last too long, [just] long enough for my mom to get conceived. Then actually they got divorced, my grandma remarried, and he got killed in a car wreck. Then she remarried my grandpa again for a while.
So anyway my grandma moved into Portland. My mom was born in Dayton, but my family had some land that my grandpa bought when he was working on the Old Scenic Highway. It’s the land - my mom thinks it’s where the high school is in Hood River, but I never checked it out. It’s not really that important. So they used to spend the summers a lot in Hood River. Growing up, my mom spent a lot of her summers in Hood River, and has a lot of stories about that. She was living - my mom - in Portland, during her high - she went to high school in Portland. It’s now the administrative center in Portland. As I said, my dad was born in the back of the - and grew up in Skamania, and being a half-blood there, you were totally between cultures. It was really a rough time. It was so bad that a lot of his generation kind of repress stuff. You know, they forget the bad times, and actually a couple of the older ones just moved into Portland, or one to San Francisco, and just kind of left their Indian heritage behind. They were just harassed constantly. Even my dad, who was born in 1918, suffered a lot of that when they went got to school. Stevenson was, still is, a very racist place, which is about eleven miles to the east. But that’s where he had to go to high school and such. So the Indian kids and the half breeds would go up there. They’d get rocks thrown at them. They could get Saiwash [sp?] yelled at them, which was kind of the equivalent of nigger. It was the Chinook jargon word for Indian. It became a slur towards Indians to whites. Fortunately, it seems to have disappeared from - unlike the N-word - it seemed to have disappeared from the vocabulary here in the Northwest. They would have rocks thrown at them and such, but they were educated and half white, so they weren’t - they didn’t really fit in with the Indian community, too. In fact, when Aunt - Widacreek [sp?], Aunt Virginia - the woman photographed by Curtis - would come down to visit my grandma, her niece, they would kind of be embarrassed, because she was what they used to refer to as a blanket Indian. She was a traditionalist, that made no attempt to assimilate into the white world. So they were kind of embarrassed , you know [laughs], that a blanket Indian - that they’re relatives. They were hung out between cultures. There was a whole community around Skamania of half-breed people that didn’t really fit in, really, to each culture. The older ones really had it bad, I mean to the point where the don’t even - won’t talk even. There’s two of my aunts left, still alive, that wouldn’t even talk about [it]. But the younger ones were very proud of them [?]. My dad and the next few were just - even though they got harassed - they were Indian period, and made no bones about it, and were very proud of it. The older ones were - really had a lot of it beaten out of them. It was a pretty rough time there.
My dad ended up - right before he went into the Navy - was working in the shipyards in Portland. He actually - his first job out of high school was working out at Bonneville Dam, which was built on top of his village. It didn’t last - that didn’t last long. It’s kind of one of those little ironies of life. So, he went into Portland and worked in the shipyards there, the iron works. My mom was - had just gotten out of high school, and was babysitting for one of my aunts, who ended up marrying Jim Walker who’s - I think they - the Oregon Historical Society, I understand, has a whole section on him. He’s invented model airplanes, remote control. He had American Junior Aircraft Company. He was the founder of that. He’s the only person in my family that ever had money. He’d do these inventions. He, for instance - he had a lot of nerve problems - you know, a very hard-working guy. The doctor told him he needed a hobby like model trains. His business was making model airplanes, so he filled up his whole basement with model trains. His friends would come over and they’d get drunk, and wreck his trains up. So he invented this switch that would automatically align itself as the train came, so they wouldn’t wreck it. [He] ended up selling it to Lionel for a fortune. He became very wealthy, the only people in our family that were wealthy [laughs].
CW: They had three daughters, my aunt and Jim Walker. My mom was babysitting for them, to try to get enough money to get to school. So my dad came over to visit his older sister one day, and their youngest daughter is one of my favorite cousins - dragged my dad in to meet my mom, and said, “this is your future wife here [laughs], meet her.” So that’s how my parents met.
CH: Was it actually kind of arranged like that?
CW: No, no. It was just - the young girl decided that her Uncle Clyde and my mom, her babysitter, were a perfect couple [laughs], and informed them that they were going to marry each other. So it was arranged by like a five year old [laughs].
CH: Your mother’s name was what?
CW: Betty June Defanbaun [sp?]. That was her father’s name, Defanbaun. He’s the one that came out from Nebraska and worked on the Old Scenic Highway. Her maiden name was Rowley. My mom’s grandma, Ida Rowley, is the one that settled in - one of the early families in Dayton. Rowley’s kind of the family name there...
CH: And your father...
CW: Yeah. R-O-W-L-E-Y. It’s one of the early families in Dayton.
CH: And your father’s name was?
CW: A. Clyde - Arthur Clyde Williams.
CH: Arthur Clyde.
CW: He goes by Clyde - went by Clyde. He past away a few years ago. My mom’s still alive.
CH: And so, he was - his father was white...
CH: And his mother was...
CW: Was full-blooded.
CH: Full-blooded Indian.
CW: Yeah. His father’s Charles Otis Williams, the Welsh man. That’s who I’m named after.
CH: Oh I see, I see.
CW: But Chuck - but he went by Charlie. Chuck is a Chinook word for river. So that’s why I’ve always gone by Chuck. A lot of the rivers like the Klickitat and White Salmon, that are wild - they’re National Wild and Scenic rivers, I was the impetus behind. So my nickname at Warm Springs - a lot of Indian country - is Wild-And-Scenic Chuck - is my Indian nickname. Hell, I’m neither as wild nor as scenic as I used to be [laughs]. Pollution over the years, erosion, is something that [laughs} -.
CH: So then your father then, he moved into Portland during the war years?
CW: Yeah, to work in the shipyards, before he went into the Navy. That’s when he met my mom. So I was born in Portland, because of that, in a hospital that no longer exists. I can’t even remember the name of it.
CH: Really? It’s...
CW: I could find that out, but mom still remembers. But it’s one that no longer exists.
CH: So you were born when then?
CW: In forty-three.
CW: July, twenty, forty-three. War baby. My dad had just gone in the Navy. So then we - the first two years of my life, we lived in, like twenty places. I think that’s one reason I’m so nomadic [laughs], I’ve been so nomadic. I’ve moved to San Diego, San Francisco, and all over the place, when my dad was in the Navy. And then, after he got out of the Navy, we ended up in Springfield, there near Eugene. That’s where I went to first and second grade, was in Springfield.
CH: I see. Do you have brothers and sisters?
CW: I’ve got a younger sister, whose three year - Em [????], who lives in Santa Rosa, California.
So when I was in third grade - my dad was able, after got out of the Navy - only because of the GI bill - was able to got school. [He] was one of those people who probably would never have been able to got to college, if it hadn’t been for the GI bill. He started at Washington State, and was going to take business classes. He scored the highest score they had ever scored on a math test. The college says, “Hmm, you ought to think about engineering.” So he ended up going to Oregon State [inaudible]. So we lived there - I guess the first two years of my life was when we traveled in the Navy, so it would have been until I started first grade. We lived in Corvallis there, when I was like three and four, in that - three, four, five, somewhere in that - while my dad was going to school. Then we moved to Springfield.
Even though my dad has an engineering degree - a mechanical and electrical engineering degree - he, being Indian, it wasn’t real easy to get jobs. So we ended up moving to Petaluma, California. It’s about an hour north of San Francisco. So that’s where I grew - from third grade through high school, that’s where I grew up. About the time I was getting out of high school, my parents divorced. My dad moved back to the Gorge, and I ended up back here later. My sister and my mom still live in Sonoma County. So [it’s] kind of a second home.
CW: My mom’s one of those people that was born in Oregon and moved to California.
CH: [laughs] The other way around.
CW: The reverse migration, yeah.
CH: What was your father’s occupation?
CW: He was an engineer.
CW: Well, from third grade on, he primarily worked at a company called Crestview, and did a lot of inventions. He helped the - what do you call it? - the ion, negative ion generator. He was one of the co-inventors of that, and invented these Christmas tree stands that went around and played music. We used to have all this stuff in the house, testing all the time, growing up.
CH: And -.
CW: But like all Indians he came back home - so he came back to the Gorge. About the time I was getting out of high school, they divorced. So he worked for Tidlan [sp?] Machine Company in Washougal, when he came back.
CH: What year would he have come back?
CW: I graduated in sixty-one, so it was in - he actually - they divorced in sixty-one, but he lived in San Rafael for about a year before he came back to the Gorge. So he would have back in sixty-three probably.
CH: And he came back to - and lived in Washougal, then.
CW: Yeah. That’s where my wife - his parents moved to Washougal at the end of their lives, so they’re buried. That’s where I remember my grandparents more, is living in Washougal, right under the tower there. They’re buried along the Washougal River, there. All the rest of my Indian family, at what was called the Cascade -.
[End of Tape 1, Side 1]
January 22, 1999
Tape 1, Side 2
CH: Okay, go ahead. You were talking about your family was a - the rest of the family was buried.
CW: Right. So on my - when my dad’s parents retired, they moved into Washougal, and lived there. My oldest - my dad’s oldest sister worked in the mill there at Pendleton. So we used to hang around there when we were kids, back when in the seconds shop, you got really good deals, before the tourist buzz found it [laughs]. We got most of our clothes from the Pendleton Wool Mill seconds shop there in Washougal, that only locals went to...
CH: But that would have been after you got out of high school then, and came back?
CW: No, my dad’s father died when I was real young, and my grandma died when I was nine or ten. So that would have been - she would have died in the early fifties. They moved into their - I think in the forties. They still lived in Skamania County during the thirties. So some time in the - around forty probably - is when they moved into Washougal, basically their retirement years - when they retired.
CH: But you basically grew up in Petaluma.
CH: I mean, prior to your first couple of years of grade school, then you went back down...
CW: Yeah, I grew up from third grade through high school in Petaluma.
CH: And did you come up here during that time?
CW: Oh yeah. It was every summer. It was family - yeah. We spent a lot of time. We’d come up for Christmases and it was - we were kind of like the hillbillies that moved to the North, Chicago and Detroit, but we’re - I can’t remember what they call it, but that road that goes between Chicago and Detroit to the - [to] Kentucky and Tennessee is just lined with people commuting back. We were that way. We were just all - it was with both my families, being from here, all the relatives were...
CH: So you would go where? When you came back up here during your summers, where were you...
CW: Well, we’d go to Dayton to see my - we’d go to Portland to see my maternal grandma, and Dayton to see my maternal great grandma, and then Washougal to see my grandparent - my dad’s parents, and then we owned the land where the Skamania General Store was, in Skamania. That was always like - we always spent a lot of time there, in the huckleberry. You know, that was kind of the roots to my life in a lot of ways. It was our home that we always went back to - kind of our spiritual home or something, was the land we owned there. So [I] spent a lot of summertime there, chasing bears. It was like a really fun time. Then we had other aunts and uncles. My dad had eleven older brothers and sisters. So it spread from The Dalles to Portland, basically [laughs].
CH: At that - during that period that you were growing up, say by the time you got through with high school in Petaluma, where did you - I mean, do you feel there were any major episodes that happened in your life, major events that somehow affected the way you - decisions you made in terms of which way to go and all that?
CW: Well, my Indian heritage had a big thing, because even when I was young - my mom was telling me when I was visiting her at Christmas. Well, I started in Petaluma, and they went to a field trip, to the Sonoma Mission - this was when I was in third grade, my first year there. They started to take the class into the Phil Sheridan Room at the Sonoma Mission, and I refused to go in. The teacher says, “how come?” and I says, “because he was a jerk. He hung my great great grandpa after - he was an Indian chief.” She thought, this kid - being light-skinned, blue eyes - she thought this kid is probably a little bad [laughs]. So she - and she knew my mom, who was white, but she didn’t - she never met my dad, so she didn’t realize he was Indian. She calls up my mom that night and says, “let me tell you the story your son’s told us.” And my mom said, “oh, that’s all true.” So I was - you know that’s always been my identification. My Indian grandma even said, even though I was light-skinned I was the most Indian mentally, of all her grandkids. I was the one that was Indian through and through. So, I don’t what the - like an Indian that acts like a white we call apples. I don’t what the - what’s white on the outside and red on the inside [laughs]. I don’t what there is to describe me, but I’ve always grown up Indian, proud of it. That’s always been my identification, ever since I can remember. It’s just something where it’s just that’s the way that I was.
CH: So what did you do when you got out of high school, then?
CW: Well, we didn’t have enough money for me to go to college. So I went to junior college for a year, at the college of Marin, near San Rafael. [I] was taking engineering. My dad was - I kind of have a unique family anyway. I tell people, “it’s no wonder I’m a mess. I was raised by a conservative Indian father who was fascinated by technology and engineering, and a radical left-wing WASP mother who loved art and nature. So my mom was always the one that took me fishing and such [laughs]. It was bound that I wouldn’t turn out too normal, I guess...
CH: You were there for two years?
CW: Where was -? Oh one year. One year, and was working at a gas station, and was usually out drunk and partying most of the time. But my dad was an engineer, and so I think I just - probably because of that, was doing engineering. I was really lucky, because he was having me doing drafting, mechanical drawing by the time I could walk. [It was] just one of those things I kind of picked up on. When I was in high school, I would do my friends’ - and college - math for them. You know, I could go into a math class, and I would be out drunk the night before, and I’d get a hundred percent. It was one of those things. And I always - when they give you the aptitude test, I would always score a hundred percent on engineering and on art. It was one of those dual brain - you know I was kind of lucky that I have both sides - kind of max on both sides of the brain. But I never - growing up in the fifties like I did - I never had any concept that you could be an artist. That that was - that that could be your primary profession. That was something you did on the weekend. Those Eisenhower years - I don’t think I ever comprehended, probably until I was in my early twenties, that art was something you could do as your life.
CH: Yet, during that time, I think of the fifties and the early sixties as being - your being so close to California. That was really the center of The Beat culture, and the whole North Beach, San Francisco scene...
CW: Right, I was in the middle of all of that. And I really - on the negative side of growing up in California is I missed so much of the - of my Indian culture. I might get to a pow wow in the summer or something, but it wasn’t something that was daily - part of my life that it would of been if I was up here. On the flip side, I am really glad that I grew up in the Bay Area during my formative years. I was there during the beatnik thing. It was in the middle of that. Later, I was already really grown up and such, yet I was kind of a hippie, but I didn’t know what I was until the hippies came along. It was one of those, “oh, okay. That’s what I [laughs] - that’s what I am.”
CH: Would you say you were more a part of the kind of beatnik thing that was happening?
CW: Yeah. Yeah, very definitely.
CH: What kind of attitudes do you have, or what kinds of things did you do, that would reflect that beatnik part of your nature?
CW: Well, really getting into art, going to Jazz clubs. That’s what really got me interested in art. It was more, at that point, surrealism, and that was - you know, to a young person, Dollence [sp?] and Dali, and such. I used to hang out in the coffee shops, and hung out in Furlengetti’s bookstore, and I was - played pool Mike’s pool hall half the night, and smoking stuff before other people were [laughs], and stuff. So it was a very - I was graduating just when all the radical - the be-ins and stuff were happening on - arrested at Berkeley. It just totally changed my life. As I said, I’m really glad I’m back home in Oregon, but I’m really glad my formative years were in the Bay Area. So I’m very thankful for that.
So I went to junior college for a year, taken eng - taking calculus and such, and I didn’t really - was not enjoying it, and...
CH: Why? Why weren’t you enjoying it?
CW: Oh, I just didn’t - I wasn’t into school. I wanted to party and have a good time. So, I got a job as a junior engineer - so I decided to drop out - as I said I was just going to junior college, because then it was ten dollars a semester, [unintelligible] back in California schools where - in the Brown days. You could go to college for ten dollars a year. Like I say, I was having to work in a gas station to support myself. That got real old, so I decided to drop out for a year, and work for a year, and then go back to school.
CH: That would have been sixty-three?
CW: Well, I graduated in Petaluma High in sixty-one, so I went one year, so it would have been sixty-two.
I got a job in Sausalito for a big engineering firm, Johnson Controls, as kind of a junior engineer. I was actually somewhat trusted. I was the least-qualified person to apply for this job. The guy that hired me said he’d just had a feeling that I was the person, and hired me. Within the end of the year, I was a full-blown engineer, and people with degrees [were] working for me. [I] ended up doing that for six years, and never went back to school. So I worked three years for Johnson Controls, and then three years Robert Shaw [sp?} Controls.
CH: And what kind of work were they doing?
CW: Design, and I was an instrumentation engineer. I designed a lot of the early NASA computer systems, which is ironic because I went - this is kind of future in light, but I spent seven years camping, once, totally after I’d been an engineer, and totally deprogrammed my mind of all technology. When my Gorge book came, my taxes got complicated enough, a had to get a calculator. I couldn’t even work it. My dad and I just - you know, worked on early-ass [?] computers. I just deprogrammed my mind so much I couldn’t even [laughs] - I could fix my old Econoline van, and that was - and my cameras, and that was it. Now I’ve got about four computers, so I’ve been corrupted again.
So I got a job, like I say, in Sausalito with Johnson Controls. It turned out to be - in terms of Vietnam, it turned out to be a lifesaver. I was drafted six times, and I was doing NASA work. I had a deferment that I was essential to the national defense. It was when they had just put Sput- you know, the Russians had just sent up Sputnik, so they were on this big push. Since I did NASA - I was a contract worker, doing contract work for NASA, so they couldn’t draft me. I got drafted six times, and worked three years for Johnson Controls, and moved to San Francisco. Then I went to work for Robert Shaw. Then they - then I went to Houston for a year, and worked on the manned spacecraft center in Houston. Then I went over - I hated Houston. In fact, they paid me hardships - the British Embassy there paid people in Houston a hardship pay, and so I demanded and got hardship pay [laughs]...
CW: ...For being there. So they paid me back by letting me live the next year in New Orleans. I worked on the Mississippi test facility there. I don’t know if you remember, in the Goldwater-Johnson years, there was the big campaign thing over how Ladybird’s land had been turned into this NASA facility - so that’s where I worked. About two weeks in Mississippi, being a shaggy - not a longhair like I am now, but for the times, you know, the Beatles. This is the Beatle Years. I had Beatle hair, which was unheard of, and was in my early twenties. I decided that wasn’t - Mississippi was not for me. I was the boss. I had 150 people working for me, and my boss was in Virginia, so I just moved into the French Quarter. This was in sixty-four, sixty-five. And in the South then, if you were in the French Quarter, you could do anything you wanted. You could be a transvestite, whatever you want, hippie, beatnik. You know, there weren’t hippies yet then, quite, so most people called me a beatnik. But I was this high level engineer. So I lived in the French Quarter in New Orleans for a year, and then commuted out a couple of days a week to the project. I had 150 people working for me, was running multi-million dollar projects, would be in negotiations with the Army Corps of Engineers for massive contracts, and I was just this kid, [unintelligible] just take them to the cleaners if they just let down their guard. This was just some kid, clean them out.
CH: What were the projects - what kind of projects were you working on at the time?
CW: Well, when I was in the Bay Area, it was mostly heating and air conditioning systems and such. In NASA - you’ve seen, what’s that, Alphaville, what’s the Gedart [sp?] film where the fascists take over the world, and they have this control center with all the walls covered with dials.
CH: Oh yeah.
CW: So that’s what I used to design, those [laughs], the walls covered with instrumentation systems, and such. At NASA, I was designing the instrumentation systems for the manned spacecraft center, which is like a massive campus, just these buildings. It was one of those really political - where Brown and Root [sp?] were buddies with Johnson, and they donated the land to NASA, but they owned all the land around it. They become quad - you know, billionaire, big massive rip-off - but anyway that’s where I’d work. So I was designing these instrumentation systems for the all the NASA building. I would take all the inputs and stuff, and feed them into a central computer system, and bring those back - when printers were IBM typewriters that were hooked into the computer, and the computer room was about this size or something, with these massive computers. When I worked at the Mississippi Test Facility, it was the instrumentation systems for the - it was the static tests they did on the NASA rockets, before they sent them. Before they sent them to Cape Canaveral, they’d send them there. They had these massive towers that bolt them onto, and then test fire them, but they were bolted down so they couldn’t raise up. I designed those. Like one of them had a junction box. It had a million wires coming into it, and I had to design a system where electricians could just - even electricians could go in and hook up a million wires in a junction box about the size of this room, and have them come out right.
Then I went from - so I got really tired of - New Orleans was fun for about six months, and the food I still miss, but I was ready for the West Coast. So I said, “I’m going back to the West Coast or I quit.” I ended up going up to Seattle. It was when I was starting to get really political. I was - I did a lot of Boeing work, subcontracting, helped design a lot of the instrumentation for the 747 assembly plant, which, along with the Cape Canaveral building, one the two biggest buildings in, I think, the world, definitely the country.
CH: At Boeing.
CW: Yeah, up in Everett there, the big 747 facility. I did a lot of the design work on that. But I was getting really political at the time.
CH: This would have been when?
CW: I moved to Seattle in sixty - I lived there in sixty-six and sixty-seven. So I was like - went to Houston in sixty-four, went to New Orleans in sixty-five, went to Seattle in sixty-six, and was there for a year and a half. Then, I was fighting the SST. I was the only engineer in Seattle that was against the SST, and had become a real anti-war activist, and was always in political trouble all the time. That was kind of when hippies came along. There were people that were running on the Seattle city council on the total - their only platform was to go on the UW campus and beat the shit out of all the hippies, and so [laughs] it was real, real polarized. That’s when I really got politicized. So I moved back to the Bay Area, about the beginning of sixty-eight, and got my last draft deferment. When the first time I had been drafted, if you refused induction, you got - you spent about twenty years in jail. By the time I got my sixth one over, people were burning down draft centers and such. I moved back to the Bay Area, San Francisco, working for Robert Shaw. By then, I was working on sewage treatment plants, because politically, there was almost nothing else - I was a good enough engineer, I could have any job I wanted, but I wouldn’t work on most things. So I was ending up working on things like sewage, recycling plants, sewage and such [laughs]. When I got my last deferment, I called the draft board, and they said, “we don’t even want to hear from you.” That was the one that carried me until I was twenty-six and they wouldn’t draft me. So I quit engineering, and went into the Peace Corps. I decided I’d serve - I’d gotten out of the service. I figured I wasn’t going to go to Vietnam, but I definitely felt like I should serve my country. So I spent a year in the Peace Corps, and ended up in the Dominican Republic. Then I quit once, and then got kicked out once, and then rejoined, and then got kicked out the same time the head of the Peace Corps did. This is when Nixon came in and they fired - about a third of the Peace Corps was - deselected was the term they used for me, since I was still in the program. Like I say, I quit once because I was in the Dominican Republic. They, both Johnson and the Dominican government wanted the Peace Corps there for the political thing, but they didn’t want me to do anything. I was in the worst ghetto in Santo Domingo, a place that hated Americans. It was where the Marines were. If you went into the rural parts, they idolized Americans, because their idea was these care packages that the U.S. sent - and that was their idea of America. The minute you went into the city ghettos, where the Marines had been, they hated Americans, but they’d always say, “well, we love you, but we hate Americans,” or something.
I was supposed to be doing community organizing, and if I got caught speaking to more than two people at once, the police would break it up for being a communist cell block meeting. It was kind of hard to do community organizing [laughs] when you couldn’t talk to more than two people. I helped build a school for the neighborhood, and stuff - and did some stuff, but I really wasn’t in a position where I could really accomplish much. I learned a lot. I mean it was incredible personal growth. I got dysentery, and weighed less than a hundred pounds when I got home, and was really sick. But I learned a lot. Like almost everyone that goes in the Peace Corps, you come home without any materialism. You’re in a culture where people live in poverty you can’t even conceive of, and they’re so much happier than most people in the United States. They’re people that have nothing, and they’re so easy-going and happy, that it really - I came home really very anti-materialistic.
CH: So you were deselected from the Peace Corps then for what reason?
CW: Well, I quit in the Dominican Republic, because I couldn’t get anything done. I was in training to go to Afghanistan, and that’s when I was deselected. It was just for being too radical. I was like a threat - you know, I was probably a trouble maker. So I say, a third of the Peace Corps got kicked out that week, including Jack Baum [sp?], the director. This is when Nixon came in.
So the first time I quit, the Dominican Republic, and then I was supposed to go to Afghanistan, and got kicked out the day before we went to Afghanistan. But in the process of that, I was hitchhiking through El Paso, one time, and was eating down in the barrio there, in this little Mexican Restaurant. Some young Chicano guys came in that had long hair, and they had never seen anyone - this is sixty-eight or nine, in there - and they had never seen anyone other than them that had long hair. They all had long hair, but they were the only guys in west Texas. They were just - couldn’t believe here was some guy - and so anyway I became buddies with - you know, I was talking with them. They seemed liked nice kids. They were like fifteen to twenty. One of them invited me to stay in the projects with his family. So I stayed about a week with a family there in the projects. It turned out they had been - they were the biggest, most notorious gang in west Texas [laughs]. They were just straight kids to me. So it turned out, they had - there had been a Catholic priest - this is in the Segunda Barrio there in El Paso, right on the border there. You don’t know which side of the Mexican border - I mean there were conditions there that were just appalling. (We probably want to get more salad bar than where we were.)
CH: So are we going?
CW: Yeah, yeah. So I met these young Chicano guys that turned out the biggest gang in west Texas, and next to the Shamrocks, the most feared gang. There had been a Catholic priest there, in the barrio there, this really poor part. Say, this is poverty beyond anything someone in the West Coast had been. They had these apartments there called the Bisidios [sp?]. They’d be about - there were massive rats and there were no indoor plumbing, no electricity, and there’d be about two outhouses and a water faucet between these rows of apartments. [It was] just poverty like I have never seen. All the slum lords were the mayor and the county health inspector, and people. They loved it when the kids were fighting each other, and not political.
So this Catholic priest there had gotten all the other gangs, like, a big brother. He was some local Mexican guy who ran a grocery store, or something, that the kids would go to. And this gang was the biggest, most notorious, and they weren’t about to have a big brother, but they kind of missed it. So when I left El Paso, they said, “well, if you want to come back and work with us, you know, you’re the only person crazy enough to be our big brother.” [laughs]. So - and they were great kids - so when I got kicked out of the Peace Corps - and I still wanted to do another year. I had kind of set aside two years to do service to the country. So I joined Vista on a condition that I went to El Paso and worked with them. I did, I spent a year with them, and ended all the gang wars, and got them all GEDs, and jobs. It was just a - really a success. Unlike the Peace Corps, where I learned a lot, I did a lot. I really did a lot. I had another Mexican friend there, that had a similar position with the other major gang, we ended all the gang wars, and politicized them. They started marching on the mayor’s house. I ended up getting run out of there, because - it was incredible, because, being light skinned, I could walk through that ghetto anytime, day or night, and nobody would ever mess with me. They knew they’d be face-down in the Rio Grande even if they [laughs]. So I had this incredible power on one level, but I had all the city fathers after me. I had stakeouts on my apartment. They’d search people coming in and out of my house. It was really heavy duty and politici- we set up a draft counseling center. El Paso is fifty percent Mexican and white, and ninety-five percent of the casualties were from the Chicanos. They were using the machismo to - you know, even people that - because they were the sole supporter of the mother or something, couldn’t be drafted. So we set up a draft counseling center in the middle of the barrio. That went over real big [laughs], and ended up having to skip town in the middle of the night. [I] had a contract out on me by the John Birch Society.
CH: Contract? What kind of contract?
CW: To kill me, so [laughs].
CH: How’d you hear about that?
CW: It was amazing, because we had moles. So many people there - we knew everything the cops did. We knew who they were going to bust. I mean, we had people in positions, and we knew everything going on. So people came and told me who it was, and who the contract - you know, and everything on me. It was really ironic because it was - I had done all these really radical things, and I had about two months to go on my year. I had accomplished - amazingly had accomplished everything I wanted, and, been in a lot of trouble. So I said I’m gonna do - I think I’ll just set up a medical clinic. It was kind of like Watts, where if anyone got sick there, they’d have to take up two or three hours on a bus to get to a hospital. So I set up - it was when free clinics were a big thing - I’d set up a free clinic there. That got me in more trouble than anything else. The AMA turned out to be synonymous with the John Birch Society. I went to them to get their approval, and they said, “this is a commune. This is socialized medicine. Absolutely not.” So they got the county to block me getting a permit. This is where I learned hardball politics. One of our helpers was a former hooker, and she - do you know what “smokers” [?] are? They’re big in the South. The politicians, they vote for blue laws and all this, and then they go have these parties with hookers, and they’re just big drunks with hookers. She had a picture of her sitting naked at a smoker on the end of the county commissioner’s lap [laughs]. So I went into my meeting with them. “No, we’re not going to allow this to happen.” “You might want to reconsider,” and he rented me one of his buildings for a dollar [laughs], and gave me my permit. So then the AMA banned all their doctors, that they’d lose all their hospital privileges if they helped out. We couldn’t get any doctors, so when David Harris, Joan Baez’s husband, was up in Latuna, which is just outside of El Paso. So I went up there and met with them. Some of the doctors, they didn’t have to have hospital privileges, because they only worked in the prison. So they broke the boycott and came down. Then some of the Chicanos doctors started - but that’s when the AMA - or the John Birch Society put a contract out on me [laughs].
CH: So you just left, then.
CW: Yeah. I was living with a Mexican woman there, and we went down to Big Bend ironically. Nixon later - it’s an armed camp now, but at that time, it was the only place in Texas [where] you could do anything you wanted. I mean, it was just a total free area. So we slipped out in the middle of the night, and for two weeks went camping down there, then slipped back in, in the middle of the night, and packed up our stuff, and headed out to my mom’s [laughs].
CH: Really? So then you went back to California, then.
CW: Yeah, and then I went camping for - well, I had never gotten a degree, so this was - I was what, about twenty-seven then. This was seventy, so, yeah it would be about twenty-seven, and I had never gotten a degree. So I had - well, through Vista, they put away some money away for you. It’s not a lot, but for me, it was. I bought an old Econoline van for $500 in an auction, that had been confiscated hauling pot across the Rio Grande. So, I applied to Berkeley and San Francisco State. I decided to go back and get a degree in art.
My girlfriend and I took all our stuff, dropped it off at my mom’s and went camping for a year. She had some savings and I had my money from Vista, so we went camping in the National parks. [We] went all the way around the country in the van, and had a great year, and came back. Like I say, I applied to San Francisco State and Berkeley, in their photo classes. So I went down to register, and was still debating which one, and we got in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I just - I had been in the woods for a year. I said, “I can’t deal with this,” and made a U-turn and went up to Sonoma State. “Will you let me in?” They said sure, but they had no photo - they had motion picture, so I majored. But they were just starting this kind of hippie school where you didn’t have grades, and called “Expressive Art.” I went to school and camping two years, and got a degree in art while I was camping. [I] taught myself photography and worked on a book, that was kind of my graduation project.
I had bought a house in San Francisco when I was an engineer. I sold it and bought one up in the woods, so...
CH: What part of San Francisco was your house?
CW: Up on Twin Peaks. It was a little cabin. It was on twenty-sixth and - It was like there were all these houses right under the park there, and it was a little cabin up there that would be worth a fortune, and I sold it for like eighteen grand or something now [laughs]. But it was like a little ca - it had skunks and raccoons living in the yard, I mean it was just classic. Nature escaping before its time was not appreciated by the mayor [laughs], because of the skunks and stuff.
So I sold it and bought a place in Occidental. I hadn’t worked for a year. [I] went camping that year, came back and went to school, and ran out of money. So I got a job as a carpenter. The third day of that - I hadn’t been working for a year, so I just sold the house and went camping for another six years with that money. So I lived in my van from seventy to seventy-seven. I got my degree from Sonoma State, in art. During the process I was kind of concentrating on parks. I was teaching myself - I was a painter. I had always been a painter. So I was backpacking - I was camping, during those seven years, at least eleven months a year, and backpacking at least 200 days a year. I was skinny, and had the most wonderful life you can ever imagine. It taught me - but you couldn’t paint while you were backpacking really, I did oils. So I took up photography. It was a friend of mine, a woman I was living with when I was going into the Peace Corps, and she got a job - the airlines that used to run the CIA stuff, I can’t remember. It was a bogus airline that was a front for the CIA. [Air America ?]
CH: Was it Evergreen?
CW: No, but it was a similar type of thing. It was - I can’t remember the name - but it was basically, supposedly a legit airline, but it was really a CIA front. So she got a job as a stewardess for a couple of months and bought me all my Nikon equipment in Japan, and got her stereo, and quit. So I got a good camera going into the Peace Corps. You know, it wasn’t a Nikon, but -. So, then when I went camping, I taught myself photography, and ended up mostly in the parks. I kept finding - I had gotten very political by that time, and I worked for the Sierra Club actually one summer - I can’t remember -.
CH: So you then you had finished your degree at Sonoma.
CH: And your degree was then - what is that?
CW: Art. It was a B.A. in art. It was called Expressive Arts.
CH: Expressive Arts.
CW: Yeah. And I’d get a book on the national parks that the transcript and the pictures were my graduation project and such. During the process of doing that - I was really politically active at the time, and actually worked one summer there in seventy-one for the Sierra Club, and got arrested in an anti-war demonstration. [I] spent some time in jail, and [had] a big long political trial.
[End of Tape 1, Side 2]
Tape 2, Side 1
CH: ...interview with Chuck Williams at his gallery in The Dalles. The interviewer, for the Oregon Historical Society, is Clark Hansen. The date is 1/22/99, and this is Tape 2, Side 1.
So, go ahead.
CW: So, I spent from 1970 to seventy-seven most of my time camping in parks, and did get a college degree during that time. I was really politically active, and so I was with Friends of the Earth. I was a big admirer of David Brower and actually worked in the Sierra Club. Like most of the lower-down employees, hated that he was kicked out of the Sierra Club and admired him. So, Friends of the Earth was my favorite group, before I was involved with them. When I was traveling along the parks, I’d keep coming across all these problems going on, and I’d be feeding all the information to Friends of the Earth. Finally, I was there visiting - I think it was seventy-five, during my camp - I was in seeing my mom, and I went in to see him. Dave Brower took me out to lunch. Classic David Brower, [he] says, “you know more about the national parks than anyone we know of, let’s make you a job.” So they created a new job at Friends of the Earth. It was the national parks representative. So I did it half time, naively thinking I could do political work half time, and be an artist half time. If you have a heart - a lot of these yuppy professionals nowadays don’t have problems doing two careers. But if you really care about it within a month you’re [doing it] every minute you’re alive. It ruined my photo - I had just had my first Sierra Club covers, and autumn - I just made it as a photographer. [I] basically lost that career.
I was doing really good, and I was in really heady times. I was the national parks expert for Friends of the Earth there until - from seventy-five until eighty, and left them in mid eighty, in part because of what was being done to Brower, when he was being forced out, and in part because I wanted to concentrate on the Gorge, not knowing I was going to be forced out within months, out of my own fight. So, I ended up being the national parks expert for Friends of the Earth, and for very little money. But the condition was that I pretty much got to do whatever I wanted. I didn’t have a direct bo- I worked directly for Brower, which made some of the structure uncomfortable. So I’d spend about a month a year lobbying in D.C., and the rest of the time, I was out in the parks camping, and doing political work. It was a really important situation because, even by then, a lot of the environmental groups, and the people on both sides of issues with parks were city people, that didn’t have much idea of what was going on the ground. Being a rural person, I was able to go into a place, like Isle Royale National Park, the biggest island on Lake Superior. There was a big controversy there over the commercial fisherman. It sounded horrible. They were going to allow commercial fishing in a national park. So all the environmentalists in D.C., that worked on these, were totally against it. I went up there, and met with them. It turned out there was about a dozen of these neat old guys that were - had been fishing all their life around there, and didn’t hardly catch anything. It was just a way of life. Basically, all it was doing was granddaddying them in [allowing ?] which was that they weren’t hurting anything. So I was able - by being there, working with them, I was able to work out a compromise. I was doing that kind of work all over the country.
Then, when I was working on a book - my first involvement with David Brower was, I working on a book on the political history of the national parks. It was going to be - there’s a famous book, I.S.E., came out years ago - it came out in the forties. It was a real political history of the national parks, of all the dirt and such. But everything since then had been sanitized. Things like the fact that the only national park that has cows grazing in them were the cows that belonged to Senator Clifford Hansen, who was the head of the Park Subcommittee. So I was working on a book, on the national parks, for Friends of the Earth, and was living in my van, driving around the country. My van got so full of files that I didn’t have hardly any place to sleep. I had the book nearly done, three fourths done, and needed to sit down. My dad got real [indiscernible], at the end of seventy-six, my dad got pretty sick here. I was really [knowing ?] when to come up, so I moved back to our family land at the beginning of seventy-seven, and had been watching the Gorge - you know it was ancestral - and watching. It was really miraculous that the Gorge hadn’t been destroyed. It was so close. But there was this whole thing - in the Nixon/Ford years there had been a whole backlog of federal parks bottled up in Congress. There’s kind of a pecking order, really. You don’t really - You have to get the ones in front of you out of the way first. So, I knew we had to have Santa Monica Mountains be okayed, and Redwoods, and all these other parks done, before the Gorge would be seriously considered.
So I came back in the beginning of seventy-seven, and planning on finishing my parks book, just laying some groundwork for the future for the Gorge, and that was the year the assault started on the Gorge, that this just - suddenly we had dams built being built all over subdivisions of Skamania County. Just suddenly, after years of bad economy, probably more than anything, well even the Gorge alone, the assault came. Portland people were doing nothing, absolutely nothing to defend the Gorge, but local groups were filling the vacuum. I think I told you that over dinner or something?
CW: So there were, so I moved - we had our Indian land there in Skamania. My dad had a trailer there, and there was a sheep shed of my grandma’s. I moved them together, and built a little cabin there, and moved in there in the beginning of seventy-seven. [I] was still working at Friends of the Earth. It became obvious within three - my book on my Indian roots in the Gorge was something I was planning on writing later in life. I was going to - working on the book for Friends of the Earth on the national parks, history of the national park system. It became really obvious, after I had been back for a couple of months, that the Gorge was under assault, and it couldn’t wait. So I put the parks book on the back burner, and still never finished, and went to work on the book to save the Gorge, and to save our tribe’s history. At that point, Cascades were not well - were not that well known. Now, after my book, everyone knows the name [laughs] Cascade Indian, but at that point, there was very little about us. So I started working on the book on the Gorge, and a there was a number of these groups around. Here in The Dalles there was a group called The Mid-Columbia Concerned Citizens. A spin-off group of Wah Chang was trying to build - Western Zirconium was trying to build a zirconium plant across the river here in Dallesport. It would have smelled like a cat box up and down the Gorge. There wouldn’t be windsurfing, if it ever been built. A group formed here headed by Dr. Bruce Schwartz whose father did the illustrations for Leopold - what’s his last name? - that wrote Sand County Almanac.
CH: I don’t know.
CW: It’s one of the bibles of environmental literature. Anyway, his father had done the - was an illustrator for Wash- for the Missouri Fish and Wildlife, and had done, for [indiscernible] Leopold, the Sand County Almanac. He was a great guy.
CH: Oh, Leopold.
CW: Yeah, [indiscernible] Leopold. So he got - so I met with them, and they had kind of appointed [indiscernible] a person [?], and a group had just formed in seventy-six. The Klickitat County Public Utility District was trying to build seven dams on the White Salmon River. They claimed that that was - they had nothing to do with it, but the output of those dams was exactly the power needed [for] the zirconium plant being built in Klickitat County. So a group called Friends of the White Salmon River. Dennis White was the main - who had been a teacher in Trout Lake - was one of the founders of that and main - so I met with him, and got him involved. There were people fighting condos in Hood River Valley. Vancouver Audubon was a couple from Skamania, Susan and Wilson Kady were fighting the Steigerwald Wetlands - Steigerwald Lake Wetlands, that were being filled in by the port of Camas and Washougal, and industrial plants were being built on it. [I] met with them. So there were all these groups popping up. And like I say, Portland groups did nothing, absolutely nothing, on the Gorge.
CH: Why is that, do you think?
CW: It had been, like the Providence of the - of Leet. Gertrude - Jensen I think’s her name - she was kind of the one that had been, in the sixties, spearheading. She was one of these old matrons that had big old hats. There’s a famous picture, back when Mark Hatfield used to talk to me - the first time I ever met him on the Gorge, he showed me a picture of her with him at an anti-war demonstration. She had this big old hat. She had just - her health had really gone. She was in a rest home, and didn’t have any, really energy, or anything to do, had just kind of fallen apart. She was the one that had kind of pushed. They had put in an advisory Gorge commission. So when I came back in seventy-seven, there was a bi-state Gorge commission, but they were strictly advisory. They didn’t really have any power. But, there were some good people on the board. We had people - in fact Bob Straubasken asked me to be on the commission. Now I’m not even allowed to go to the meetings [laughs], but it was - that’s how different the politics were then. I was actually asked to be on the Gorge Commission.
CH: What year was that?
CW: It would have been seventy-nine, probably. But I was living in Skamania, so I told them didn’t think it would - have a Washington resident on the Oregon Gorge Commission probably - even though I was born in Oregon, [I] was a resident of Skamania at the time, so I figured it wasn’t too good an idea. It just shows I wouldn’t be allowed [laughs] to be considered now. How times have changed post [?] The Friends of the Gorge.
I had been involved in virtually every new federal park that had been created in the country in the past couple decades. I knew the dichotomy of how it became us against them: the city environmentalists versus the local people. I knew that very well. I purposely started organizing within the Gorge. Before we ever went public, I had spent two years of constant meetings. I spent about half of my work time working with Friends of the Earth on other national park stuff, about the other half of that working on the Gorge on my own money [phone rings, tape stopped].
CW: Anyway, I knew the - since I knew all too well the polarization that occurs in fights like the Gorge - that I wanted to build up local support. At that time, there was movements starting up, that I was involved in, called green line parks. These are areas - Cape Cod was really one of the first ones. In fact, at Cape Cod - most people don’t know, it was the first national park system area where there was actually money authorized by Congress to buy lands. Previously, the states or private people had to buy the lands and then donate them. The National Park Service wasn’t allowed to buy land until Cape Cod. That was one of the first great things to come out of Kennedy’s administration - was to authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and got moneys appropriated to start buying land. That opened up the door for new federal parks that previously had to be carved out of federal lands, usually BLM lands or forest lands, and in some cases, like in the Smokies where the states had gone in and bought the lands, and donated them to the Park Service. So that opened up a whole new door. But a lot of places like the Gorge, Santa Monica Mountains, Cuyahoga, had large areas that - you weren’t going to go in and buy out the whole park, like a traditional park. Green line parks are parks where you use a combination of acquisition and what are called less-than-fee protection methods. There’s things like scenic easements, buying out development rights, zoning, and what have you.
I did a lot of the original writing in - like seventy-six and seventy-eight in there - promoting this idea. I got - there’s books and stuff that I’ve done chapters of about that. So the Gorge was obviously - the eastern end of the Gorge especially fit that bill really good. But I knew we couldn’t move on the Gorge until we got this whole backlog of parks out of Congress. I [was] really fortunate, and I got spoiled in that period from seventy-six to eighty when Carter was president, and Cecil Andrus was the Secretary of the Interior - is maybe the prime time in the history of parks. We doubled the size of the national park system, cleaned out virtually the whole backlog. I’m really proud of my role - I was in the middle that - every day.
CH: So what - just basically, what projects were you involved in?
CW: We were - the Redwood National Parks, saving Redwood Creek. I had a switchblade put in the back of the neck over that one. I’ve paid some really heavy prices over that, but we got all the - most of the rest of the virgin redwoods added into park. We blocked Mineral King - that was going to be a Disney ski area - and got that added into the Sequoia National Park, stopped the strip mining in Death Valley. There had been a - kind of a thing like I was telling you about with Isle Royale. There had been a clause put in the Death Valley Bill to allow the old jackass prospectors, with their donkeys, to go around. A couple of big companies had moved in and were strip mining for talc [in] huge sections of Death Valley. I put a stop to that - got a bill in seventy-six. We won that one. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Chattahoochee National Recreation Area by Atlanta, the Delaware Water Gap was one. I gave Andrus - when he came into office, called me up and asked what I wanted during his term as Secretary of the Interior. After the previous - under Nixon and Ford, they wouldn’t talk to us. I was shocked, and when I kind of recovered, I gave him a list of my thirteen things I wanted, and got twelve of them. The only one I didn’t get was Tall Grass Prairie National Park. That was the only thing on my list that we didn’t win in that four years of Andrus, which is - if you’re getting fifty percent, you’re doing good. So I was on a roll. I thought I could do anything [laughs].
CH: Now, your position during this time was what?
CW: I was the national parks expert and lobbyist for Friends of the Earth, for the whole country.
CH: So, from being with Friends of the Earth then, you were working then, side by side with other environmental groups like the Sierra Club and stuff like that.
CW: Oh yeah, very closely.
CH: So what was...
CW: And all over the country, in all fifty states.
CH: What was your kind of - what was the format. What kind of organization did you have that you were a part with these other groups?
CW: Well I was the...
CH: How were you organized?
CW: Well, basically, like I say, I was the national parks expert for Friends of the Earth, so I would meet constantly. The only other group that really concentrated on the national park system at the time was The National Parks and Conservation Association, and they didn’t have really field reps. They were a D.C.-based group, but they really concentrated on that. At that time - and it’s back to that unfortunately now - once a park was established, all the environmental groups would just abandon it. They’d move on to the next legislative fight and then just leave this park there. That kind of became my role. Later, a couple of years into that, the Wilderness Society hired a friend of mind to work on national parks. So it was - and the Sierra Club was more the local people that I worked with - and so I was on the road probably eight to ten months a year. I would go into an area and meet with the local groups. I would suggest to them - help them write stuff, and suggest to - you know, how you do this. I was basically like the expert that would come in to advise local groups on how to save their park, or how to manage it, and such. I primarily worked with N.P.C.A and the Wilderness society. There was about four of us that were the only people in the environmental movement that really concentrated on the management of national parks in addition to the establishment of new ones. Traditionally, people move on after.
I had a huge network all over the country, of - like we - Tall Grass Prairie was a good one, where there was a big fight there among a couple of local groups, between Audubon and Save the Tall Grass Prairie, over which sites were best. A person from N.P.C.A. and the Wilderness Society, and I went down, we had a big weekend meeting with them, and worked everything out. We’re going to go for both [laughs]. Don’t fight over two of them. We still - two of them would still would make a good park. We’re going to go for both of them, that kind of thing.
CH: That’s the one that didn’t go through.
CW: Right. That’s the only one. And now they’ve got one, the National Preserve down at the Oklahoma border, they’ve got a start of it finally. But that’s the only one, and that’ unheard of. People like to - a guy named Michael Frohman [sp?] who’s a pretty famous forestry writer, and he was part of them that set up the conspiracy between Nancy Russell and the Forestry Service. He wanted to be the secretary - or he wanted to be the head of National Park Service. He wrote one of the definitive books, although it’s kind of a whitewash, on the National Park Service, and did a definitive book on wilderness, and Andrus wouldn’t appoint him. So he went on the warpath against the Park Service. I have seen him helping the Friends of the Gorge speak about how horrible the Park Service is, and how horrible Andrus was as secretary of the interior. I didn’t know what the details [were]. I got to know Andrus fairly well. He was always trashing Andrus, and I would stand up and say, “Hey! I got twelve the thirteen for Friends of the Earth, how could you even criticize somebody with that [laughs]. That’s unheard of.”
So I saw Cecil Andrus a fear years ago - the last time I saw Ed Chaney, there was a river rendezvous down in Bend. Cecil Andrus was speaking there. He comes over, “Chuck, how are you doing?” I’m sitting there with Ted Strong and I’m like - you know, I can’t remember - you know, I won’t know your name in two weeks [laughs]. He hadn’t seen me since he was secretary of the interior, and, “Chuck, how are you doing?” and stuff, which is why he’s a good politician [laughs]. So I said, “I just had to defend you last week. Michael Frohman was trashing you about how horrible you were,” and I stood up and said, “what’s with him?” He sort of told me the story about Mike Frohman had gone in and demanded he be appointed the head of the National Park Service. Then when Andrus appointed someone else, then he went on the warpath. He turned out to be one of the instrumental people in doings in the Gorge, so he somewhere ran into Nancy Russell, and...
CH: This is Michael Frohman?
CW: Yeah, Michael Frohman, who is now a professor somewhere up in Bellingham. In fact, one of the classic - early on, when I still talked to Nancy Russell, she came up to one time and said, “Michael Frohman’s going to speak at our annual meeting.” I said, “oh great, tell him hi. He’s an old friend of mine.” She just looked at me, and just glared at with this hatred, and she said, “How would someone like you know someone important like Michael Frohman!?” I was so shocked I didn’t respond, because I thought she was going to, “oh, well, that didn’t - that didn’t quite come out the way I meant.” She didn’t. She just sat there, and just glared at me. And here he had taken me to dinner at the Cosmo Club - you remember the Cosmo Club?
CW: He took me to lunch there, and brought a tie...
CH: At the Cosmo?
CW: And brought a tie in, knowing that I wouldn’t have one [laughs]. It was a funny day. Margaret Mead was wandering around the table with her cane [laughs]. It was a men only club. But she couldn’t even understand that I would - and so he was on the warpath with the Park Service, so - and here Nancy Russell, I’m sorry to say, has proven to be the publicity terminating [?] concern. Basically, Mike Frohman put her in touch with the Forest Service, and she started - when she started in the Friends of the Gorge, they cut deals with the Forest Service - met with the Forest Service, and agreed that they would fight the Park Service. The Forest Service was [sighs] - even though there were wonderful people like Gene Zimmerman [sp?] that I worked with locally, on a higher level, there were a tree-cutting agency to begin with, but they did not want to manage the Gorge. They knew that it was totally out of there abilities. Like people tell me, well the For - Nancy Russell now claims that, well, they had to go with the Forest Service, because there wasn’t as much resentment towards them as there was against the Park Service, so people were used to the Forest Service. My response was - well, I’ve never been able to talk to her about [it], but in situations like this is, everyone likes the Soil Conservation Service better than the Corps of Engineers, but when they built Bonneville Dam, they didn’t ask the Soil Con - you know, it’s not their turf. But the Forest Service, even less wanted to give up land. They took the stand, “The Park Service is trying to steal our land.” That’s been a long-going - in fact the Wilderness Act came about because of that. When the Olympic National Park was carved out of the National Forest, the Forest Service went and cut up to the boundaries, clear-cutting all of the - and all of the areas that were administratively protected as wilderness. When they - there used to be really good people in the Forest Service like Bob Marshall, and a lot of the first wilderness was done by them administratively. By the time the like - particularly after the war, when the private timber was running out - the timber companies previously didn’t like to log the National Forest because it was competition with their land. But then they logged over all their lands, they wanted to go into the National Forest, then they took over the Forest Service, basically. So they started going in every time there would be a park - when Grand Tetons was transferred into the Park Service, they burned down the ranger station there, and drove cattle all the way across the meadows the Forest Service had in retaliation. There’s this long-standing thing where the Forest Service feels any land that’s going to the Park Service is being stolen from them.
CH: Now, why would Nancy Russell want to side with the Forest Service to begin with? What advantage was that to her?
CW: She went - at the very best light to that can be put on it, and this is very charitable. The things she did are so evil that I don’t believe it, but she went in to Mark Hatfield, and he said, “no Park Service, no tributaries, that’s it.” And she said yes - she and Don Clark went in and they said, “yes, boss,” and went out and killed it. But they wouldn’t admit to us that they had cut that deal with Hatfield. They kept telling us, “Yeah, we support the Park Service. We want the tributaries protected.” And so, that’s...
CH: Senator Hatfield didn’t want the Park Service in for what reason then, too?
CW: Oh timber. He’s a total - I mean, look at his environmental record. He’s Mr. Clear-cut, Mr. Salvage Rider, that destroyed - probably the main villain in the last twenty years that ancient forests is Mark Hatfield. [He] did sleazy tactics like riders in the middle of the night, the Salvage Rider. And he did the same thing with the Gorge. He was totally underhanded. So, the very best light that can be put on Nancy Russell is that she was naively duped into it by Mark Hatfield into it. She did not talk to a single environmentalist, not a single environmentalist was talked to by the Friends of the Gorge, until the Sierra Club person that ended up selling us out had breakfast with them up in Seattle about eighty-four.
So part of the deal - the eighty-four Wilderness Bill - Hatfield was like - wanted the minimal amount. Environmentalists, thanks to Jim Weaver - we ended up getting 800,000 acres, I think, in the eighty-four Wilderness Bill. In fact, Jim Weaver just hates the Sierra Club over that, because the House bill was 1.2 million, if I remember right. This was over a decade ago. The Senate bill was 800,000, and they were going into conference committee. If you worked in the Senate, you split the difference. So we were looking at a million acre Oregon wilderness. The Sierra Club held a press conference with Mark Hatfield, said they supported Hatfield’s bill, the day before conference committee. Weaver went crazy, hated the Sierra Club after that. We lost 200,000 acres of wilderness by Mark Hatfield’s plan. Sleazy games like that. But we ended up - he originally supported a quarter million or something. So by spending years - by the environmentalists taking the right position, we forced Hatfield from like probably a quarter million acres to 800,000 acres. If anyone cared anything about the Gorge, and knew politics, you demand what you want, and then let the politicians make the compromises. You don’t go in and offer compromises, and you don’t go in asking for the bottom line. When they started doing that, I told Nancy, I said, “Look, you can’t go in there with your bottom line.” She said, “We’re rich, Congress wouldn’t dare weaken anything we did!” Of course they totally gutted it. So her...
CH: The hundred thousand - the 800,000 acres was including what?
CW: This was the national forest - this was the eighty-four Wilderness Bill. The two biggest - in 1978 and 1980 - well from - during the Andrus period we cleared out almost the entire backlog of national park areas. Like I say, everything but Tall Grass was cleared. The stage was set, in terms of parks legislation, for the Gorge. But no one would look at it until the Oregon and Washington Wilderness Bill - remember, this is the Rare Two, and that whole ten year process. So there was no way Congress was going to act on the Gorge until the wilderness was out of the way, so we had to concentrate on that. What happened, and Bob Packwood could probably verify this, Bob Packwood thought he had a deal with Mark Hatfield. Since Hatfield’s big thing was raping ancient forests, Packwood let Hatfield take the lead on the Oregon Wilderness Bill that passed in eighty-four, and thought he had an understanding with Hatfield that then he got to take the lead on the Gorge and write the Gorge Bill. Packwood hired two of the most wonderful senate staff people I’ve ever worked with. One of them, Emily Barlow still - if you want to interview her I got her number - she was his local staff here in Portland, environmental staff. Then he hired a National Park Service employee, John - oh boy. I can’t think of the name, but - hired a Park Service person to be his staff, environmental staff person in D.C. They were both just wonderful people. The Friends of the Gorge, Nancy Russell treated them like dirt. So Packwood thought - I’m getting a little ahead of the story here, but it’s a real important point, because one of the reasons why people like me hate Oregon politics so much is that there is this sleazy, behind the scenes revolving doors, and - I don’t know if you know who Tom Imason is?
CH: Yes, I was just going to refer to him.
CW: Well, he was - we used to call him the third - environmentalists used to call him Oregon’s third senator. He was incredibly powerful. Packwood was going under the impression that he got to write the Gorge Bill, and so he totally supported, without any changes, Hatfield’s wilderness bill. He thought he had a deal that Hatfield was going to support his Gorge bill, which is the National Park Service Wild and Scenic River designation for the Deschutes, the Sandy, the Hood, the Washington rivers, everything, basically what we wanted. The coalition’s position, which would have been basically buying the whole western end of the Gorge, and the eastern end would have been the Cape Cod formula, and a lot of it would have been left in private ownership, but with real restrictions, and compensation, not just this regulatory nightmare that we ended up with. He thought Hatfield was still with him, didn’t know Hatfield was doing these sleazy deals behind the scenes with Nancy Russell. They finally - we got the wilderness bills out of the way, and - well, let’s see, I’m getting ahead of myself. I guess we might as well get into the Gorge thing, back into the late seventies.
Anyway, so we organized the Columbia Gorge Coalition as ad hoc group, but we didn’t go public. We were meeting regularly, and I’d meet with the groups. We were spending a lot of time meeting with local people, explaining to them how scenic easements work, how they can - even if they were in an acquisition zone, they could sell their land, get all but one percent per year, for a life of state, get all their money up front, and live their the rest of their years for free. Then, the land goes into the Park Service. And they were, “where do we sign up?” It was just - people, by doing, by meeting with all the people, we had so much local support that, in Skamania County, which Willamette Week just trashes them constantly, unfairly, we had - we forced an election of Skamania County residents that lived within what was going to be the Gorge area. Eighty-five - this was about a month before The Friends formed - eighty-five percent of the residents in Skamania County voted for a total moratorium on any rural development until protection was put in place, eighty-five percent. [It] took Nancy Russell and Don Clark about a month to undo all of that.
So we were on a roll, and like I say, I kind of back - so we formed this group, and Craig Collins was one of the people, and Save the Caves, and we had people from all over the Gorge. We had a really, just a wonderful group of people.
CH: So, how did it begin? I mean, what was the, what was the original gathering or the original meeting, or -
CW: Well it was a serious - it started out with me, going around meeting with these groups one on one. And so then each of those groups had one or two people that kind of became reps for this project, and basically convinced all the people that we were never going to keep winning all - even though we - these local groups had an incredible track record, that we could never save the Gorge that way. We would just be bits and pieces. We had to do the whole thing at one time. And here is the precedence. Judging by what has been done elsewhere, we could buy half the Gorge. We can buy development rights on the rest of it. We’ll have river patrols on the river paid for by the feds. We can get clear into - probably even the Portland Airport, buying the shoreline down there. We could the Sandy bought - you know, it was - here’s - based on all the precedents I’ve worked on for Friends of the Earth, here’s what we can get. Everyone’s - you know, “this is wonderful.” We kept very quite though. We didn’t go to the media. So we had regular meetings, and just out organizing. We were calling ourselves the Columbia Gorge Coalition, but it was just an ad hoc group...
[End of Tape 2, Side 1]
March 22, 1999
Tape 2, Side 2
CW: ...supposedly that pretty much financially destroyed him.
CH: Oh, is that right?
CH: [sound problems] Okay.
CW: So in seventy-eight we got enough new parks established, that I knew by 1980 - we knew we’d get the Alaska bill passed in seventy-nine or eighty, which was the biggest...
CH: I’m just trying to get the - I’m just turning the phone volume down, and turning the recording volume up, just to make sure that we get adequate recording. I think that’s - I noticed that it was a little - go ahead.
CW: Well, so this had kind of turned a little bit, or something like that.
CH: Yeah, okay. Yeah, okay, go ahead.
CW: Okay. So, anyway, we were organizing with the local people here, but we hadn’t gone public. Then, in seventy-eight we got the Redwoods Bill, and some of the big bills out of the way. So I knew by 1980 we were going to have enough bills out of the way that we could start considering the Gorge. [sound problems]
CH: Sorry, I should try to get it up to max. There, okay.
CW: Usually, we have enough volume, it’s not a problem [laughs].
So before, generally you start a big fight over a new park. And then after you get momentum, all the opposition’s going, then you bring in the Parks - you get a congressman or someone to bring in the Park Service to do its study. Then you have all this controversy. I had enough experience in this matter to know that - to know that if we could get the study done first, then the controver- you know, we’re going to be halfway there, and we’re not going to have this two year sag, to allow the opposition to build up opposition while the Park Service did their study, if I could get the study going. As part of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, the predecessor to Hookers [?] is probably around, the Heritage Conservation Recreation Service. Anyway, they had done a study, and part of - and ironically the precedence for the Gorge, the two besides - after Cape Cod, the next two precedents were in 1972, under Richard Nixon, that radical environmentalist. We established the Golden Gate Recreation Area, around San Francisco, which I worked on. That was my first big environmental fight. Actually, my first one was when I was living in New Orleans, to kill the freeway that they trying to build across the French Market, right through that - and that was my first actually big environmental fight [laughs] was an urban one. My second one that I really got my teeth on was the Golden Gate Recreation Area. That was when I - after I had left Vista, and was back in San - going to school there at Sonoma State, and worked a summer there in Sierra Club. Richard - and so then Gateway National Recreation Area at New York City were both passed in seventy-two. And the night before the election, Nixon came out - the seventy-two election, Nixon came out - even though it hadn’t passed Congress yet - it was still a day or two from passing Congress - This was Phil Burton’s [sp?] first big parks bill, too - signed the bill - or signed - dedicated the new Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and then the day after he won the election, impounded all the funds [laughs]. Remember when they used to impound funds?
CW: But he - but Nat Reid [sp?], his - Nathaniel Reid, who was Assistant Secretary of the Interior over National Parks and Wildlife, which is under Nixon, said anyone that doesn’t want one of these Park Service areas, any big city official that doesn’t want one of these Park Service areas adjacent to them has to be nuts. Well, Don Clark and the Portland establishment are nuts. They are the only - only two counties have ever fought that kind of park.
CH: Why were they fighting it? Why did Don Clark fight it?
CW: He was trying to run for governor, and was in single digits in the polls. So he saw it as an issue that he could get publicity out of, but he - so Nancy Russell, my theory is - she was an amateur tennis player, and got too tired - got too old to do that, and wanted publicity. So she was looking for publicity. Don Clark was looking for a way of getting publicity, and so - but he tried to run for governor, trashing Skamania County, which may make sense in Oregon politics, but he totally killed all our support in Skamania County. As I say, we had an amazing amount of support. And he and Nancy Russell, when they formed it - I’m getting ahead of myself - started holding press conferences. They said, “those stupid local hicks in the Gorge are a bunch of land-rapers, and we city people are going to show them how to protect the Gorge.”
CH: Now the reason why - how was he going about dumping on the people in Skamania?
CW: Oh, they would hold press conferences and trash Skamania County. “We have to - Oregon is totally protected. We have L.C.D.C. We have land use planning. All the rape is going on in Washington.” It wasn’t true. There was as much going on in Oregon, because the land use planning is not the good, and the Thousand Friends of Oregon never lifted a finger to help on the Gorge.
CH: But there was - there has been -. Is it a misconception that - or a misperception that the Washington side is not more developed than the Oregon side?
CW: There’s a lot more private lands and it’s not as steep, so you inherently have more development going on there. The Oregon side had more public land. It did have land use planning, although it didn’t do much to help in the Gorge, because the supposed environmentalists, like Thousand Friends of Oregon, never lifted a finger to try to apply, like Goal Five, the part of the land use - the Oregon land use planning that protects natural areas. There’s never been an acre in the Gorge under Goal Five, and Thousand Friends of Oregon never pushed for a single acre. They just totally ignored the Gorge.
CH: Why did they - why did they not use that legislation to push for protection. What would their reason be?
CW: I don’t know. I mean, they just never - well, their head, then Henry Richmond was out of the timber industry family for starters [laughs]. They just had no interest in the Gorge, and still don’t. I just - like I say, I got a fundraising letter from them yesterday about how people are building these trophy houses in the Gorge, and it’s got to be stopped. But they supported those trophy - they supported the legislation that allows trophy houses to be built. For instance, the Bea House, the one, and this...
CH: The Bea House is - just for reference here on the tape, is the house that’s being built across from Multnomah Falls, up in the side of the mountain.
CW: Right. Up in a point that you can see it for miles up and down the river.
CW: And it blew the lid off the cover-up. I’m getting kind of ahead of myself here, but [I] might as well touch on this. The Friends - that was the 750th new house built in the protected parts of the Gorge since the Friends Bill passed, entirely because of the Friends of the Gorge. That’s a point the Portland media, especially the Oregonian, won’t allow. They treat the Bea House as if it’s the first house. The only reason it got any publicity was that it was so obvious that it blew the cover-up off the Friends cover-up - it blew the lid off the Friends cover-up. The other key thing is that the very fact we’re even debating building the house across the Multnomah Falls, say - it’s going to be built and it’s going to stay there - proves that the bill is a hoax. I mean, the fact that twelve years after protection passed they’re building mansions across from Multnomah Falls, proves that the Friends Bill is a failure. If this - if the Coalition-Packwood Bill had passed, that would have been in public ownership six, seven years ago, and there’d be no debate over it. But the Friends killed acquisition authority in that area. Under the Friends Bill, to free up money to give to the timber industry, and their backers, like John Gray, killed any compensation for any acquisition in sixty-one percent of the Gorge. So that means - and that’s why so much development’s going on. In every other place in the country, there would be the option of buying the land, or buying scenic easements at least, buy up the development rights. In sixty-one percent of the Gorge, there is nothing but zoning, zoning that’s a bureaucratic nightmare that - and they’re gutting it. I mean, they’re filling in. They based it on the absolute worst part of Oregon land use planning. The people like the Thousand Friends of Oregon took the position that we are Oregonians are so superior to other states, we know what’s best. The Friends of the Gorge, and Thousand Friends of Oregon, and Hatfield, and Wyden, refused to even look at the other precedents around the country. Our three main precedents for Gorge protection for our bill were Golden Gate National Recreation Area; Lower Saint Croix National Scenic River, which is just east of the twin cities, and it’s real similar to the Gorge in that it’s a river dividing Minnesota and Wisconsin, so you had the two states - half an hour from a major metropolitan - a wonder prece- totally protected under the Park Service; and Cape Cod; and to a lesser degree, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area, which we got that through in [indiscernible] Park’s Bill in eighty, I think.
CH: Wasn’t that actually a part of the Topanga Canyon National Area?
CW: Yeah. And that’s really key - well it has two main relevances to the Gorge. One of them is that they set up a conservancy there, plus the state has a conservancy, to deal will lesson [?] acquisition places. The Friends of the Gorge killed that for the Gorge, because by then they had taken over the trust for public lands, and Nancy Russell had control of them. So she didn’t want a competitor there, coming in. The other main way it relates to the Gorge is that it’s the only other urban county in this country that fought the National Park Service area adjacent to it. Los Angeles County fought Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, just like Multnomah County fought - but there the congressman, Tony Belison [sp?], who is a friend of mine, was great, and got the Park Service. Wyden totally wimped out. If we kept Bob Duncan we might have gotten the Park Service, but - which is ir- Sawdust Bob. This is one of the ironies, is that we were going public just - and, for Oregon Politics, Bob Duncan, whose son has been on the power council, of course, for - Angus...
CH: Angus Duncan, yes. Both were.
CW: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. But he started with a district further south, and kept getting redistricted until he ended up with Multnomah County.
CH: Well, actually he got - he moved. He was in Medford, and then he moved up to Gresham, I think it was.
CW: Right. But his district was further south, I think. It didn’t have the urban - you know, it was still a timber industry district. Then that last big redistricting, it took in Multnomah County, and suddenly he had an anti - or a pro-environment district. We used to call him Sawdust Bob, because he was such a blatant - representing the timber industry. He was totally against Gorge protection. So Ron Wyden came along, and this is about the same time Craig Collins [sp?] was getting involved, so we worked on Wyden’s campaign. He promised us he would support the National Park Service. We worked on his campaign and helped him beat Bob Duncan. Bob Duncan came out against us, then polled his constituency, and it was coming in about ten to one for a National Park Service area. He stood up in a meeting during the election, and came out as the strongest person for the Park Service [laughs]. This is in a meeting in Portland, at O.D.F.W., and totally turned around. But we still supported Wyden. As soon as Ron Wyden got elected with our help, he sold us down the river, refused to meet with local environmentalists, fought the Park Service, and is one of the three or four main villains in the Gorge thing. He is just horrible.
He used to actually meet with us. But, part of the problem is, he grew in Philadelphia, and moved out here, and has no concept of rural politics. The last time he met with any of the - there was a whole group, including Friends of the Gorge, and the Sierra Club, and the City Audubon, Wildlife Federation, all the major groups meeting with them - he turned to me and said, “Chuck, you’re just making stuff up about development going on in the Gorge. I talked to the Gorge people all the time, and there’s no development. They’re not going to foul their own nest. It’s not going on.” The local people he was talking to was the Port at Cascade Locks. Those were the only - you know it was - and I said, “Ron, you picked a bad day to make a statement like that. Yesterday, Skamania county approved an eighty-three house subdivision between my place and the river, on wetlands.” So he never met with us again. [He] only met with Friends of the Gorge and Sierra Club after that, because we wouldn’t go along with the hoax and such. I’ve - I mean, I really loathe Ron Wyden. He is one of the main villains, along with Hatfield and Dan Evans, are - within Congress are the three main villains. And Bob Packwood’s the champ - [laughs] the environmental champion. Jim Weaver and Mike Lawry [sp?] were those congressmen, and they were wonderful. I was real close with their staffs. But they were told by Mark Hatfield that the Gorge wasn’t in their districts, and keep their asses out of the Gorge or he would get them big time. So they did what they could. Actually Les AuCoin was the last one in Congress to cave on the Park Service. But Wyden was the one that could have won. Because if we had had a house champion, like we had with Tony Belison, with Santa Monica mountains, to work with Phil Burton, we could have gotten a really strong park bill through the House. Then, Hatfield would have had to have suffered a debate, or at least would have to work - debate the Gorge. The reason we lost the Gorge, in large part, is because the Portland media prevented debate, and they still do. So, every single time, in the beginning when Nancy Russell or her hired guns had to debate me or the local environ- we would win. I mean, people would just hear - I mean, it was just obvious it should be the Park Service. There was no possible way you could support their decision. So they just prevented us from ever being able to make a presentation, and that goes on. Hatfield had a - right before he went out of office, he had a tenth year anni - he had promised their would be a ten year hearing. We weren’t allowed to testify. Not a single - Friends of the Gorge were the only group, representing all environmental groups, allowed to testify. None of us were even allowed to testify. Friends of the Gorge - and I think I put their testimony in an article did in the Oregonian in there, and it said, everything’s wonderful in the Gorge. This was two years ago. We have no problems in the Gorge, a little more acquisition money, and everything’s just wonderful. And that’s a total - we had six hundred new houses at that time. The vast majority of the private timber lands in the Gorge had been clear-cut, since the bill passed. Friends of the Gorge and Sierra Club supported banning any restrictions on clear-cutting in sixty-one percent of the Gorge. They didn’t ban clear-cutting, they banned any restrictions on clear-cutting. So we lost almost all the privates lands with clear-cut since eighty-six, with the Friends’ support.
CH: You need to clear up one thing for me, with the - in terms of the Park Service, the Gorge right now is under a National Scenic Area legislation.
CH: Now, isn’t that administered by the Park Service?
CW: No, it’s administered by the Forest Service...
CH: It’s by the Forest Service.
CW: ...Commission. That actually - the National Scenic Area name is my idea, and it turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life. The biggest mistake ever in my life was keeping my mouth shut and letting Nancy Russell and the Friends of the Gorge masquerade as an environmental group, when they were not even remotely. People were like, “you can’t have public infighting, Chuck,” and I kept my mouth quiet, and didn’t criticize them publicly. Like I say, I wake up in the middle in the night haunted by that. I know that if I would have gone public at the time I still had the stature, and Nancy Russell [indiscernible], and we still had two newspapers in Portland, so I had access to the Journal, that if I had exposed what they were doing, we could have won the Gorge. But I tried to take the high road, and I wasn’t around people that just lie, and just use tactics like that. I was really naive. I had been living in the woods for seven years. You know, I was dealing with bears, people you could deal with like grizzlies [laughs] and stuff. I wasn’t used to...
CW: ...people that would look me in the eye and just lie to me through their teeth.
CH: Wasn’t there some kind of a debate between wether it would be a National Scenic Area or a National Recreation Area?
CW: And see that was my fault. Is that whistling a little bit?
CH: Oh [Adjusts recording equipment].
CH: Okay. Okay. So, anyway - yeah, back where we were a little while ago - so in seventy-six, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation of the Park Service did a study of potential urban parks - this was a follow-up of to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Gateway - to see what other potential ones. They studied a couple dozen places in the country and six of them came out flying colors. One of them was the Columbia Gorge. So, that meant that the Park Service could come in and study the Gorge without congressional authorization, which was a plus for me. It was to come in to study it as a National Recreation Area. I could provide you all of my original writings on it, referred to it as a National Recreation Area. We should have kept that name. As I say, it’s the second biggest mistake I ever made in my life. The head of the Park Service study team and I were sitting up on the top of Beacon Rock, just watching the sunset, just figuring things, and we had two reasons to not want to use the National Recreation Area name. One of them, we were already starting to get backlash in the Gorge when it went public that we were going to have hoards of recreation overrun in the Gorge. The other was this guy, Chuck Cushman [sp?], had come in. He was an insurance salesman from L.A. that owned land in Yosemite. He’s a reprehensible - he and I were born in the same year, both named Chuck. He was from Sonoma County when I was in Petaluma [laughs], and so we had this long parallel. He now lives in Battleground. I blame my sister. She was in a singles volleyball group with him, and he kept asking her out, had no idea she was my sister, and she kept turning him down. He finally got a girlfriend in Battleground and moved up here. So I blame my sister for [laughs] - if she’d gone out with him, we might have -. When he found out she was my sister, it was like, “you’re related to HIM!?” [laughs]. Small world. So he had started this campaign, and it was very effective. He’s maybe the best demagogue - anti-environment demagogue there ever was. He gets paid huge money to go into areas where there’s parks or potential parks, and scare the hell out of the local. You’ll love it. It’s the biggest article Friends of the Earth ever did, exposing him.
So he got this right-wing foundation to make a doc- there’s Cuyahoga National Recreation Area. It’s between Cleveland and Akron, and it was in seventy-four. So there they went in, and the Park Service was told to go in there in four years and buy all the land - and people could live there the rest of their life, or a set amount of years - but to go in there, buy the land, which from a financial and environmental standpoint is the way to do it. If you keep putting it off, as you buy land around an area, it gets isolated, and the value just goes through the roof. But there was forced sales, no doubt about it. But people were given relocation money. They could stay there the rest of their life. I mean, it was done in a very, very fair way. But it was controversial. So he got this right-wing foundation from Vermont to do a documentary on how the Park Service throws people out of their homes. It focuses on Cuyahoga.
Jessica Savage, for some - who was on Front Line its first year, was on, and they had - their very first one was the one about the head of - the owner of the L.A. Rams was murdered over drugs, which has never been proven. But she got this documentary put on Front Line as fact. Being on PBS, it just gave an unbelievable credibility. It was incredibly sleazy. For instance, the end of the film ends with this house burning, with just black smoke pouring out of the house. The voice-over - and they must have waited for it to hit electrical or something, you know to get the black smoke - and the voice-over implies that the Park Service were burning these people out of their house. Well the people - there was a hardship clause, like there usually is in Parks Bills, even if the Park Service doesn’t want to buy your land, if you can show hardship, you can force them to buy their land. And then they have to figure out wether to resell it or what. So this couple had forced the Park Service to buy their house, and the Park Service didn’t want to. So the local fire department says, “hey, we never get to practice on real houses, can we burn it down for you, to give training for our fire department?” “Great!” So they filmed that, and that became the Park Service burning people out of their house. That became the battle cry, that if we have a National Recreation Area like Cuyahoga, people will get burned out of their houses. So we had that stigma, and this was before the Friends came in. This was seventy-nine, during the Park Service. We were - I was kind of the fifth Beattle on the Park Service study. You know, the unacknowledged person that - of the Park Service.
CH: And where was the Columbia Gorge Coalition - at what point...
CW: Hood River. Oh, we were in - well, we were an ad hoc group. The Park Service was - and I had the Gorge lined up - because of working for Friends of the Earth - lined up to be studied for - in about 1980 - for the study to start. Then the Park Service was starting to back, and I put the political screws on them a little more than I should have. And the next thing I know, here’s the Park Service in the Gorge, “Okay Chuck, we’re ready.” And I go, “oh my God, we’re not politically ready.” So at that point we went public with the coalition. We incorporated it. We opened up an office in Hood River, and that’s when we hired Craig and two other people on it, and Susan. That’s when we went public to provide the support for the Park Service, because immediately there was a backlash here.
It was really funny. The then owner of The Dalles Chronicle is right across the street here, and the then publisher - or editor, Austin Abrams - I get along with him well now - he was dressed all in black, with a white tie, white belt, and white shirt. He knew who I was, but he didn’t know what I looked like. Cecil Andrus’ aide was out here, and I had given him a tour of the Gorge. So the Park Service - the word had gotten out, so they had to have a public meeting to explain to everyone what they’re doing. So they had a meeting here in The Dalles. I’m sitting here with Andrus’ aide at the meeting. After the meeting, Austin Abrams got a group of about a dozen people in a circle around him, and here we are - Andrus’ aide and I are sitting here in the middle of the circle. He had no idea who I was. He says, “Folks, this is serious. I bet you Friends of the Earth - that Chuck Williams, I bet he’s back in Andrus’ office as we speak.” I got all done, I said, “Actually, I’m right here Austin” [laughs]. I never told him it was Andrus’ top aide that was sitting right with me [laughs]. There’s some great stories. I’m going to do a book one of these days.
And so at that point we opened the office. We’re working on the study, and all my - so I started publishing articles, in the Oregon Environmental Council’s newsletter, Earthwatch Oregon, Friends of the Earth, and all of these, pushing for a Columbia Gorge Recreation Area, and I did my letters. I know how you use to - because of your background with the Forest Service, you might be interested - but have all of the original letters that set up the Park Service proposal and such [Telephone rings, tape stopped].
[Tape begins again.]
CH: So, going back to your idea about the idea of the National Scenic Area then, what was the - why were you turning to that idea?
CW: The two negative reasons were the ramifications that came with the National Recreation Area. We had the National Inholder Organization, this right-wing group in here, “you’re going to get thrown out of your house like at Cuyahoga.” I was still working for Friends of the Earth when that campaign started, and I sat down with those people. I gave them - Chuck Cushman and them - I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I was in a position to make a lot of environmental policy. I said, “look it. I will - you back off on this, I will agree with you that in the Columbia Gorge and the other new parks I work on, we will not have forced acquisition. It will be - unless it is to block new development. It’s going to cost a lot of money, it’s going to drag things out, but I think it’s a reasonable compromise. So I will agree in the Gorge Bill that the environmentalists will fight any eminent domain except to block development - incompatible developments.” They kept fighting it. They had basically won, you know, I’d reach this comp- and then they still kept fighting us coming in. “You’re going to throw people out of their homes.” It was real obvious they had a right-wing anti-park agenda. It wasn’t - the concerns were just their foot in the door.
So they were in here in the Gorge, and this is really ironic - we ran them out of the Gorge. Chuck Cushman, who is the one that got James Watt appointed Secretary of the Interior, admits publicly that this was the only place he was ever beaten - was the Columbia Gorge, and we ran him out. He went around - he’s an incredible fire and brimstone speaker. He can stir up a whole crowd to go lynch someone. I mean, he is really good. So he started having his meetings, and he was paid a thousand a month plus expenses to come into the Gorge and organize opposition. Every time he’d hold one of these meetings in the Gorge, someone would say, “Hey man, I have a letter here from those people that you said were kicked out the houses, thanking the Park Service for saving them financially.” He had one over in White Salmon that I had - over half the meeting was people I had planted in there, and I wasn’t there. So he had no idea. He thought he had a sympathetic audience, and every one of them I had given a packet. They said, “and in Rocky Mountain this happened.” And one of my friends said, “well, I have an article from the local paper saying that’s a lie. This is what happened.” It just went like that for about an hour, and finally one of my friends says, “I got something here about how you have fake migraine headaches, and you’re getting a thousand a month from the insurance money to do this work.” “Where’s that goddamn fucking Chuck Williams! I’m gonna kill him!” and he ran around for two days [laughs]. He and the head of the Skamania Pioneer, Ed McCarney [sp?] ran around for two days trying to find me [laughs]. That’s one thing about being single and not having kids is, you know, they could never - I would have been dead a long time ago if I had ever [laughs] - if I wasn’t so elusive and such. But it ran them out of the Gorge, and it killed him.
So we beat the people, and then the Friends of the Gorge came in and killed - destroyed us, after we had killed the opposition. They took the ta- their whole thing was these rich city people are going to come in here and throw you out of your homes. Well, that didn’t stick. I’m umpteenth generation Skamania County, a third of my family worked in the mills and the woods in Skamania. People know I’m not - I’m going to look out for locals. They may hate my politics, but they know I’m for real, and do have compassion for the local people, and will stick up for - make sure they’re treated right. So the Friends of the Gorge came along, they proved it in Bridle Veil. They think nothing of throwing people out of their houses. They tried to throw people out of their houses in Bridle Veil, and just turned the whole community against the Friends of the Gorge. For no reason, just blatant elitism and contempt for locals. So then they became the bogey man that the - they were the stereotypes. When they came in, we had an environmental debate going on in the Gorge. If we could get it off the Park Service onto what people’s visions of the Gorge were, we’d have eighty, ninety percent local support. “Do you want to see no more development in this area?” Ten to one in our favor. “Do you want to see the Park Service in?” well, now we might drop to fifty or something. But we had people sold on what had to be done, and it was on the environmental debate. Then when Don Clark and Nancy Russell came in and started, “you stupid local hicks,” and I mean they would lo- Nancy Russell made Cascade Locks - when she said, “I have the final solution for the Columbia Gorge,” totally oblivious to the Nazi references. All of the people said, “Whoa!” and our local support went to a tenth of what it was, within a month or two after the Friends of the Gorge forming, because they were - you know, the right-wing people kept saying, “those rich city people are going to throw you out of your homes.” They’d say, “Well, wait a minute. These local people - Craig Collins, Chuck Williams, they’re not gonna -.” So the minute Nancy Russell came in, there has never been any debate on the Gorge. It’s those rich city people want to throw us out of our house. There’s never been, since Nancy Russell came in, any debate on what the Gorge should look like. It’s class warfare. It’s rich city people, and we were automatically horrible because we’re poor. She’s automatically horrible because she’s a city person, and it’s been class warfare. There’s never been any debate, since the Friends formed in late eighty. And there’s been no debate on what the Gorge should look like since 1980, because of the Friends.
CH: So the Friends of the Gorge formed in 1980, and what was the reason for the formation of that group?
CW: Well that depends upon who you talk to. It was - in my opinion, it’s publicity-seeking by Nancy Russell, combined with her elitism. The very fact that I was never once allowed to meet with the Friends of the Gorge to me proves that they were not serious about protecting the Gorge.
So the coalition formed in seventy-nine. We incorporated, we set up a non-profit group, the Columbia Gorge Environmental Center. That’s our non-profit foundation that would provide office space, and would monitor development in the Gorge, and do the things that a radical political group can’t do. And then the coalition, we purposely kept as a C-4 organization. That means we can’t - we were non-profit but donations to us were not tax deductible. We had a group, the Columbia Gorge Environmental Center, that was our foundation, to do the educational work and such. So, we opened up an office in Hood River, and we were just going gangbusters. This is when we had...
[End of Tape 2, Side 2]
January 22, 1999
Tape 3, Side 1
CH: This is an interview with Chuck Williams at his gallery in The Dalles, Oregon. The interviewer is Clark Hansen for the Oregon Historical Society. The date is 1-22-99. This is tape 3, side 1. So...
CW: So, anyway when I had come back to the Gorge in the beginning of seventy-seven [and] started working on my book and had it near done, but the last few months of wrapping up a book are real intense. And so, in the summer of - in the summer of eighty, early summer, I told Craig, “Well, go ahead, you want to do the foundation money - you run the Coalition.” I loaned Mike 5,000 [dollars] to help pay his salary, to the Coalition money to borrow for the book. And, [I] concentrated on my book, and was still on the phone and I was the one that really organized it and such. And things were going great. We had the Park Service doing the study, it was real positive, totally supportive of us, wonderful. They were wrapping up in early eighty, and so we were ready to go politically. I was kind of on, say hiatus, for about three months wrapping up my book, and we held an organizing meeting down in the Parker House, in Washougal, with all our supporters kind a getting ready to go on to the next step. And this was - we were still using the actual recreation area name, that was right about the transition, and John Yeon brought Nancy Russell to us and she took one look at me and decided I was the scum of the earth. And [Nancy] went and told Craig Collins that I was, quote, “offensive to the type of people whose support we need to protect the Gorge and had to be forced out of the fight.”
And so, the main - and plus, I was too stupid to raise money because I was having a book signing that was to get people encouraged on the Gorge free, because we didn’t want to keep anyone out - we could have raised tens of thousands of dollars. She was just too stupid, and this - that was when she decided to form Friends of the Gorge. So, her motivation was in large part publicity. But also, it was obvious I wasn’t going to get thrown out of the Coalition - I was the founder of it. And so, the Coalition had to be destroyed and a new group that she controlled set-up. Don Clark was looking for an issue and he was the head of the county commission, of Multnomah County, was someone up to that point I had admired greatly and had thought he was a wonderful person, and no longer do at all [laughs] - I loathe him now. So, suddenly they started - So, Nancy Russell and Don Clark went and had a meeting with Mark Hatfield and Bob Pack- . They went and they got Gail Ackerman [sp?] - this is part of the revolving - she’s now an attorney with Stoel Rives, she was...
CH: Environmental . . .
CW: Sort of environmental. She got an award from the Oregon Environmental Council for environmentalist of the year. For some water quality thing . . .
CH: Isn’t she for Goldschmidt . . .
CW: Yeah. That was after - she was his attorney fighting - she worked for Stoel Rives - I don’t remember if she worked for Stoel Rives then. She was a corporate attorney and she was working for P.G.E. When Lloyd Marbet was trying to shut down Trojan she was the one having P.G.E. ads running every five minutes on T.V. - with Gail Ackerman against shutting down Trojan. It said, “Oregon Environmental Council, environmentalist of the year.” It didn’t mention she was on retainer from P.G.E.. I mean that’s how - I mean that’s to me [laughs] sleazy. So, Gordon Beck, who is actually a nice guy, - who is Chris Beck the representative - he was a big shot corporate attorney. So, Nancy Russell got Gail Ackerman and Gordon Beck to write their bill. And first of all, it was insane to write a bill at that point. If she would have ever talked to any environmentalists, which she didn’t, - she went after the Coalition and got a couple of our board to break-off. And, [she] promised Craig the job as director of this new group, Friends of the Gorge, if he would basically destroy the Coalition - which he almost did - we just barely saved it. We did lose the Environmental Center.
The Friends of the Gorge set up as a non-profit foundation and so all their money is tax deductible. There was one point during a lawsuit against them, over an employee that wasn’t fired for uncovering embezzlement, and they were claiming like seven, eight percent of their time was spent on lobbying and their executive director had been in D.C. twenty-eight days that year [laughs]. You know, something [new?] [laughs] and it’s just - and they got away with it. But it made them tax deductible. So, they told me, “that we support the Park Service we did all of this.” We had Congressman Siberling [sp?] came out, who was the chairman of the National Park Sub-Committee, and who was a good friend of mine, and his environmental aide was a real close friend - I don’t know how many congressional aides hug and kiss Nancy Russell [laughs]. And he came out here for a tour of the Gorge and Nancy Russell told me I could not go on the tour. I said, “how come?” That is when she told me I was, quote, “too inferior a person to be allowed to take part in politics.” But she promised me they were pushing for the Park Service. So, I called up John Siberling and he said, “tell Nancy Russell to go to hell, you’re my personal guest on this tour.” And Don Clark told me I couldn’t go. So they promised me they’d push for the Park Service, so I agreed to not go, which was [an] incredible mistake - I mean I had never been around people like that, that would lie.
The Park Service never came up. Nancy Russell told ‘em all the groups are totally against the Park Service. They’re totally against any salmon and tributary protection, they just want the Forest Service on a commission. So we had that going on. Meanwhile, Gail Ackerman was ordered that they could not let any environmentalists see their bill. Gordon Beck, who since passed away as the night, he was one of the old, rich, money; Portland, West Hills money, and he called me up one night. He said, “Chuck, I have been working for a month on payments in lieu of taxes. I know you know that in your head, I know in ten minutes you could save me months more research. I want to pick your mind. I said, “I’m not sure you’re going to pick my mind, I’m not allowed to see that bill that’s being written behind my back.” He said, “well come down my off - when are you going to be in Portland?” I said, “I got to go in tomorrow night.” He says, “ well come by my office. I can’t give you a copy but I’ll let you read it.” So, I read it. It was over. It was a planning bill. They had no Park Service in it. This is the original one that they got Bob Packwood to introduce in eighty-one or something.
CH: By saying planning bill what do you mean?
CW: Instead of being a park bill where you went in and bought land in easements, almost all the protection was done through zoning. So they took the tack that, Hey, we in Oregon have the only statewide land-use planning. Our land-use planning is perfect. We have no problems. It will work in the Gorge. All we have to do is take our land-use planning and apply it to Oregon and the Gorge is saved.
Well, that was total nonsense, but they did two things. One of them was you don’t go in there with your bottom line. Our proposal had some things to trade away in it. We knew what we had to have as a bottom line to save the Gorge. We had text [?] for the Hood River Valley for instance - which we knew we weren’t going to get. But, you know, we had something to go. They came in with way below our bottom line - anti-Park Service. Nancy Russell kept going around telling the Oregonian, and all these papers, that all the environmental groups support her - Audubon - a complete lie, not one of them supported her. But how do you deal? I was totally unable to deal with people that just sit there - she went back to D.C. and I started getting calls and she went around and told everyone I had dropped out voluntarily, deferred to her and I was now against the Park Service. I started getting calls from Weaver’s aide and, you know, and Packwood’s aide said, “I can’t believe this.” So I said, “it’s not true.” She orchestrated with Hatfield and they just constantly lied. They came out with this bill, a year before there should have been a bill. In other words, if she had known anything about establishing parks you don’t write the details until you get the concepts agreed to. I wasn’t allowed - I say I still never been allowed to meet with The Friends of the Gorge. I’ve still been banned. If she would a been sincere about it, and cared about it, you would of got everyone on board of the basic concepts.
And then the bill - I’ve written parks bills - the guy who’s now the head of Washington State Parks was Phil Burton’s aide, and he could’ve written the bill in a night. Him and I sat down and we did some other bills. So, there is no reason to write a bill because you just set-up a target to throw things at. So, they stupidly write this planning bill that is based on L.C.D.C. - with no Park Service, no tributary protection, no public input really. So, that moved the whole - say, here was a full blown national park - here is no protection. We came in here with a national recreation area - and the other reason for the National Scenic Area name was to put the counties on notice. And I said look, “I’ll take a name that allows flexibility - your put on notice. If the counties in the Gorge do their work - the more you do to protect the Gorge for the bill pass and less direct federal management there will need to be. We are going to have a core National Recreation Area on the west end of the Gorge, but particularly, the east end of the Gorge. How much protection you put in, will determine how much direct federal control. The national scenic area gave us that leeway, flexibility, but it turned out to be the main mistake. I had no idea people I considered “fake” environmentalists were gonna come along and sell us out.
CH: Like who?
CW: Nancy Russell.
CH: Nancy Russell
CW: Bob Clark. If we had kept the national recreation area name - Like, say, I am the one that stupidly came up with the National Scenic Area name - being the head of the Park Service - Rich Gambardini [sp?] head of the Park Service study team, we would’ve had a bottom line that they couldn’t have gone below. The National Recreation Area had precedence and we would have protected the Gorge. But by me using the name, National Scenic Area, than Nancy Russell was able to come along, and like Andy Kerr said, “put a sign that says National Scenic Area on each end of the Gorge and business as usual in between.” So here is total wilderness, here is our proposal, and here is no protection. Nancy Russell came in here with their planning bill, and Gail Ackerman [sp?] . . .
CH: In the middle?
CW: In the middle. And that wouldn’t even [have] protected the Gorge. So the minute they did that, Spellman and Atiyeh were governors, they suddenly came in with the Atiyeh bill. Which was no Forest Service, no land acquisition, strictly a planning bill - which was the Friends bill without any Forest Service involvement. Nancy had forced me out of the fight. I was totally - I had been pushed out. I wasn’t allowed to attend any meetings - Packwood and Weaver and Lawry, of course, I knew them real well, would meet with me. But I wasn’t allowed to take part in any of the participation. The Friends wouldn’t allow me in any meetings or testify in hearings or anything.
CH: But couldn’t you got to these people directly yourself and ask to be a part of it?
CW: We had no money. They spent over two million dollars fighting us. How am I going to fly to D.C. every week like Nancy Russell does? There was just no way we - we kept fighting but we were pretty much forced out. The Governor’s bill came out and Packwood had sponsored the Friends’ planning bill. Like I say, it was insane to put in a bill at that point. In eighty-three - then in response to that they came out with what the - Spellman and Atiyeh got together and wrote the Governor’s bill, which was horrible, and it was sailing through the senate. Bob Packwood - through the Congress period came out and held a hearing in Hood River; I testified and Nancy Russell testified - and he had hired really good staff then; so, they made sure I testified. After the hearing Bob Packwood came over and says, “you’re obviously the brains here; I want to meet with you.” Remember he used to have that mobile home he took around?
CH: Yeah, right.
CW: We went out and met for about an hour in his home, in his mobile home, and talked details. He really says, “I realized Nancy Russell has no idea what she is talking about.” [laughs] And you know and such - “you’re obviously the one.” So, he says, “ we’ve got to kill this Governor’s bill.” So I said, “I know.” He went back to D.C. and he went to all the national environmental groups; N.P.C.A., Wilderness Society, Sierra Club [?]. All of them said, “Well, we would like to help you, but we were working on the Gorge when Friends of the Gorge forced Chuck Williams out. They won’t work with us; they have never met with an environmental group. They claim we support ‘em but they never met with us. We can’t do anything until Chuck’s back in. Bob Packwood called me up and says - we had a long talk - and he says, “ you’ve got to come back here; you can kill this bill because of your contacts in the environmental movement. I said, “yeah, that’s true.” He says, “you gotta come back and kill it.” I said, “Well, two things; one of them, I’m not gonna kill it for the Friends’ Bill. If I kill it, it’s going to be for the Park Service and tributary protection.” He says, “I totally agree.” He really understood the bill. We would sit down and talk details. He understood why we had to do certain things. I am still impressed by his knowledge of the details of the Gorge. Secondly, they destroyed my life and my organization. We had to close our office, this was in eighty-three, and along with some reparations, they directly took money from me. We had a deal. He went to The Friends of the Gorge and they promised to give us ten thousand dollars, to the Coalition, so I could go back and kill the bill; so we could really start over again and protect the Gorge.
We opened up an office in White Salmon. This is the Wilderness Bills for eighty-four; so, we had to get those out of the way. We had one - all of the wilderness in the Gorge had already been decided, so there was no real controversy. But we had three major areas that the Sierra Club had gotten - taken out of the Washington Bill. They had traded Puget Sound lands for our land - for Mount Adams and Indian Heaven, and then Trapper Creek was one that wasn’t even on the radar. So we decided if we were going to reopen our office, we’re going after the Wilderness Bill. We opened up in White Salmon, and we were the miracle - in three months, with a thousand dollars, we added three new wilderness areas into the bill. The head environmentalist that worked on that, Karen [indiscernible], head of the Washington Wilderness Coalition, and Gene Derney [sp?] with the Wilderness Society, their Northwest rep., said we were the miracle workers of the whole state. We pulled off miracles that were unbelievable.
CH: Which three wildernesses did you add on?
CW: Mount Adams addition, Indian Heaven, and Trapper Creek. All of them. And the Friends, or course, wouldn’t support any of those.
CH: And why wouldn’t the Friends support that?
CW: They were bankrolled by utilities and stuff. We were trying to protect the White Salmon River in the Gorge Bill, and they were bankrolled by PacifiCorp. I put a letter in there, a 1981 fundraising letter for the Gorge went to all the CEOs in the Northwest, signed by John Gray, who got paid off with five million dollars of federal money, chairman of Schnitzer Steel, chairman of PacifiCorp, who owned the dam in White Salmon River, Condit Dam, chairman of Weyerhaeuser. Chairman of Weyerhaeuser, Charles Wilson, was on the Friends board when they decided to fight the Park Service. That’s how bad they were. And that was never made public. That was one of the things that me holding the press conference, announcing the chairman of Weyerhaeuser was on the Friends board could have blown them out of the way...
CH: So which do you think came first? Did you think that, you know, John Yeon, Nancy Russell, Don Clark, came first, and then they went to people like the head of the - head of Schnitzer and PacifiCorp, or do you think PacifiCorp and those people came to people like Nancy Russell and asked them to...
CW: Well, those are the people Nancy Russell hangs out with, down at the Arlington Club and places, so they all knew each other.
CW: Like Fred Stickel [sp?] socializes with Nancy Russell, goes to her house. So I think Hatfield orchestrated it. I think Hatfield is a sly old fox that orchestrated it, and Nancy, she didn’t care. She wanted the publicity and so...
CH: So you feel it was probably Hatfield then, that actually was the impetus behind the forming of the Friends of the Gorge.
CW: Right. Well, in fact I can prove that, because the first hearing Hatfield had after the Friends formed was in B.P.A. building in Portland, and Don Clark - you can go back and read testimony and it says, “Senator, they you for holding these hearings. We formed a new group to get of the old -” you know, “just like you told us to do, we formed a new group which we’re calling the Friends of the Gorge.” So he admitted - he started off saying, “Yeah, we did exactly what you told us. We formed this new group to get rid of the Coalition.”
CH: And Hatfield wanted to get rid of the Coalition so that he could keep the interests of the Forest Service intact...
CW: And the timber industry and the utilities.
CW: You see, he’s very - his environmental record is horrible, and his mail is running ten to one for a National Park Service area. I mean, we had - my book, just - excuse the immodesty, but it really kicked off a thing. We had support running ten to one, so he knew he had to pass a Gorge National Scenic Area bill. So he just wrote his own - got his own fake environmental group that would back what he was doing, and he’d use the National Scenic Area name, but turn it into a conduit to pay off his fund-raises. For instance, John Grey - you know, the Salishan developer?
CW: He raised a lot of money for Friends of the Gorge. When Lonsdale was going after Hatfield, he gave Hatfield $10,000 the day before the election to do some blitz against Lonsdale, and suddenly five million dollars that was going to compensate local people went to John Grey to build Skamania Lodge. There was five million dollars of federal Gorge money [that] went to Skamania Lodge. But in sixty-one percent of the Gorge there’s not one penny to compensate local people or protect lands. So everyone...
CH: That was a public...
CW: Sort of. A person who was on the Gorge commission called me up during that public thing that they were having. It was up to the Gorge commission to decide whether that money went to Klickitat County or to Skamania County. Klickitat County had a proposal for the Bingen Marina there that most people thought was a better proposal than Skamania Lodge. One of the people I got appointed to the Gorge commission for Multnomah, over Nancy Russell’s - in fact, Nancy Russell got - they held a press conference with the League of Oregon Voters, whose director was out of town, and claimed that Chris Rogers, now the U.S. Attorney, was a front for developers, and tried to kill her appointment with the Gorge commission, and put Nancy Russell in. Gladys McCoy appointed Chris because of the Indians and me. Chris was one of the top experts on Indian law. Nancy Russell, they had petitioners out all over Multnomah County, fighting Chris Rogers, trying to get Nancy Russell appointed to the commission.
CH: And they were successful, weren’t they?
CW: No, We won because...
CH: You did win.
CW: because Gladys McCoy - because Nancy Russell was such a - excuse me, but, I’m on the record, but - was such a racist that she just loathed her, and actually called Polly Costerland [sp?] who since past away, she was the Corbett rep.
CW: Remember her?
CW: She was the county commi- she called me up and says, “Chuck, you know how we were getting ready to appoint Chris Rogers, which is what we want to do. Everyone in Corbett hates Nancy Russell. We don’t want her, but she’s about - unless you’ve got an ace up your sleeve, Chuck, she has forced and bought her way into appointment.” And I said, “well, I do have one ace.” I marched down to Gladys McCoy’s office with Columbia River Intertribal Fish representatives, and Warm Springs reps, and said, “this woman, Chris Rogers, is one of the top experts on archaeological - we have no Indians that are allowed to take part, the bill the Friends wrote totally excludes the Indians.” They weren’t allowed to take part in the negotiations or anything with Friends of the Gorge. So Gladys said, “Thank you. That’s what I wanted to do and you just gave me my excuse,” [laughs]. Actually, Gladys McCoy, one of her black aides said to me that, “Nancy Russell was one the most racist people that I ever had to deal with.” I said, “in her defense, she hates all people that aren’t rich, white, West Hills people,” [laughs]. “It’s not race specific.” Unfortunately, it’s the truth. I wish it wasn’t...
CH: This is what year then?
CW: Well, that was after the bill passed. That was right after. And so...
CW: Yeah. Well, it passed late eighty-six, so the appointments could have gone into ninety-seven.
CW: Eighty-seven, I mean. But it was right - it was within a month after the bill passed, when all the appointments -. That gets me back to Tom Imason [sp?], and so this is - so, anyway, so Packwood came - and so the Friends of the Gorge promised to give us tens of thousands of dollars. And just to show the you just how offensive they are - we opened up our office, we won the Wilderness Bill, I went back to D.C., I killed the governor’s bill, and we were ready to go. I called up Nancy Russell and I said, “okay, I did my work. I want the money you owe us, so we can get the - we opened our own office out of my own pocket, I borrowed money. I want the money you owe us.” She said - she offered to hire me for one day, to take photographs for Friends of the Gorge, if I could prove to her I had a good enough camera to take good pictures. That’s how offensive she is to me. I said, “well, I don’t need your money.” We never got any, and they just kept launch- they broke every promise to Packwood. They still kept fighting the Park Service, even though Bob Packwood -. So they had a meeting in Olympia of all the - finally the bill passed. The Wilderness Bill was passed in eighty-four, so now everyone is going to work. Bob Packwood was feeling really good. He had the impression from Mark Hatfield that Hatfield was going to support him. We had the bill ready to go. So there’s a big meeting of all the staff. Then Dan Evans came in - I need to get off some point off on the Trust for Public Lands, because they became a major player, but...
CW: So, we were ready to go, and then Scoop Jackson died. Scoop was - the Friends don’t understand him and didn’t know him as well as I did, but Scoop was one of those people - and he was real pro-Park Service. His aide I was really close friends with, Tony. So he would say, “no, no. I’m against Gorge protection.” But if he knew how it worked, if you said you worked in the senate, one day, when it got time, Scoop Jackson is going to walk into his staff and say, “write a Park Service bill for the Gorge. I want to see it tomorrow,” and it would be introduced the next day. That’s the way Scoop worked. He was going to come down for the Park Service. Well, when he died, Dan Evans put in, and we were, “oh boy! We got an environmentalist here.” He killed the bills for two years to allow the developers - and he was horrible. I mean, he was...
CH: To allow the developers to do what?
CW: To keep subdividing, like one of the commissioners of Skamania divided Wind Mount- divided all his land into one acre lots. They just let people develop like crazy. Dan Evans killed the bill for two years. The development went crazy. His big thing - everyone has these egos - the thing with Dan Evans, he’s a wonderful environmentalist if you’re within fifty miles of Puget Sound. So what he does is he gives all guard, we call them the Seattle Mafia, the old guard environmentalists, everything they want on Olympic and North Cascades, and just screws the rest of the state environmentally, horribly. I had to - Sid Morrison, who was - he’s now the head of transportation of Washington. He was the conservative Republican congressman from the Washington side of the [Gorge] - Don Walker had the west end, and then he had the rest. We turned him around into an advocate. He became the number one wilderness supporter, because of the Coalition. He’d come in to hold a meeting on wilderness, and a hundred loggers would show up threatening him and everything, and we’d walk in with a hundred environmentalists and just be calm and nice to him. It got to the point where he would call me whenever he was coming to the Gorge, so we could turn out supporters to counter these crazy loggers that would threaten him and such. He really - he and An Act of Nature helped us. We always talk about environmentalists, how clear-cutting causes erosion, well he’s a farmer from Yakima Valley. Just as the Wilderness Bill was almost through Congress, there was some massive floods. All of the farms that were on tributaries, coming out of Forest Service wilderness in Yakima Valley were intact, and all the ones coming out of clear-cuts were horrible erosion. He’s like, “Oh my God, There is something to this.” So that combined - the Coalition used to be so strong.
CW: So anyway, Dan Evans turned out to be horrible, and Sid Morrison, we had turned around. The Coalition, there had probably never been a local group as connected and as active as the Columbia Gorge Coalition. And we had no way of raising money, we were banned from The Oregonian, and we could turn hundreds of people out of here, and the Friends couldn’t turn out three or four. Their board directors - half of their board of directors we had gotten for them in their Gorge residence. We trusted them. We went out and got people. They said, “Yeah, we’re going to work together.” Well, they didn’t. Their local reps never had a say in policy. Four people, Nancy Russell, Mitch Bauer [sp?], Don Clark, and Bowen Blair made it - and Dave Canard, made all the decisions at weekly breakfast meetings. The board wasn’t ever allowed to make decisions and such.
CW: ...Anyway, I will try at noon to go back an fill in. So anyway, Dan Evans came in - and everyone has these egos. So he wanted to rewrite the whole bill to base it on the power council. He came up with this whole bi-statement. Of course, we know how well the power council model saves salmon. Well, his power council model has done the same for the Columbia Gorge. We’ve totally lost the fight. He killed the bill for two years. That’s when the Trust for Public Lands - well, I’ll get into it some other time - but they were taken over by the Friends - they got in financial trouble, and the Friends of the Gorge got Meyer - Fred Meyer’s trust [indiscernible] to bail them out, and took over, and fired the wonderful woman that was our friend in the Gorge, and put their own executive in charge of Trust for Public Lands, which is why they didn’t want a federal conservancy that can deal with land, because they’re making millions of dollars off of the Gorge, the Trust for Public Lands are, without taking any risk. That’s something that is a really bitter to us.
So Dan Evans wanted to rewrite the whole thing to base it on the power council. It killed it for two years. Three times in one year I had to go get Sid Morrison to lobby Dan Evans on the fight. One of them was for Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge [sp?]. Evans wouldn’t support it. I had to get Sid Morrison to lobby. And there were three of them in one year, where I had to get our conservative Republican. Dan Evans was just horrendous. And he jumped in with an ego, “I’m taking this over,” and he wouldn’t with us either. So we had three people, Wyden, Hatfield, and Dan Evans, that wouldn’t meet with anyone except Friends of the Gorge. You had to be a millionaire to go into their office. We were just told to got to hell. They were just absolute rude to us. We took Dan Evans’ aide, Don Bonkers [sp?], and Slade Gorton’s, rafting down the White Salmon River, and the Klickitat River, and got them -. They had such a good time, they added those - Wild and Scenic rivers were added into the Gorge Bill as the crumbs given us for losing the Gorge fight. The Friends of the Gorge fought those tooth and nail. Our main enemy against the White Salmon and Klickitat Rivers was the Friends of the Gorge, bankrolled by PacifiCorp - I can prove all of that - to fight us on that. They’re both being destroyed because there’s no land acquisition. All the land acquisition money we have gotten for them, the Friends have gotten the Forest Service to spend it in the Gorge. We have subdivisions being built in the Klickitat. We could have bought the whole for a thousand an acre back when the bill passed. So Evans was just horrible.
Anyway, they finally - we were just kicked out of the whole process yet again. This was the second time I had been [laughs] kicked out of the Gorge. So anyway, they had this meeting in eighty-five, where they were going to write the Gorge Bill. All the congressional delegations’ staff got together in Olympia. Packwood was feeling good. We had been on the phone the night before. Tom Imason [sp?], who was still working for Hatfield then, stood up in the meeting and said, “Senator Hatfield just cut a deal with Slade Gorton and Dan Evans. There will be no Park Service. There will be no tributary protection. It is going to be a planning bill. This is the way it is. Period.” Packwood was just blown out - his staff was so mad. They had no idea that was coming. They thought Hatfield was supporting them.
So then, to show you how insidious the - it is like the Pentagon revolving door. Then, right after that, Imason went to work for PacifiCorp, gave a whole bunch of money to the Friends of the Gorge, sponsored their winter picnic. In exchange the Friends agreed to the PacifiCorp cutting all their lands in the Gorge before the bill passed, and fought the tributary protection. Then Imason became the - then when the bill passed, Imason became the head of the transition committee for Goldschmidt, and appointed the Friends of the Gorge to the - all the government appointees were just - I mean, it just totally ended any hope of protecting the Columbia Gorge. So Tom Imason, then he went back to working for Hatfield, and then back to work for PacifiCorp to fight us tearing up Condon Dam [sp?], which we’re to win over the objections of the Friends of the Gorge [laughs], and PacifiCorp. So we have held on to win a few fights.
So once that was done, it was dead. Then Wyden went along with it. Weaver and Lawry [sp?] tried to come in, and Hatfield just got real - “you keep your nose out of this. It’s none of your business. Ill get -.” So we were totally cut out, and weren’t even allowed to - we went back and testified one last time, and it was - and Packwood fought to the end. We met with Packwood and said, “we got a problem here.” So Packwood met with us in Hood River and he says, “Look it, if you can get me the major national environmental groups to sign on to the Park Service proposal, my proposal - I can roll Hatfield and Evans in New Jersey and all these other states.” We said, “okay.” So we were all ready. We drafted this letter that I don’t think is in there, but I’ll get you, about what we want on the Gorge, our position. Well, suddenly the Sierra Club staff blocked the local Sierra Club from signing it. We couldn’t figure out what happened. It turned out it was the first environmentalist that the Friends of the Gorge ever met with was the sleaziest person in the history - is the Northwest rep, Jim Lundquist [sp?], who was this - who also killed the Tall Grass Prairie Bill. Audubon told me that. He’s just the sleaziest person, and they wanted access, and he went and traded the Gorge to Hatfield for, we think, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Hatfield said, “anyone who doesn’t support my proposal for the Gorge I will never meet with.” There’s - in fact you’d be interested - there’s a famous David Brower [sp?] letter to the Sierra Club about how they had...
[End of Tape 3, Side 1].
January 25, 1999
Tape 3, Side 2
CH: ...interview with Chuck Williams at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, Oregon. The interviewer, for the Historical Society, is Clark Hansen. The date is Monday, January 25, 1999. And this is Tape 3, Side 1 [actually Side 2].
Do you want to start?
CH: So we had left off with your description of the trade, or what you perceived to be the trade, for the Columbia Gorge and the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. And I wanted to ask you about that, and I also wanted to ask you about the idea that your Coalition had for protecting the Hood River Valley because it’s not in...
CH: ...in the bill the way it stands now, and then I also wanted to ask you about the - a little bit more about the Trust for Public Lands, so if you could...
CH: ...cover those areas, I’d appreciate that.
CW: Okay. Yeah, when we were - having had a lot of experience establishing new parks, I knew you had to have something in it to give away, that when things get down you’re going to lose something, and so we had put in some things that we knew we wouldn’t win in the end. But you need to push for more, and one of them was protection for the Hood River valley within the Columbia Gorge legislation. I did this in large part as a favor to Kate McCarthy [sp?], who was on the old voluntary Gorge commission, and who I worked with very closely, her and Vera Defoe. And I did it as a thanks for her, in no small part. She turned out - there are people who helped form Friends of the Gorge that were still nice to us, but Kate McCarthy not only helped form the Friends of the Gorge, she helped Nancy Russell literally destroy the Coalition, and...
CH: Good. Could you - I just want to ask you a question here. You haven’t - you’ve mentioned Kate before, and I don’t think you’ve mentioned Vera Defoe before. Could you give me a profile of each of them.
CW: Sure. Kate McCarthy is a wealthy person who lives in the Parkdale area in what we call the West Hills of the Gorge, and Vera Defoe, a friend of hers, was from Portland, and was real involved in the Mazamas for years, and someone that I still have a lot more respect for than I do Kate anymore. They were good friends, and they were both interested in the Gorge, and were specifically helping to kill a tramway that the Port of Cascades was trying to build up in the wilderness. They were involved in that. Since they were on the old advisory committee, they were some of the first people I started working with. I still get along with Vera. Kate’s another [laughs] story. I’m really, especially bitter over that, because I did do so much work to try to protect the Hood River valley, in no small part thanks to her work. When the Friends of the Gorge formed, she was one of the founding board members. And when Gail Ackerman and Gordon Beck wrote the bill behind closed doors, not a single environmentalist, that I would consider environmentalist, or no one active in the Gorge, was allowed to see it, until after it was given to the press. I think I mentioned the other day, that it was incredibly stupid to write a detailed bill at that time. If Nancy Russell had known anything about politics in that regard, other than buying people [laughs], then she would have known you wouldn’t have done that. You would have gotten the principles down, Park Service and Tributary, whatever your principles are, and then you write the bill at the last moment. We know how to write bills. I can write them in my sleep. It’s not a big deal. The gentleman now, Cleve Pennix [sp?], he’s the head of the Washington State parks, was the staff of the House Subcommittee that would have written the bill. He could have written it in an hour. We didn’t need a detailed bill. There was no reason to have Gordon Beck and Gail Ackerman write a bill. It was really destructive at that point to do it...
CH: Who was Vera Defoe?
CW: Vera Defoe is a Portland person, now. She’s getting up in years now. She had been very active in the Mazamas. She is a climber and such, and very - an outdoor person that was fairly involved in politics.
CH: And how - what was her relationship to the Coalition and the Friends?
CW: Well, she kind of was neutral. Kate went - like I said, she and Kate were really good friends, and were both on the voluntary Gorge commission at the same time, before it was replaced by the one. They were good friends. They were very supportive, they were both - and I worked very close - since they were already involved with the Gorge when I came back to the Gorge in the beginning of seventy-seven. So I worked very close with them, and Vera I’ve remained respectful of her, and we still get along okay. She kind of was in the middle. She helped the Friends, but also continued to help us and be nice, whereas Kate McCarthy literally helped Nancy Russell try to destroy the Coalition. I will never - and we weren’t allowed to see the bill. Nancy Russell released her bill to the press before she let any of us that started the Gorge fight see it. She sent Kate McCarthy with the bill to a Coalition meeting in Hood River, at Lucia Wire’s [sp?] house, to show us the bill, and instead sat there and trashed me, and just said the most horrible things. “This guy is no good,” and “dump him. We got real important people now involved in the Gorge, and you should all just abolish the Coalition,” and asked my whole board to dump my board and get involved with the Friends. Then, she showed us the bill, and the whole board - we had already lost a couple of people off of the board. Craig was kind of pushed off, and then Susan Kady, who I’m still good friends with, went on the board of the Friends, as she said, allowed her name to be used by the Friends. They weren’t really allowed into the decision-making process. The rest of the board said, “no way. If that horrible legislation is what the Friends support, there’s no way we could ever support that.” Even - everyone, except the wealthy [laughs], knew the bill was just worthless. It was not a - had nothing to do with protecting the Gorge, really.
That pretty well burned her bridges with me. She still fights us every step of the way, and still will not admit there’s any problems. She got her son appointed to the Gorge commission.
CH: Who is that?
CW: Steve McCarthy, who lives in Portland. He makes liqueurs, I think. Like I say, we’re banned from the Oregonian, but when he started this liqueur company they did like a four-page color spread on him in the Oregonian. The wealthy get off. He recently left the Gorge commission, but he was demanding - we’re getting up to more modern times, but it’s critical - and he made a big deal at a Blumenauer meeting, of which I wasn’t allowed to speak at, about how the head of - executive director, Jonathan Dougherty [sp?], of the Gorge commission ought to be fired. People involved with it were asking me why he was going after the Gorge commission. I explained to them that his mom was one of the founders of the Friends, and one of the ones that helped kill protection. So, like anyone involved with the Friends, they’re looking for scapegoats. He wanted to blame - the Friends will never take any blame - they claim their bill has nothing to do with the problems in the Gorge. It’s just little things like lack of funding and such, which is total nonsense. So he was basically going to bat for his mom, which, since I’m really close to my mom, I can understand [laughs]. But it was totally unjustified in my end. It was their bill, and such.
So Kate and Vera were on the old Gorge commission that was abolished when the new one was formed.
CH: So, could you tell me a little bit more about the old commission? You referred to it as a voluntary commission.
CW: Yeah, they had no real power.
CH: What was the title of them?
CW: They were the Columbia Gorge Commission, and each state had set this up. I think John Yeon [sp?] some people had tried to get protection for the Gorge. Tom McCall, who I have a lot of respect for, was not real good on it. A lot of it got into Portland politics with Nanny Warren [sp?], Mrs. Robert Warren and such, who loathes John Yeon, and vice versa. We got into all kinds of these...
CH: What was your impression of Nanny Warren?
CW: I personally liked her. She was kind of a funny person and -. I liked her, but she wasn’t really the right - she didn’t really understand Gorge politics that much. They have a massive compound in the Gorge, across from Multnomah Falls, and they get to keep building. So she was the official Portland establishment person, but Nancy Russell and John Yeon hate her. She’s from the other part of the blue blood [thing?] [laughs], and so they hated her and wanted her out. But I don’t think she was a particularly good or bad commissioner. She ended up chair of it for a while. I got along good with her, but they had no power. They were gubernatorial appointees. Each state had their half of the Gorge commission. They were based in Stevenson. I can’t remember when that was originally set up. It could have been as back as far as the sixties, but I think it was in the fifties. There had been effort to try to protect the Gorge, kind of a half-hearted one. So that’s what the states did to head off any kind of federal protection of the Gorge, was they set up this bi-state commission. But they had no power. They could - they were only an advisory board. So they would advise, kind of, “we don’t like you going,” - you know, they were - I can’t remember the island, or it’s a peninsula now, that’s at the mouth of Hermit Creek, that was being quarried, Government Cove...?
CH: Oh yeah. Right.
CW: Anyway, like they were trying to keep - you know, they were pressuring Hood River County to not rock mine that, and things like that. But all they had was pressure. They were nice people. I’m the only person that ever really went to any of their meetings.
CH: And who were they appointed by?
CW: The governors.
CH: The governors of the two states?
CW: The two states, yeah. There was some really good people on that. In fact, I think in a lot of ways, better people - more - less self-serving people than there are now, that they get more publicity. Because then, you got grief from the counties, and you got no publicity, so it was a really thankless job. Whereas now, there’s a lot of publicity with being a Gorge commissioner, and you’re always introduced to any meeting [?] that has to do with the Gorge, or anytime there are V.I.P.s around, they introduce the Gorge commission members there now.
CH: Are they paid?
CW: No, they just get some travel-type - you know, they get some expenses, but it’s a volunteer thing.
CH: I see.
CW: In the old Gorge commission, they had an executive director, Jeff Breckel [sp?], who was a very nice guy. He was a former Navy nuclear sub engineer, with Jimmy Carter [laughs].
CH: Oh yeah, right.
CW: He came back to the Gorge. His wife, Marilyn [sp?], who is a very sharp person, went to work for Skamania County government, and was the most competent person there, and kept it together. They just hated her. They’d get death threats. And I think I mentioned that Jeff Breckel [sp?] and I were the only two guys in Skamania County that didn’t have guns, and we were the two that’s life were most in danger [sp?], the two that needed guns the most.
CH: And why didn’t you have guns?
CW: I just don’t particularly like guns, and he doesn’t either. Neither of us hunt, so there was no reason to have guns to hunt. We probably should have had them for self-defense, considering some really nasty things that’s been done to both of us [laughs], but he was...
CH: Are you opposed to hunting, then?
CW: No, not at all. No, I’m Indian. You can’t be [laughs]...
CH: Well, I was wondering. That was my next question.
CW: No, I don’t personally hunt, but I eat elk and venison every chance I get. It’s just something I don’t personally do, but, no, it’d be hard for an Indian to be against hunting. I had someone offer me some meat the other day - I can’t remember where it was - and they started to say, “oh, are you a vegetarian?” and I said, “Give me that. A vegetarian Indian’s an oxymoron” [laughs]. There is no such thing [laughs].
CH: [laughs] And could you tell me some more about the Trust for Public Lands?
CW: The Trust for Public Lands came into the Gorge before the Friends of the Gorge had even formed, when we were starting it. I don’t know where we mentioned it, when we are at lunch or when we were on tape but there was a nice guy named Gene Zimmerman [sp?] who was the district ranger for the Columbia Gorge station there, out of Corbett. I liked him very much, still do. He and I brought in the Trust for Public Lands, which was a fairly new group at that time, based in San Francisco. I know a couple of the founders fairly well from my work with Friends of the Earth, Phil Wayleen [sp?], for instance, who’s now the head of River Network and such. I knew all of them. Gene Zimmerman and I, kind of separately, contacted them. They sent this wonderful woman named Harriet Burgess up here, and she became the best friend the Gorge ever had.
CH: The Trust is located where?
CW: It’s based in San Francisco. They now have an office in Portland, but when they were working in the Gorge, they didn’t. Harriet was out of San Francisco, and she’d come up for a week or so at a time. Then, they ended up hiring a former Forest Service employee, Don Vaughn [sp?], who ended up having to quit when Nancy Russell did her takeover of the Trust, and embarrassed him so bad that he had to quit. But, he was a great guy. So he was their on-ground person here, that met with landowners, and got appraisals and such, and Harriet was the one that really closed the sales and such. She was just an incredible lobbyist, and knew everyone in D.C. [She] was one of those people that everyone loved, unlike your truly [laughs], for instance. Everyone likes Harriet. She’s just one of those really nice, nice people.
So we could only buy land in the Gorge for areas that were already within the National forest boundaries, or within state parks. Unfortunately, she tried to buy land to add to the state parks, like around Mayer State Park, near Rowena, and Dave Talbot, the then head of Oregon State Parks, who I think will go down as one of the real villains in Oregon history...
CH: What is his name again?
CW: I just said -. Let me think for a sec. Dave Talbot.
CH: Dave Talbot.
CW: He’s old Oregon money, a total political hack. I mean he’d come in and - it didn’t matter what he believed. If Atiyeh told him the Park Service was bad, then the Park Service was bad, and he’d go to very extreme lengths to kill any kind of Gorge protection. He fought the National Park Service every step of the way, and refused to expand any of the state parks. The Trust for Public Lands was trying to buy land to add on to state parks. He wouldn’t even accept them when they bought them. The only land he wanted in the Gorge was the Reynolds property, which is the land at the mouth of the Sandy there between the freeway and the Columbia there, going east the Sandy River. And he wanted that because he wanted to put a big ego visitor’s center in there that would give a bunch of publicity to him.
CH: And what was the basis of his opposition to the Trust?
CW: Well, he didn’t oppose the Trust per se, he just opposed any protection of the Gorge.
CH: And why?
CW: Because he was a complete political hack for Atiyeh, who opposed Park Service protection. So whatever Atiyeh said, he went along with, and no - at best, regardless of his own feelings, did anything Atiyeh wanted. Atiyeh said no Park Service, so he said, “yes, sir.” But he could have expanded. Atiyeh didn’t tell him he couldn’t expand the state parks and such. That’s totally his own doing. During his whole term, there wasn’t a single new state park in Oregon, and that was a time when we had matching dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, when the majority of the money was state grants that would match anything. So we could have had lands in the Gorge for a couple of hundred dollars an acre. He refused to expand any of the parks. He fought the Park Service every step of the way. He was one of the people who was instrumental in keeping Indians from even being able to take part in the debates on the Gorge.
CW: We went and crashed - I found out about - there was, after the Friends formed, a meeting, when they working on legislation down at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and I found about it the night before. It was Nancy Russell, and she had just hired Bowen Blair to be their executive director. They were meeting with Spellman’s aide and Atiyeh’s aide, Governor Spellman from...
CW: From Washington...
CH: Washington, that’s right.
CW: ...brought in - well, I don’t care, but brought in one of the sleaziest machine politicians [laughs] I’ve ever seen. Ed Divine, if I remember, is his name. He was like an old Chicago politician, just reeked of - he was just awful. And then Atiyeh had Bob Duncan’s former aide, I can’t remember her name right off hand. She was the head of Natural Resources under Atiyeh, and had been...
CH: Pat Amadeo?
CW: Yeah. You’ve got it. Pat Amadeo. So Pat Amadeo and - Ed Divine, Spellman’s aide, and Pat Amadeo had been appointed by Atiyeh to represent negotiations. They held this meeting with congressional staff, a secret meeting and no one else was allowed. She was playing incredibly sleazy games. So she went and told the Gorge commission - she told the congressional reps that the meeting was on Tuesday, if I remember right, told the Gorge commission, who was supposed to be at this meeting, that the - and this is the old advisory one - that the meeting was on Thursday. I found out about the meeting - and no Indians were invited, of course. Since it was O.D.F.W., in Oregon laws it had to be an open meeting. So one of the attorneys for Intertribal Fish Commission - I was in Portland that night before, working on killing a dam on the Wind River, with Intertribal Fish Commission. So Wilbur Johnson, who was one of the Warm Springs commissioners on Intertribal Fish Commission was in town. He and John Plant [sp?], who is Elizabeth Furse’s husband, who later on became a congressman. At the time she was a legal aide attorney handling the restoration of my tribe, the Grand Ronde tribe. So we went down and crashed the meeting. They were very upset we came in. They asked, not me, but they asked the Indians if they wanted to sit at the table, and said, “no, we’ll stay here in the peanut gallery.” They were really upset that we had shown up at the meeting...
CH: Why didn’t they join the meeting? Why did they stay in the peanut gallery?
CW: Oh, because it was obvious that we weren’t wanted there. It was really hostile - you know, it was a very hostile environment.
CH: And why didn’t they want the natives there?
CW: Because - well, for Nancy Russell, I’m sure it was just blatant racism, I’m sorry to say. Atiyeh himself isn’t. He’s a wannabe [laughs] he’s one of the - epitome of the wannabe Indians [laughs] that you ever saw, but Pat Amadeo is another story. So anyway, we walked into the meeting just when Pat - and we got off to kind of a bad - and the congressional staff started saying, “well, where’s the Gorge commission. That was kind of the purpose of this meeting was to meet with the Gorge commission staff, and some of them.” And she said, “I don’t know. I invited them today.” I stood up and I said, “Excuse me, Pat, but I was in the Gorge commission office the other day when you called them and told them the meeting was on Thursday, not today.” And there were just gasps [laughs] all over the room over that one. So we got off on a real not too good a - Oh, and all the heads of the major Oregon agencies were there. The L.C.D.C. was fighting Gorge protection, who Clair Pucchi [sp?], who have since become friends with - it was just this turf thing, that I’m sure has a lot to do with Nancy Russell. “We’re the planners. We don’t need the goddamn feds in here.” They were fighting the Park Service. Jack Donaldson, who at the time was real racist towards Indians, and I will, to his credit - we’re now pretty good friends. He has really changed, primarily because of Tim Wapato, who was executive director in the late eighties, Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission - really worked on Jack. They’d go hunting together, and Tim would go with the good old boys that run the agencies. He really broke down a lot of barriers. Jack is now not at all racist, very nice guy and very supportive. But at the time, he stood and he said - someone mentioned something about the Indian fishing, and he said, “I just saw this great bumper sticker. ‘Next time you’re hungry for salmon, eat an Indian.’” I stood up and I said, “Jack, I’m light-skinned but I really resent that. I’m Indian and I resent that remark,” and I made him apologize to me [laughs] in front of all the state staff. So he wasn’t too happy about that. It was a stormy meeting from the beginning.
CH: Could I ask you about the - I’m trying to understand better - the reasons why people might not want to have the natives included in this? And I understand there could be some economic meetings, and I understand there could be some racist reasons, but at this point, the natives that were living in that area were basically the Chinook, right? The descendants of the Chinook...
CH: And of what other...?
CW: Well, primarily people that are enrolled at Yakama and Warm Springs, and Grand Ronde, at the time, hadn’t been restored.
CW: ...so they still aren’t allowed into the discussions on the Gorge...
CH: So this is what I’m leading up to is I’m wondering - now, the registration of the Grand Ronde came later.
CH: So, was it the perspective of some of these people opposing the native involvement, that there was not a legitimate native group in the Gorge to be represented in the first place?
CW: No, I don’t think so, because Intertribal Fish Commission existed at the time, and they could have gone to them, which they didn’t. No it was just, “it was none of their business.” What happened in the Gorge was the business of rich Portland white people, period. It wasn’t - you know, Indians are just irrelevant to politics. They didn’t deserve - and sometimes it’s blatant racism. Other times, it’s just, why cause more trouble? If we bring them in, it’s going to be harder to reach a consensus.
CH: Well, what about the other people that had a very recognized status within the native community? I’m thinking of people like Tim Wapato and Wilbur Johnson, and a number of other people that were very recognized. Were they involved in any way?
CW: Not until I brought them. They were involved before, when I was involved, but Nancy Russell came in. She wouldn’t allow anyone to be involved. There were four people, Don Clark originally, Nancy Russell, Mitch Bauer [sp?], who’s a wealthy - he owns a big trucking company, he’s this multimillionaire in Vancouver, and who later got caught embezzling $80,000 from the Friends, and Dave Canard, who is an insurance salesman, who I personally think’s one of the most loathsome people even environment - and just a reprehensible person, and they originally were the only four allowed in on decision making. Then, when they hired Bowen Blair to be their executive director, then he became - Don Clark kind of dropped out at that point, so it became the four of them. They had weekly breakfast meetings where all the decisions were made, and they allowed debate at their meetings. In other words...
CH: Now, this is the Friends of the Gorge.
CW: Right, the Friends of the Gorge. So basically, they didn’t allow anyone except Nancy Russell and the three people she met weekly with. Don Frisbee, of course, was in all the negotiations.
Charles Wilson, chairman of Weyerhaeuser, was on their board. So they would meet with the robber barons around Portland, but no one else was allowed. It wasn’t so much a racist thing against the Indians. They just didn’t want - if you weren’t a rich white West Hiller, or Vancouver elite, they wouldn’t talk to you. You were automatically inferior. So it wasn’t so much against the Indians, it was just this thing, why should the Indians be involved. What’s the Gorge got to do with them?
At this meeting, what they were determining was who was going to make up this commission. This was for the governor’s bill, that wasn’t going to have the Forest Service involved. There was going to be federal acquisition money, but it was strictly a commission. It was what passed, less the Forest Service. So they were setting up this committee, and they - or commission, that was going to be in the bill, and they decided they would have one representative from each of the six counties. So when Wilbur says, “Well do tribes get representation on this commission?” they kind of stuck their heads together, and Ed Divine, Spellman’s aide says, “well, we’ll give -” because at the time the Grand Rondes hadn’t been restored quite yet, so there were four tribes that had treaty rights to fish in the Gorge. You have different types of native rights. There’s ceded area rights. Those are the areas that were given up title to during the 1855 treaties, but which the tribes retained, reserved the right - as in reservation - to fish, hunt, collect roots, and various things. Within the Columbia Gorge, what became the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area, there’s, on the Washington side, from about the Little White Salmon east, is Yakama - Confederated Tribes of Yakama ceded area. That involves Chinook people, Cascades and Wishram, and some Hopkin’s Beacon [sp?] people, the people that lived in the eastern end of the Gorge and the Klickitats. The Warms Springs, likewise, from Cascade Locks east, on the Oregon side, is their ceded area, where they have the rights. If you want to do something that affects Indians in that area, you got to Warm Springs.
CH: Then how could they make some sort of arrangement for the Gorge, through any kind of government commission or whatever, without dealing with the native rights?
CW: They’ve been doing it for over a century [laughs]. It was nothing new.
CH: But they have enough control over various lands in the Gorge that wouldn’t they have to be accounted for legally, to be..?
CW: Well see, they weren’t even acknowledging that, and that’s what - so what happened-. So anyway, there were four tribes, and then the Grand Rondes also have ceded lands in the Gorge, the Oregon side, from Cascade Locks west, and then the area on the Washington side of the Gorge, west of the Little White Salmon River, is unceded territory. It’s never been ceded in a treaty. I actually opened up a door: Scoop Jackson wouldn’t see me one time, and I reminded him I was Cascade Indian, and was thinking very seriously of a suit over the unclaimed land in there. I was in to see him in about five minutes [laughs]. It was opening the door immediately, because he realized what - that it would be real problems there. Then, the other two tribes that had treaty rights in the Gorge were the Umatillas and Nez Perce. They used to travel down the Gorge, especially Salilo [sp?], annually to fish. So part of their treaty rights is that they can fish in the Gorge. They didn’t have ceded lands in the Gorge...
CH: But they had fishing rights.
CW: But they had fishing rights. Basically, four tribes had treaty rights at the time of these negotiations, to fish. Wilbur said, “well, I think you should have each of the four tribes have a position on the commission.” Ed Devine, Spellman’s aide, came back and said, “well, what if we have one position for the Indians and we rotate them on the four tribes?” And Wilbur says, “why don’t you have one position for the counties and rotate it between the six counties?” Well, they didn’t want to hear that. So they said, “well yeah, we’ll include you in,” and then the tribes never heard another word. It was, “yeah, we’ll put you on the commission,” but when it came out, there was nothing to do with Indians at all. It took a while, but basically what happened - and I helped write it - was that the tribes, when they started realizing - and this is something where Dan Evans was fairly good on, was he understood Indian allotments anyway - was that there was a whole lot of Indian land in the Gorge, most of it individual allotments that were in trust. So basically, the tribes were totally pushed out by the Friends of the Gorge, from any negotiations, having any say in Gorge management, other than what they could do through - you know, they could go to the commission and make a presentation, like any other person without treaty rights [laughs] could. They wrote - it’s in the end of the Gorge legislation, there’s - I can’t remember the phrase, but there’s a whole series of about a dozen little paragraphs. One’s to protect B.P.A., where nothing in this bill shall in any way prevent the Corps of Engineers and B.P.A. from providing hydroelectric power. So the tribes and I helped authorize it. We just put a - we demanded and got - I can’t remember what’s that called. It’ll come to me here. So we just wrote this language, and we thought of every single word we could think of, and we just put, “nothing in this legislation shall in any way abri-” what’s the word I’m trying to think of?
CH: Oh yeah, abrogate.
CW: “...abrogate, lessen -” we started out with about twenty verbs there - “every single - any right of tribal or individual Indian rights in the Gorge.” So basically what happened, all Indian lands - because the tribes weren’t allowed into the management of the Gorge, all tribal lands were exempted from any regulation from the Gorge bill. And that’s why, because - like I say, it wasn’t so much - well, it was racist, because it’s the Friends of the Gorge, but they wouldn’t allow anyone into the debate. They knew better, they were rich, and they didn’t need any Indians.
CH: Does that affect the standing now, regarding the fishing rights and the salmon protection, and all that?
CW: No, not at all. People primarily, through Chris Rogers, the tribes do have some say in it. And she, when I got her appointed to the commission, she forced the commission to meet with each of the tribal governments. They went out to each reservation and met. But they can’t really take part. I mean, you get - we got 800 houses, and they’re just deluged with all these applications, and there’s no way anyone - for a while, they got money to hire someone to monitor development and such, but it’s - you can’t win. I mean, they’re all going to go in anyway. They had done some really good things. The Umatilla...
[End of Tape 3, Side 2]
January 25, 1999
Tape 4, Side 1
CH: This is an interview with Chuck Williams, by Clark Hansen, at the Oregon Historical Society. The date is 1/25/99, and this is Tape 4, Side 1.
CW: As I was mentioning, there was no tribal representation on the commission, although one of the commissioners right now is Louie Pitt from Warm Springs, one of my cousins - a good guy - but he’s a gubernatorial appointment. It had nothing really to do with him being Indian. In fact, when Chris was replaced, we tried to get Kim Simmons, who works for the U.S. attorney’s office, [and who] is Indian, we tried to get him on the commission. We were told by - who is the chair now, the..?
CH: Of the...
CW: The Multnomah County Commission.
CH: Bev Stein
CW: Bev Stein told us there’s already one Indian on the commission, so she went and appointed the Friends of the Gorge person, a staff person from Thousand Friends of Oregon.
CH: The one person being Louie Pitt.
CW: Yeah, but he’s not appointed because he’s Indian. He’s a gubernatorial appointment that just happens to be Indian.
CH: Does he look out for the interests of Indians?
CW: Oh yeah. He tries to, it’s not easy. Like I say, there’s no Indian appointee, specifically, but he’s the only Indian on the commission. The tribes do various amounts, it’s just nothing - you have to be wealthy to take part in the process. That’s why they set it up as such a bureaucratic nightmare, so that only the developers and the Friends of the Gorge could even take part in the process. You have to spend all day, every day, going to these meetings. That reminds me, one of the things I really need to get into is the way they made no one responsible. Maybe I’ll go ahead and do that. It was one of the...
CH: No one responsible for what?
CW: For any problems there are in the Gorge. Under our plan, we would have had a place where we had less than fee, and we had regulation and such, but the National Park Service would have been ultimately responsible for anything that happened bad. The way it is now, all this horrible stuff goes on, and no one is responsible, and it was purposely set up by Mark Hatfield to do that, so there wouldn’t be protection. For instance, if there’s a horrible, blatantly illegal clear-cut say at the top of Underwood Mountain, which S.D.S. has been just clear-cutting, right in view of Hood River...
CH: S.D.S., who is that?
CW: S.D.S. lumber out of [indiscernible]. They’re the worst - probably the worst land rapers in the Gorge. They are our nemesis. They’ve harassed - they’ve not only done horrible things like going in and girdling massive old growth oaks along the White Salmon River, just to kill them, with no intention to use it, just to harass us, they’ve done some horrible personal things, getting people hired and such. I lost some land in part because of them. They’re clear-cutting, so we go to the Gorge commission, and they say, “well, that’s not our turf. All logging is under the Forest Service turf.” We go to the Forest Service and we complain about it, and then they say, “well, that’s not our turf. That was the Washington Department of Natural Resources.” So we go up to Olympia, and say, “why are you approving this cutting?” They said, “well, we signed it, but we were told to by the Forest Service. We didn’t make the decision.” So it’s cut, and you have no way of ever putting on who - I mean, look at B-line house, as I call it, everyone is blaming everyone else. The legislation was set up that way. You can never put the finger on who is responsible. They had this divided jurisdiction, where the S.M.A.s have only commission control over - or the...
CW: The Gorge is split into - thirty-nine percent of the Gorge is made special management areas. Ten percent of it’s exempted urban communities, and fifty-one percent is what is called a general management area. All it is, is Oregon land use planning applied with no acquisition allowed. That’s one of the most horrible things ever done. That’s one of the massive failures of the Gorge legislation. Friends of the Gorge fought that, evidently to free up money to give John Gray and other people for economic development, to pay them off. That book, Climbing the West, that Carl Abbot and some other people did, O.S.U. published. There’s a section in there about how I was adamant that there had to be acquisition authority throughout the Gorge, and that I was just adamant, would never back off, and had been proven totally right, that that just turned -. Friends of the Gorge still do not admit that’s a problem. That’s one reason that there’s hundreds and hundreds of houses going in, because there is no way in sixty-one percent of the Gorge to compensate landowners, there’s no way to protect lands. We agreed that in the general management area that the majority of land would be left in private ownership, would not go into the - special management areas are supposed to be purchased, but they’re not only part of - the timber industry gets their land purchased, but a lot’s not being purchased there. [In the] general management area, there’s no way to protect lands. You could have a spawning stream, it makes absolutely no difference. You have to maybe set a state park or figure out some way, but there’s no Forest Service acquisition allowed in the general management area, which is extremely unfair at both - it kills protection, long-term protection, because there’s no deed restrictions. It’s strictly done through zoning, which lasts until the next bribe or election. This is what’s happening, is when Dick Beneris [sp?], the head of the commission, he came in there and the Friends of the Gorge said, “yeah, you’re going to keep on in-filling everything, and keep building.” When this started out there was going to be a freeze on rural development, and the future development was going to be channeled into the cities. Well, now there’s something like four times as much development in the supposedly protected rural parts of the Gorge as in the cities. The growth is not going into the cities. It’s all going - 750, 800 houses now, so far, all approved by the Friends of the Gorge. A lot of those wouldn’t have been approved had there been an alternative for compensating people. For instance, the Bea house, that’s so controversial, it’s directly across from Multnomah Falls, but under the Friends bill, no one can buy it. There’s no compensation.
CH: Now, you’re referring to the Friends bill is what is actually the Columbia Gorge...
CH: Maybe - go ahead and finish if you like, but maybe at some point here we could actually go though how the act was set up and your problems with it, and what you wanted to do, and things like that. So feel free to go into that at any point.
CW: Sure. Well, that’s kind of what I’m getting at here.
CW: So a lot of the problem is that you can’t finger responsibility in the Gorge. Like I say, Hatfield purposely - he knew that. He purposely set it up, so the development could keep on going, and no one could ever stop it, because you had no way of knowing where to go to, or you have no acquisition if you want to stop a house or such. Under our bill, we would have had - the Packwood Coalition bill, the environmentalist bill - there would have been an area, particularly in the eastern end of the Gorge, that would have been under the Cape Cod formula, where it was like it is now, where the local governments draw up the initial plan, and the commission implements it. But if a variance is ever granted, then the Park Service had the authority to step in and buy the land, condemn it and buy it. Plus, they could buy land everywhere. Not having that Park Service oversight, and not having land acquisition is one of the major, major failings of the Gorge bill, and like I say, it was done purposely that way, so that the development could keep on going.
CH: So the Gorge bill, could you explain a little more about how it’s organized, how it’s set up? I mean, just the way that the final act was composed.
CW: Okay. Well, the final act was written in the back rooms, first by Hatfield with Tom Imason [sp?], and then - I think I mentioned before that when the eighty-four wilderness bill passed, Packwood went along with Hatfield’s bill, and thought he had a promise that Hatfield would go along with his bill. The bill he was writing, with his excellent staff, was our bill, was a real environmentalist bill. It was based on the three main precedents that we used: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, near San Francisco; lower St. Croix National Scenic River, just east of the Twin Cities, on the Minnesota Wisconsin border; and Cape Cod. One of the elements we were going to take from Cape Cod was the Cape Cod formula, where areas that are going to remain primarily in private ownership are administered by zoning, but there is the Park Service overview. What we have now - so when the Friends of the Gorge and Dick Benner and the Thousand Friends of Oregon mentality brought in that you’re not going to buy land. You do regulation through - you do protection [word indiscernible] phrase through regulation. Dick Benner and none of them had any idea of really shutting down the growth. They were just going to control it. One of the editors of the local paper used to describe the difference between the Friends of the Gorge and the Columbia Gorge Coalition of environmentalists is that they didn’t care how many houses were built or what happened to fish and wildlife, as long as they were earth-toned and looked - and were tasteful when they took their friends on their Sunday drives; whereas the Coalition, we didn’t care whether it was a purple house or an earth-tone house. A house was going to wreck wildlife habitat, but the Friends don’t. As long as they’re not poor houses, as long as they’re wealthy like the Tiger Warren Compound and such, that’s fine. Their whole idea was just to keep on developing the Gorge, but just limit it. The problem - well, one problem with that is that we have seven, almost eight hundred houses now, which is obscene. I mean, there’s just no way - and the Friends just covered that up until the Bea house. There was no knowledge in Portland, because the Oregonian will not cover it, that there had been over 700 houses built. But the Bea -lining House is so obnoxious that it blew the lid off the cover up. Like I say, if our bill had passed, that would have been in public ownership six or eight years ago. The very fact that we’re even debating building a house across from Multnomah Falls proves that their bill is a failure. And they’re not only debating it, it’s built, it’s gone, it’ll never be torn out. The Friends of the Gorge signed off on that house, and then didn’t start backtracking until a month later, when their - some of their people that them were starting to get upset about why such an obnoxious-looking house is being built right across from Multnomah Falls. That’s a major - that is entirely the fault of their legislation, that that is not in public ownership already.
CH: So the Packwood bill had a plan that was based on what been done in St. Croix, Cape Cod, and Golden Gate.
CH: And then the public - the Park Service would provide the oversight for the management of those areas.
CW: Right. Well, they would directly manage all the public lands, other than state parks. And then they - particularly the eastern end of the Gorge, the agricultural lands would be - the local governments could go ahead and do it. What they do is, in Cape Cod, the local government - there’s four huge towns there, but they’re not just like we think of the small towns, they’re massive townships that have a lot of rural land in them. And what they do their within those townships - part of it - most of the rest of it’s bought and managed by the Park Service, just like any national park. But within the townships, the local governments draw up their planning restrictions, their zoning and such, submit it to the Park Service. The Park Service reviews it for consistency with act. If it is consistent, they approve it, and then the counties and the towns administer it, but if they start granting variances, and start allowing houses - developments to be built that are in violation of that, then the Park Service can step in and condemn it and buy the land.
CH: So that’s what you mean by the Park Service protecting through regulation.
CH: And now how...
CW: Through oversight of regulations.
CH: Now, how would that be different from the way the L.C.D.C. does their regulating?
CW: Well, first of all if it was the Park Service, it would be done a lot less bureaucratic. I mean, L.C.D.C. - when I lived in Skamania County I was a big fan of Oregon land use planning, but when I moved across the river and had to deal with it directly, it is for rich people, period. I lost most of my property in the Gorge because of it, because I couldn’t replace an existing house with all the utilities in on 175 acres. If I could have hired planners and economists and lawyers I would have been approved in a minute. What they’ve done is they’ve set up this - they took the absolute worst part of L.C.D.C., with that typical arrogance from both Thousand Friends of Oregon and Friends of the Gorge, “we’re Oregonians. We know better.” They refused to ever look at those models I talked about. They, Nancy Russell and them, refused to even look at any other models around the country that were successful. They said, “we’re Oregonians. We’re smarter, we know better, and we’re going to base it on L.C.D.C.,” and they took the absolute worst part of L.C.D.C., such as the Necessary Accessory [?] Test, where you can - if you rape your land, then you can build a house, because then it’s a necessary accessory to restore forest lands. So if you do some horrible economic development of it, then you can build your house, but you can’t leave it alone and build. One of the horrible things we have, very similar thing with the Gorge, is that they took these kind of Goal Three and Four and such. This is one of the big problems I have with Thousand Friends of Oregon, they’ve never once asked for Goal Five lands in the Gorge. There are no lands in the Gorge under L.C.D.C. that are classified as natural. They’re either urban, ag., or forestry. In the ag. zones, you have to hire - if you can - it’s all set up very purposely bureaucratic, so no local people can take part in it. You can build your house if you can show certain economic viability of the lands. So if you can go out and spend $20,000 to hire a consultant to do all these plans, then you get build your house. But if you’re poor and can’t do that, you’re hung out to dry. So they took the absolute worst part, and it really isn’t much different. Whereas the Forest - these were huge battles - after Packwood forced the Friends of the Gorge to start meeting with environmental groups, we used to have these pretty stormy meetings, when we were deciding how houses would be let built. All the environmental groups, other than the Sierra Club and - I don’t consider the Friends of the Gorge an environmental group, but the Friends of the Gorge - wanted this really complex bureaucratic language. Like Bowen Blair used to say, “no, we want the language that says, ‘shall not significantly adversely affect the inherent, natural, and historic qualities of that land.’” We wanted, if you had forty acres you could build a house, or whatever. We wanted very clear-cut, dry - if you have so much acreage, or something, you can build. If you didn’t, you could sell out, or sell in easement, or something. They didn’t want - they fought that. It’s because they are the only people that can take part in it. We can’t take part in that. Plus, they keep getting develop- you know, you just keep developing under that. Under the Park Service, it would have been clear what you could have done, and they would have had over- it wouldn’t have been that bureaucratic mess. It would have been a hearing, and if you’re in violation of that, then you know, you don’t go to court for ten years and bring in all your experts or something. It goes into public ownership, and the courts decide the value of the land. Usually, landowners come out really good court settle though, for what they get paid.
CH: So now, could you again - could you kind of go over the set-up, the organization for the Columbia Gorge Act that was - and how - I understand that Packwood had his plan, and that there was this way of getting around him. You’d explained a little bit about that. But when they finally decided to go with the act that they have now, what did they come up with?
CW: Okay, well, they came up with a nightmare [laughs], purposely to fail. Well, the three major things that we lost with the Friends bill is the no National Park Service, we have a tree cutting agency that neither has the will nor the skills to actually manage a landscape like the Columbia Gorge. We have the Forest Service. Second was - I was telling you - the lack of acquisition. Only [in] thirty-nine of the Gorge is there any way of buying even scenic easements. If you don’t have the authority to at least buy deed restrictions, you have no permanent protection. So what’s happening now, is they’ve filled in, and Dick Benner wasn’t even -he was unabashed, “yeah, we’re going to fill in the whole thing,” and then we’ll stop the development of the Gorge after a few thousand more houses are built. The thing is that’s not even going to work, because they’re already appointing very right-wing, anti-protection people to the commission. So the minute everything is filled in Gorge - who knows, 2000, 3000 houses, whatever it gets - then they’re going to give variances. Then they’re going to undo the law, and so we’ll never have any end to development. Once you get a deed restriction onto property, then it can’t be development. The person can sell it, whatever is on that deed restriction. And those can be very expensive. The Forest Service, for instance up on Cape Horn, went in and paid ninety-five percent of the value of land to buy it, to get a scenic easement. It has no public access to it. It only keeps it in agriculture.
When I worked for Friends of the Earth, my kind of rule of thumb was that if you’re paying more than half of the value of the land for the easement, then you easement, then you buy it. The thing is that among - any good idea we came up with, the Friends automatically fought. Like one time the local Sierra Club in southern Washington, Oregon Natural Resources rep., and I came up with this idea in, where the Trust had bought all that land - I think I had mentioned - and had it hang over their heads that they couldn’t sell it, and so we went in to Sid Morrison and said, “Look it, let’s figure out a way - let’s make [it a] state park.” We had about three big areas in there, and one of them was Catherine Creek; and one of them was there across from Multnomah Falls, a little to the west of there. It was just - we could go in there, give the states some money, and then set up state parks while we’re waiting for the federal bill. Well, Sid Morrison jumped up and said, “Chuck, I had people come in here all day, complaining, complaining. You gave me a wonderful solution.” Then he hugged me. Friends of the Gorge and the Sierra Club killed that, would not allow it - through Hatfield, wouldn’t even allow it to be considered, because it wasn’t their idea, and anything like that. One of our best ideas we had - I think. It was mine, so I’m [laughs] obviously not objective, but - when you buy any land that would come - as part of the planning, you’d decide which areas you want long-term to go into public ownership, and which areas are okay to stay in private ownership: grazing lands, say up above Dallesport would be a good example. So whenever land in the areas came up that we were going to have - we wanted to have in private ownership, the government would buy, and the Park Service would buy, put deed restrictions on them, and then resell them. People were going to pay just as much for that land, because the people buying into the Gorge at that point are going to be the people that want to protect it. So basically, we could have gotten almost all the private lands to have free deed restrictions on them, where they could never be developed, for virtually no money. And the Friends of the Gorge killed that, totally killed that. They wouldn’t allow a conservancy and such, anyway, because by then they controlled the Trust for Public Lands.
CH: So then there was - then what you’re saying is really, there was no way of protecting the land in perpetuity without putting the deed restrictions on there.
CW: Right. And in sixty-one percent of the Gorge they are not allowed to put deed restrictions on land. That’s not an option. You regulate it or nothing. So there is no other options other than zoning regulations, and those last until the next bribe or election. In terms of the Gorge commission, it will be gutted, and there will be just - there’s just no hope. It will forever be - the development keeps going on. There was supposed to be a freeze. When we started out to protect the Gorge, everyone supported a freeze on development in rural areas. And now were not - no one’s even - you know, 800 houses in the rural areas, and there’s no end in sight anytime. We’re going to have another 800 in the next ten years too, just like we did in the last ten. Virtually everything - and one of the things Hatfield - which is mind-boggling to us, how far out of touch with reality he is - he was bragging at a friend’s [indiscernible, two words] the other day, “we don’t know what these people are complaining about, these locals. ninety-five percent of the development requests are being approved.” Hey, our point exactly. But of course the Friends won’t ever acknowledge that that’s a problem. That’s what they’re saying, “well, what are they complaining [about], everyone’s getting approved.”
CH: So you also said that there was no acquisition planned for then, either...
CW: Right. That acquisition could be acquisitioned directly of land and fee, or acquisition of develop rights and scenic easements. In sixty-one percent of the Gorge, [there are] none of those options. You can’t buy land. You can’t buy easements or development rights. You have no way other than zoning, temporary zoning to protect the lands.
CH: Those are all the private lands.
CW: So there’s no way - and by doing that, you have neither protection, nor fair treatment of locals. I mean it’s - the Gorge bill is probably the most horrible comparable legislation, and it didn’t protect the land at all, and it treats landowners horribly. It’s something the Friends of the Gorge will not acknowledge, that their bill is extremely unfair to local landowners. It was set up in such a duel way that it’s just really obnoxious. If you had - say you own a hundred acres on one side of the road in the Gorge, and you’re in the S.M.A., you can automatically build four houses in there, or you can sell out all your land to the Forest Service. You can build one house, and sell the development rights, and get almost all your property back. You have all these options. If you’re across the road in the G.M.A., you’re probably going to be hung out to dry, and then if you scream and yell and have enough money, then they’ll let you build something. But there’s no provision for compensation. The G.M.A.s are being regulated strictly. The Forest Service just lets anything go on in the Special Management Areas. So there’s less - the Special Management Areas are supposed to be the special areas, but there’s often more owner restrictions in the General Management Area than there is in the Special Management Areas. You don’t have that option. There’s no way to compensate landowners, unless you’re wealthy, and then they find a way. Now the person - it never would have happened, but Pat Leekney [sp?], who was an old rancher from Klickitat County, and he became the chairman of the Gorge commission, and he wanted to retire. Well, he owned this big ranch up above Dallesport, and there was no way it could be caught. So lo and behold Friends of the Gorge and Trust for Public Lands set up a state park. They wouldn’t allow us to do that, but because he was wealthy and was chairman of the Gorge commission, he got bought out, got all of his money for his ranch, and now it’s a state park. But if he had been a poor person, he’d be hung out to dry, wouldn’t be allowed to use his land, wouldn’t get any compensation.
CW: Well, the lack of it won’t, but if you - when you write deed restrictions, you can write them however you want. So what our policy was for the environmentalists was that there’d be no cutting at all in the Special Management Areas, and if you didn’t like it, you could sell your land to the Park Service. In the General Management Area, we weren’t against logging. We could go along with selective logging in the General Management Areas. But what the Friends agreed to - and money from Weyerhaeuser, I’m sure, had a lot to do with it, [and] PacifiCorp - was that their bill, the Hatfield-Friends bill, bans any restrictions on clearcutting, beyond state regulations. It doesn’t ban clearcutting. It bans any restrictions on clearcutting in the General Management Areas, leaves it up to the Forest Service and the Special Management Areas, which means there’s no protection. So there is no restrictions on logging in the Columbia Gorge beyond the State Forest Practices Act, which are fairly weak. Washington Department of Natural Resources refused to ever acknowledge that the Gorge even exists, so they approved every timber cut, no matter how - and the vast majority of private lands have been clear-cut since the bill passed. If you fly over Skamania County, virtually the whole scenic area’s been clear-cut. There’s a little doughnut around Skamania Lodge, a little doughnut. There’s not another tree anywhere near. Virtually all of that was since the bill passed, with the concurrence of the Friends of the Gorge.
CH: So when you were talking earlier about the organization of the act, you referred to the Special Management Areas and then General Management Areas, and then there were, the - was it the urban...
CW: Exempted Urban Areas.
CH: Exempted Urban Areas. Were there other components? Were there other types of zones besides those three?
CW: No, not really, other than Indian lands that were exempted from the bill, and the Corps lands would be - they’re basically exempt too. But other than that everything falls into that. Like I say, it’s thirty-nine percent Special Management Areas, fifty-one percent General Management Areas, and ten Urban Exempted Areas. And they gave the towns a whole lot of exempted areas, like Dallesport. They have a 7000 acre - one we fought, the Friends supported - a 7000 acre exemption for an industrial park going halfway up the hills above Dallesport, which has a few hundred people. What they need 7000 acres for industrial development for is - you’ll have to ask Nancy Russell or something. But it’s just plain obscene. Does that answer -?
CH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m just trying to see how it’s organized.
CW: So, in the General Management Areas, the commission and the counties have jurisdiction. In the Special Management Areas, the Forest Service and the commission have jurisdiction. But you can never tell who’s responsible for what. Everyone passes the buck to get out of making hard decisions, and those decisions would not be near as hard if there was acquisition money available throughout the scenic areas.
The third major thing in the bill that we were just opposed to is that - Bob Packwood was trying to protect all the tributaries. What we did is the minute - if we had protected - which we did, unfortunately, with two exceptions - had protected just the Gorge corridor - see, the Friends of the Gorge were bankrolled by PacifiCorp and the utilities to fight any protection for tributaries going up the Gorge. Bob Packwood was our champion on this. To me, to only protect the main corridor without going up any of the side canyons is like cutting all the branches off a tree and then saying, well, you saved the tree. But they were bankrolled by utilities to fight that. We knew the minute you cut off development in the main Gorge, it was going to go right up the tributaries. I mean, no doubt about it, Hood River-. So what Packwood agreed to was that we would about - as part of the Gorge bill, we’d go up about ten miles up each tributary canyon, with either an arm of the scenic area, back when it was the Park Service, or a National Wild and Scenic river. Then there’d be a study within the bill. We had studies for the Sandy, Hood, Deschutes, Klickitat, White Salmon, Washougal, and Little White Salmon rivers in the Packwood bill. So those would have given us a couple year moratorium on dams and things like that, and would have given us time to work that and get other legislation. But the Friends killed all of that. Then we took congressional staff rafting down White Salmon and Klickitat rivers, and the lower ten miles of those were made National Wild and Scenic rivers, under the management of the Forest Service. The Forest Service refuses to manage them. In fact, at the Klickitat River, they walked away from it. It’s the only single solitary federal area in the country that the agency has washed their hands and walked away from. They got away with it because the Friends of the Gorge, they won’t complain. That’s what the Friends of the Gorge support, that. They were against the Klickitat. So we now have subdivisions going in there. When the bill passed, you could have bought river front critical and wonderful land along the Klickitat for 25,000 for forty acres, was the going price. And now we don’t have a single acre, not one acre, other than that piece I mentioned, that a corner went in there, and the Friends used our money - the tributary money to buy out the place, and the G.M.A. - they’re not supposed to buy land [laughs].
CH: So the act, the way it was set up, did it actually solidify or institute the role of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge, or is this just sort of an informal, nonlegal relationship?
CW: It’s kind of an informal, but very blatant. When - for instance the Thousand Friends had never lifted a finger on the Gorge, never done a thing to help us. Six months before the bill passed, the last big hearings, Dick Benner, who was a staff attorney for Thousand Friends, suddenly went back to D.C., testified against the environmentalist bill, for the Friends bill. Within a week, Nancy Russell was in the old Gorge commission office, told Jeff Breckel [sp?] - he was a really neat guy, he was the executive director of the old Gorge commission - told him he better get job-hunting because he was going to be replaced by Dick Benner, as soon as the bill passed, which they did. The way they hired him was - we have fairly substantial proof that it was done illegally, like they were - Friends people appointed to the commission. The Friends controlled the commission initially, through the gubernatorial appointees. They go their own - Dave Canard, Don Clark, Barbara Bailey, all the people that were Friends people controlled it. So they hired Dick Benner, in a was that was so blatantly illegal from the evidence we’ve seen, that the runner-up person, Phil Crawford, who was the county extension agent in Skamania County, was the runner up. He would have been wonderful. He got along with everyone. But he was never given a chance, and he had enough ammo to - the Friends of...
[End of Tape 4, Side 1]
January 25, 1999
Tape 4, Side 2
CW: And so, like I say, the White Salmon and the Klickitat, the lower ten miles of both those rivers were made Wild and Scenic rivers, but all we got out of that was a ban on any new dams being built. So we probably - the tribes could have killed those, anyway. We didn’t get any of the land acquisition, and the Friends were forced to accept that into their bill, when we got the whole Washington delegation to add those in. Hatfield killed the Sandy. Packwood tried very hard - we took Packwood rafting down the Sandy River, and he was just gung ho for making it a Wild and Scenic river, and the Sierra Club helped them kill that.
CH: Really? Now, why would the Sierra Club...
CW: The Sierra Club - there’s three main villains among supposed environmental groups in the Gorge, and they’re: The Friends of the Gorge of course, which I consider far and away the most evil group in this environmental movement, and that’s a learned decision, because I used to work in all fifty states when I was working for Friends of the Earth, and I know all the environmental groups in the country. The second is the Sierra Club staff, not the local people. The Sierra Club staff, the Northwest office, refused to ever lift a finger on the Gorge, until about eighty-five. So when Packwood - I think I explained the other day how when I went and killed the governor’s bill, part of the deal was that Packwood would introduce a Park Service bill. All the environmental groups - Thousand Friends sat it out - all the other environmental groups supported that, and I had letters in there. I mean, National Wildlife Federation, every group you could ever think of endorsed it, the rafting groups, everything. Except the Sierra Club - local Sierra Clubs were not allowed to sign it. The person, Jim Bloomquist, who was our Northwest rep., who never lifted a finger, suddenly jumps in eighty-five, and the Friends of the Gorge met with him, had a breakfast with him in Seattle. It was the first time they had ever met with real environmentalist [laughs] in all their times, and it turns out to be the most hated person in the environmental movement. I mean, they went right for the bottom of the barrel and found someone who shares their lack of morality [laughs].
CH: And why would he be opposed to it?
CW: He’s the one, like I say, who traded. You had mentioned a trade for something. Whereas the Friends of the Gorge, they had nothing to trade. They were strictly getting paid by money and publicity and things, but...
CH: And they were going for the Arctic Wildlife Refuge?
CW: We think. We have no way of proving it. But Mark Hatfield told the Sierra Club he would not even meet with them if they didn’t agree to the Friends bill, and they said, “yes, sir.” I was in the room when Jim Bloomquist told Bob Packwood’s staff that he was way too radical in the Gorge, and the Sierra Club could not support him, and that the Sierra Club is adamantly opposed to Wild and Scenic River designations for any of the tributaries, because that was too radical in that political climate. Which is just absolute B.S.
CH: But it did get that designation though, didn’t it?
CW: Just for two little rivers, just for two little ten-mile stretches of two rivers. We would have had about a hundred miles of rivers...
CH: I see. And then that designation though, does do some protection, doesn’t it? I mean, as far as [indiscernible] zones?
CW: Not unless the agency will enforce it. The only protection that comes automatically with it is a ban on new dams. So we’ve killed dams. Like I say, the tribes could have killed that anyway, so that’s not that big a deal. And no, you have no other protection, other than what - it’s all - the Wild and Scenic Rivers act, sixty-four or sixty-eight, has all these things about - it’s very vague, and it allows acquisition of basically half the lands. It sets up a corridor, a quarter mile on each side of the river, and that’s not a hard and fast quarter mile, but the boundaries are supposed to average a quarter mile on each side. Within that, half of that can be bought using condemnation, but once half of it’s bought, then the agency can’t use it. They have what are called outstanding resources. It’s a very abstract thing. But the agencies have refused to ever enforce it, and they support clearcutting. For instance, in the White Salmon River, S.D.S. went in there and was clearcutting an area that was scheduled for acquisition. The Forest Service would not buy it. This is one of the most horrible things I’ve ever heard: Art Defalt [sp?], who was the first Forest Service manager of the National Scenic Area, told us that he was letting the timber industries clear-cut the whole White Salmon corridor to lower the land values, and save taxpayers money when we buy the land. That was a quite unique [laughs] - and by having any debate of that banned from the Oregonian - the Friends were bankrolled by PacifiCorp to be the main opponent of Wild and Scenic River designation - no one in Portland ever had any idea. I finally had to get arrested. We were laying in front of bulldozers, and getting arrested. Dennis and Bonnie White’s daughter, Nancy, jumped in there when they were just about to run over her dad, S.D.S. and deal [?], and she jumped in front of the bulldozer. She was a teenager at the time, and even those people couldn’t bring themselves to running over a teenage girl, and backed off. So we occupied the Forest Service’s office.
CH: Where was this?
CW: On the White Salmon River, around Spring Creek there, right near Husson [?]. We had almost, probably ninety percent public support there, but the Friends fought us. They were totally for the clearcutting.
CH: What year was that?
CW: Eighty-eight or nine. It was when I was working for Intertribal Fish commission, because I - we occupied the Forest Service’s office, and while I was chained to their door, the director came out, to try to get me to unlock myself, gave me a letter he was sending S.D.S., saying their clearcutting was illegal. It was like, I couldn’t believe it, because that was my smoking gun. But the Oregonian and none of the Portland people would cover it. So the next day, after I got out of jail there, we came into the Heathman, and the Stevensons that were doing the clearcutting owned the Heathman Hotel. We had to go where the money was, and so I chained myself - we brought in all the scruffy hippies we could find, Indians in the Gorge, and picketed them. We were driving away business. They were just going crazy. Anyway, they got the cops to force us to leave, so I chained myself to the door, and got arrested. Jackson Browne was playing that night, next door at the Schnitz, and his aide saw it happen, ran down the stairs and talked to me. I think I mentioned this, I don’t know whether he was on tape, but he and I used to go out with the same woman in D.C., an anti-nuclear lobbyist, and we hit it off right away.
CH: Jackson Browne?
CW: Yeah, Jackson Browne’s person, that’s his - handles the political thing, that travels with him and takes care of the politics and such. He was just enraged when he told him what was happening. Jackson Browne, he gave me tickets to his concert that night, when I got out of jail, which was nice, and he marched down and screamed and the Heathman’s owners, that if they didn’t start clearcutting the next morning, he’d make sure no musicians would stay at the Heathman again. They quit clear cutting the next - we had gone to court. We had done everything right. We actually wanted to go to trial. We settled with the Heathman on a deal where I signed an agreement that I wouldn’t do anything illegal in the Heathman. Actually, when I spoke to the National Science Institute there a few years later on in holdings, we had to get a waiver from the Heathman to allow me to speak [laughs]. I was the first speaker in one of their public hearings [laughs] and I had to get a legal waiver to go into the Heathman. And so - I forgot where...
CH: We were talking about the Wild and Scenic Rivers, and the...
CW: Oh right, I know. So we went ahead and settled the Heathman, because that wasn’t a big one. We wanted to go after the Forest Service. A certain person, who is now U.S. attorney was advising me on the side. It’s one the experts in the choice of evils defense. There’s never been a choice of evils defense that’s succeeded. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but it’s where if you can prove you had to commit a crime to prevent an even bigger crime, you are found innocent. There’s never been one won in Oregon. The courts, in previous ones, set out these numerous steps, the tests you had to meet to win. I had every one of them. I was the first - the last thing I needed was a letter that the Forest Service wrote, saying that the clearcutting was illegal to S.D.S. That was the smoking gun. You had to have exhausted all legal remedies, spent ten years lobbying, six years in court. We had filed suits. We had won the suits to stop the logging, and S.D.S. said, “we don’t care. You don’t have the money to stop us. We’re going to cut it anyway.” I had all of the criteria, so we were looking to a trial. We were going tell it - it was going to be in Hood River. We were going to sell T-shirts, and Art Defalt, the Forest Service manager, was a real chauvinist. I had Forest Service staff from - he had been down at the Chiliquin and down in the Klamath area before, and I had women staff ready to come up and testify against - he had harassed them [laughs] and was a chauvinist pig. Strong women really upset him. I had a great big black attorney woman from Hood River [laughs], my attorney, Shirley Sheiladale [sp?]. Like I say, we were going to sell T-shirts. This was going to be fun. They’ve never pressed the charges against me, but they’ve never dropped them. My attorney says she’s never seen anything like it. So I’ve been on probation ever since then. They’ve never taken me to court, because we were going to win in the court case, and it would have been the first precedent of that in the state of Oregon.
CH: You had mentioned the ideas you had for the protection of the Columbia River valley, and that’s such a...
CW: Hood River Valley.
CH: I mean the Hood River Valley, there’s such a - it’s so - already agriculturally developed area, and there are also a lot of people that live up in the valley, how would you have gone about doing that?
CW: Well, we wouldn’t really, because that was one of the throw-aways. What we were adamant about was that there be a Wild and Scenic River going up about ten miles, and then the rest of the Hood River, including the branches, be studied, which would give us a moratorium on dams, which is real important, because they had been trying to build twenty years in the Hood River basin.
CH: But if the Wild and Scenic River would go up ten miles, and generally that would have a quarter of a mile on either side of the river...
CH: ...there are already a lot of people that live within a quarter of a mile of the river.
CW: Right. They’re all granddaddied in.
CH: Oh, I see.
CW: Everything in the Gorge is granddaddied in. Everything. I mean, even things that shouldn’t have been. That’s kind of the price you pay. I mean, basically we were going to say, “okay, in the rural areas of the Gorge we accept everything that’s there, but we’re going to not put in new stuff. Well now, we accept everything that’s there and everything that anyone that wants to build, if they’re wealthy. But in the Hood River valley, we knew that there was no way protect outside of that corridor, but we were just pushing it. One reason was to put publicity on it, to force the state and L.C.D.C. and the county to put in protection through L.C.D.C. in the valley. The other thing was to have something to give away when we got into negotiations. You know, you’ve always got to have stuff in [the] bill to give away. And partly, to thank Kate McCarthy, not knowing she was going to turn on me, to thank her, I put in the Hood River to put publicity on it. That was something we were going to compromise out, and accept the Wild and Scenic River designation to protect the corridor, and then use the publicity from that. See, that would free up so much resources in the rest of the Gorge, where we shouldn’t have to be monitoring. We should have had two years of monitoring, we could all go home and go hiking. If this was any other park in within the country, within four or five years after the bill passed, there’s no controversy to speak of. It’s over. The fight’s over. Here, it just gets worse. It’s worse now than it ever was - or it would be if the Oregonian would allow any dissent, if they’d allow any acknowledgment of all the horrible problems. There wouldn’t. It’s going to get worse. I mean, we’ll never win the Columbia Gorge. It’s just going to be destroyed. The development will never stop in the Columbia Gorge. It was set up where it never will. They can just keep granting variances. By using zoning, you just keep changing the zoning. Every other park - I was just down at my mom’s, at Golden Gate National Recreation and Point Reyes. The only controversy going on there was whether to buy develop rights - scenic easements, on 30,000 acres of adjoining ranches, to provide a buffer for the park. Within the park there is no controversy. The fight’s over. The boundaries and off-shore oil drilling, and in any where else there is no fight. Cape Cod -. It was purposely set up to lose. There will never be protection for the Gorge without any legislation, without the Park Service. And by yet [?] it’s getting too late. I don’t know whether there will ever...
CH: Are there any people in Congress that are potential allies?
CW: Not really, because...
CH: Isn’t Lee Hamilton, wasn’t he also a parks advocate?
CW: Yeah, but he wasn’t on the committees. In other words, he wasn’t out front. Hilburger [sp?] was our big parks advocate, and John Siberling [sp?], and he’s no longer in Congress. The problem we have is our - Ron Wyden is just awful. He was one of the real horrible people on the Gorge, and he’ll never acknowledge the problems. He never does. I think I told you, the last time he met with any environmentalist other than the Friends of the Gorge and the Sierra Club staff was when - was a meeting in his office, when we were getting ready for the Packwood bill. He turned to me and said, “Chuck, there’s no development going on in the Gorge. You’re just making that up. I talked to people and they’re just - they’re not going to foul their own nest.” And I pointed out it was not a good day - that Skamania County had just - like I think I said before - had just approved eighty-three houses on wetlands between me and the river. So he never met with us again. He’s just - he’s horrible. Earl Blumenauer is totally an arm of the Friends of the Gorge. He won’t even acknowledge - he screamed at me last time that, “there are no problems with the legislation. The legislation is wonderful, it’s totally perfect, and it has none of the problems related to it.” Well, he gets paid by Nancy Russell and people that do that. So he’s hopeless.
Our main - we actually may now have a couple of allies now on the Washington side. Brian Baird we could get to, but the Friends of the Gorge will get to - I mean, when you have unlimited money, when you can pass out hundreds of thousands of dollars to a couple of politicians like they can, we can’t - you know, what could we do? Patty Murray’s been the last major politician [who] works with us. She still works closely with Columbia Gorge Audubon, and the local environmentalists, and tries to help us out. Right now, I’m thinking of doing a big article for the Columbia, and kind of urging Vancouver to show Oregon how to protect the Gorge, because they were - Washington was trashed nonstop by Nancy Russell, Don Clark, and all the Portland elite about how they don’t care about the Gorge, and they don’t protect it, and all the problems are in Washington. Well, Washington now - and then Oregon killed Gorge protection. So now Washington has a chance to maybe - that’s only possible hope I see. If we can get Patty Murray and Brian Baird...
CH: What about all the development that’s occurring near Camas, and east of Camas?
CW: Well see, it’s going into the Gorge. We knew it would occur right up to there, because see, that’s a bedroom community, and that was part of it. Once 205 was built, that evil opens that up even more. And now it’s being developed. Our bill would have frozen it at the boundary there. We did get Steigerwald Lake, no thanks to the Friends of the Gorge, the wildlife refuge - the wetlands there and National Wildlife Refuge. With the other two National Wildlife Refuges in the western end of the Gorge, on the Washington side, are the best-protected lands in the Gorge, and the only lands that are really being restored. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put Gibbon’s Creek back into its old creek bed that the Corps and S.D.S. - Stevenson owned all that land.
CH: Geographically, is that actually in the Gorge, or adjacent to the Gorge?
CW: In the Gorge.
CH: How far from Camas, then?
CW: Oh, it starts on the boundary. If you’re coming out - well Washougal, actually - if you’re coming out of Washougal, you’ll see where the industrial plants and the subdivisions stop real abruptly, at the water treatment plant. That’s why we drew the line there.
CH: And is there anything beyond that then, in the actual protected Gorge area?
CW: Well, below the road, between Highway 14 and the river is protected, because it’s a National Wildlife Refuge up to the steep cliffs, where it can’t be developed, at Cape Horn. North of the river is being destroyed. You go up Bell Center Road, which is the boundary there, there’s ten times the houses than when the bill passed. It’s just solid houses. There’s always two or three at construction. It’s gone. It’s just being raped from the land - and it’s within the boundaries of the Scenic Area, and should be protected, but it’s not. There are just houses all over. There are whole areas there that had no houses when the bill passed, that are - some friends of mine that - actually it was Susan Kady, that did go on the Friends board, one of the founders of that, their street, they were on of two or three people on it. Now, they’ve got bars with gambling, and all this other stuff, all within the National Scenic Area.
CH: How far from the river is that?
CW: Not very far. If you - a mile. The road winds up from - right where there’s a sign - when you’re heading east on Highway 14, you start to go up the hill a little bit, and you have to see all the wetlands that we protected. There’s bald eagles in there for the first time in thirty-five years now, in that area. Fish and Wildlife’s doing a good job of that. But there’s a road - right where the sign is about Broughton’s [sp?] - there’s a historic sign there in a pullout, before you go on up to Cape Horn, and there’s a road that angles off there, that turns into Bell Center Road. It angles in from the Gorge. It kind of follows the ridge of the Gorge. So it starts out right at Highway 14 and just keeps angle in. It’s a few feet at the beginning, but by the time you get to the top part, it’s about two miles in, or something like that. And it’s just all gone. I mean, it’s just solid houses. Now Washougal’s trying to expand their boundary out there, their urban growth boundary into that.
CH: So, is there anything else you would like to say at this point? I mean, we’re - you know, we could go back to this, or anything else later on, but I was going to go back and ask you some other questions. Is there anything else at this point that you would like to add to what you’ve already said?
CW: Well, I’m sure as we think about it, but it’s - like I say, the bottom line is it’s hopeless. And this is the first national park caliber area that’s being destroyed because of people claiming to be environmentalists, and not destroyed by the direct developers, but by their representatives. It’s one where class warfare killed Columbia Gorge protection.
CH: One strategy that I know of [that] a lot of environmental groups have done out here is, when they have an issue that they can’t get local support for - local being in the states nearby or the communities nearby - that they’ve gone to other parts of the country, especially in the eastern part of the country, where the people there do not have the economic ties that might compromise how they feel, and they’re willing to support something like that. Have you or any of your groups tried to form that kind of a coalition?
CW: Good question [laughs]. Very good question. Exactly, when the Friends started fighting us and Hatfield - we never would have needed that if Hatfield would have been for Gorge protection. When Hatfield came out against Packwood - that meeting I told you about where Tom Imason [sp?] set up - and blocked it then - that’s when we sat down with Packwood and Siberling and such. Packwood said, “Look it. I want a letter,” and I have the letter with me, he says, “we can roll these people if I can get the environmental groups in the east coast to lobby their center [?],” he said. “So I want a letter from you, signed by all the major national environmental groups, to support the National Park Service for the Gorge, and I’ll just bring it to the floor of the Senate. I think I can probably get the - Hatfield’s going to hate me, but I think I can probably - I can get New Jersey, and all these other states, Massachusetts, and all their senators.” So we drafted up this letter, very noncontroversial letter. We knew the Friends wouldn’t sign it. They refused to. So everyone signed on. I spent a few months, we got everyone to sign on, and the Sierra Club local groups - there’s one in Vancouver and one in Portland - kept voting to sign it, and Jim Bloomquist, their Northwest rep, kept vetoing it. The Sierra Club policy is set up to where policy is supposed to come from the bottom, the volunteer groups, and then the staff is supposed to implement that. Well, they don’t work that way in the Sierra Club. The staff claim - well, when I asked them why they sold us out to Hatfield, their lobbyist in D.C. said, “Well Chuck, if you were a professional like us, you’d have to know we have to make these compromises.” And I said, “Hey, remember? I was a professional like you, and I didn’t get a lobotomy when I left Friends of the Earth. I know what’s happened.”
So the Sierra Club refused to sign this letter, and it wasn’t the sort of thing where it was just set down. We spent a whole year trying to get them to sign on. Andy Kerr was saying, “you know, we ought to just move on.” And I said, “well, worked at the Sierra Club. We really want to get them on.” Like I say, their staff had never lifted a finger until Jim Bloomquist met with the Sierra Club [the Friends of the Gorge?], and suddenly - He had unlimited money. I mean, he’d fly down two or three times a week to harass the local groups and tell them they cannot support Park Service and they cannot support Wild and Scenic River designation for any of the tributaries.
CH: And where was Andy Kerr standing in all this?
CW: Oh, totally with us, a hundred percent with us. His wife, Nancy Peterson, was the point person for O.N.R.C. She worked on the staff. She was wonderful. Portland Audubon, which now is totally turned against us and are bankrolled by the Friends, was wonderful. They had a woman named Lynn Hering [sp?] that was this - she’s from actually the Carolinas, and kind of blue-blood, but she is so refined even Nancy Russell couldn’t tolerate her. She was wonderful. Every single solitary group, except Sierra Club staff and Thousand Friends of Oregon, backed us and signed the letter. We had every group you could think of, and I’ll leave you copies of those.
CW: So we were trying to get the Sierra Club. That seemed really crucial - and New Jersey particularly - that we could get the Sierra Club. So this guy, Jim Bloomquist would fly down and he’d fire the volunteer Gorge group, that the [indiscernible] group and the Columbia group would have, and he’d fire them, and handpick his own people to fight the Park Service. And as soon as they met with us and O.N.R.C. and all the group, they were, “Oh yeah, Park Service, oh definitely,” and support us. He’d fire them. We went over a year and a half. The poor leaders of the Sierra Club - or their spouses, the volunteer leaders, were just, “you’ve got to drop out.” He spent tens of thousands of dollars harassing them, made their lives such a living hell that we abolished the Sierra Club in southern Washington. The [indiscernible] group we just finally abolished. But while he was doing that, preventing the letter going out, he was flying back with Bowen Blair to D.C., going around, telling all the reps that, “we’re against Park Service, we’re against Wild and Scenic Rivers, and we support all environmental - we speak for all environmental groups,” which is a lie. You know, I had Jim Weaver and people calling me up saying, “that’s not true.” I said, “of course it’s not.” So we finally had this stormy meeting in Washougal, at the Parker House. We brought thirty-four environmental groups together, including the Friends, and we were going to sit down settle, once and for all, what the environmentalist position was. Well, Jim Bloomquist didn’t show up. He was back in D.C., still fighting us. He sent a third-string flunky down that had no say, and all groups agreed there would be the Park Service. The Friends of the Gorge promised us they would never again meet with the congressional reps - politicians without one of the main environmental - you know, Audubon or Coalition, or someone there - and promised us that would never happen again, and everything. Three days later, they met with Booth Gardner, Dave Canard, told them that, “we just met with thirty-four environmental groups and all thirty-four environmental groups are totally against the Park Service, and are totally against Wild and Scenic River designations.” Jim Bloomquist from the Sierra Club was the only person allowed in that meeting, and sat there and lied. I’ve never known how to - and Hatfield just took it and run. So Bloomquist went on vacation. The Sierra Club signed the letter, we gave it to Packwood. But by then Hatfield had basically killed any chance of doing it and such. So we wasted a whole year trying to get the Sierra Club and Friends of the Gorge on that letter. It had two major points: it has to be the Park Service, and protection for the tributaries. The Friends of the Gorge wouldn’t sign it. Finally, when we forced the Sierra Club to, after a year of intense - all the while we’re being fought - we finally forced the Friends to sign it, but it was over by then. You know, they had...
CH: Couldn’t the Wildlife Federation, having such a strong constituency in the various states, couldn’t they have protested about this?
CW: Oh, they did! They were totally on our side. They had a great person, their Northwest rep, Bruce - boy, it’s been a while - anyway, their Northwest rep was here in Portland. He was wonderful. In fact, David Brower couldn’t believe that - when I told him the National Wildlife Federation was pushing the Park Service real hard, he was, “Wow, they’re afraid of those hunters?” I said, “yeah,” and they were just wonderful. That’s how we got Trapper Creek Wilderness. I was talking about the eighty-four Wilderness bill. We had a meeting with Sid Morrison in Vancouver, in his motel room. We had the Northwest rep for the National Wildlife Federation Intertribal Fish Commission, John Platt, myself, and the Clark-Skamania Flyfishers, and he said, well - and no one was talking Trapper Creek. I mean, this is something we pulled right - something that was considered absurd. The Sierra Club, Charlie Reins [sp?] in there Northwest office, had traded away all our Wilderness areas for areas around Puget Sound. It was hopeless. We met with Sid Morrison, and so he went over to the Forest Service, and he agreed. We sat down and we drew the maps on the floor in his motel room in Vancouver, which is amazing because people like Earl Blumenauer and Hatfield wouldn’t even talk to me. And here I used to sit around in motel rooms [laughs] with senators and congressmen, and negotiate with them. So, Sid Morrison went over that afternoon to the Forest Service and announced to them that there was going to be a Trapper Creek Wilderness. The Forest Service - they were totally underpinned, and they came unglued, and they said, “Who’s behind this!?” and he said, “the four million members of the National Wildlife Federation,” [laughs]. So we were able to use that for the wilderness. But the Friends, they never got the chance. You know, no one was ever allowed - the Senate has rules, and Hatfield had seniority over Packwood, so he prevented Packwood from even being able to do that. If we had - if the Sierra Club had signed on the letter, and we hadn’t lost that year from eighty-five into early eighty-six, we could have pulled that off, but the Sierra Club paid staff killed that. But that’s exactly what our and Packwood’s plan was.
CH: So the whole Packwood - the period the Packwood Bill was being discussed was eighty-five, eighty-six, around there?
CW: Well, eighty-three was when the Governors Bill came in, so Packwood - the first time the Friends of the Gorge forced me - destroyed the Coalition and forced me out, and actually tried to disincorporate it. We kept it together, kind of in hibernation, and they were trying to destroy it. And I knew that they would probably sell us at, even though at that time Nancy Russell was looking me in the eye, saying, “We support Park Service. We support tributaries,” which she had no intention of doing. So we kept it in hibernation. Then, when the Governor’s bill is about to pass - so Packwood introduced their planning bill that Gail Ackerman wrote, of which...
CH: In eighty-three?
CW: In eighty-one.
CH: In eighty-one?
CW: In eighty-one or eighty-two. Right in there. That’s the one that was so horrible that it allowed Spellman and Atiyeh to come in with the Governors Bill, that was their planning bill without the Forest Service. That was what was just about to zoom through Congress when Packwood called me up, and met with him. He just was begging me - he went to all the national environmental groups because, like you were saying, he understood how it worked. And every one of them said, “Sorry, the Friends of the Gorge won’t work with us. We were very involved with the Gorge until they forced Chuck Williams out of the fight. Without him there’s no” - you know, they won’t talk to environmental groups.
CH: So when was Packwood’s bill out of the question? When did that no longer become part of the process?
CW: Oh, not until the very - well, there’s two Packwood Bills. Originally, he introduced the Friends bill for them, because we didn’t protest. We had been forced out of it. And so when that got gutted so bad it was going to be the Governors bill, that’s when he asked me to come in to kill it. My conditions - I said, “yeah, I’d be glad to, but A., I’m not going to do all this work for the Forest Service Bill. If I get back in and bring in the national environmental groups, it’s going to be for the Park Service and the tributaries.” He said, “Hey, I’m with you a hundred percent. Their bill’s crap” - you know, and the other thing is that they were going to give us a bunch of money. They had destroyed our group, and they had a $400,000 a year budget at that time, annual budget, and we wanted ten percent to restore and reopen our office and such. Packwood agreed to those. Then, there was never actually a bill at that time, because he was smart enough - you don’t write a bill at that time. We sat down with Packwood and we agreed on all the principles I was telling you, the Park Service and such. So he was going along on the assumption that that was going to be the bill, and then that Tom Imason meeting came. He still kept fighting. So at that point we lost Wyden, because he was just looking for an out to fight us. It basically left Packwood, Weaver, and Lawry, were our three - and AuCoin was actually a fairly big supported. Hatfield told the three of them that the Gorge isn’t their district, and if they butted their nose into the Gorge, he was going to get them big time, to keep their goddamn nose out of things. It wasn’t their business. That left only Packwood as our champion. He kept pushing it. When it became clear that we couldn’t prevail, he was still - like I say, his D.C. staff person was a former Park Service person, and his...
[End of Tape 4, Side 2]
January 25, 1999
Tape 5, Side 1
CH: This is an interview with Chuck Williams at the Oregon Historical Society. The interview is Clark Hansen. The date is 1-25-99, and this is Tape 5, Side 1.
So, you were saying -.
CW: So anyway, the biggest mistake by far I’ve ever made in life - and the second biggest is coming up with the National Scenic Area, since - I think on tape, when I explained to you I had kept the National Recreational Area name. If you noticed the literature I had for the first two years, it was the National Recreation Area, and then suddenly I started writing about the National Scenic Area, which turned out to be a horrible mistake, because we didn’t have any precedent then that gave us a bottom line. So Nancy Russell was able to put signs on each end saying, Scenic Area, and not protect anything. In a National Recreation Area we would have had a lot more protection, just because there was a precedence. It’s the minimum we would have gotten. We could have saved the Gorge if I hadn’t said that. But by far the worst mistake I ever made was letting the Friends masquerade as an environmental group. Once Packwood came to me and asked me to get back in, then - I’d known Andy Kerr since he was a teenager, and you know, since they were the Oregon Wilderness Coalition down in Eugene, he and [indiscernible]. I knew virtually everyone in the environmental movement at that time. We decided not to trash the Friends publicly. In other words, we would just take our parallel route, kind of take the high road, which turned out to be the high road to failure. But rather we never said a bad word about them, we just would push our position, “we want the Park Service,” every other place. We had everyone. We had a really good core of people. We had John Kerpinsky [sp?], and Bill Keizer [sp?], and people in the Vancouver Sierra Club, and we had Lynn Hering with Audubon, O.N.R.C. Nancy Peterson, and Bruce - I’m trying to remember his name. I’ll add it later. You said we’d get to transcribe -?
CH: Oh, yeah.
CW: The National Wildlife Federation guy. We had a really good group of about ten of us. They were totally of one mind. We got along wonderful. It was one of the most wonderful environmental coalitions you’d ever see, but we didn’t trash the Friends. And that turned out to be a big mistake. We just worked with Packwood, and we went on our own path, and we’d just say, “well, their bill won’t protect.” But we’d never call them on lying, and just the really evil stuff they did to destroy us, and so - which turned out to be a major mistake. So once Hatfield was able to break the Sierra - but we were working. We had a momentum going in our favor. We could have - as late as eighty-five, we could’ve still won. But when the Sierra Club came in against us, and Dan Evans started really fighting us bad, it got to be pretty hopeless. By mid-eighty-five we kind of knew - but Packwood still - to his credit, still kept pushing. He just was always pushing tributaries. He was always pushing. One of the things he and his staff really felt good about was that he got a provision in the bill for - you know, he’d be in these negotiations and just demanding things. One of them was that the Park Service would be part of the study team to draw up the management plan, even if the Forest Service ended up the lead the lead agency. He was really proud of that. Well, when it came time for the study team, the Forest Service refused to allow it. It said, “the Park Service is trying to steal our land from it,” and would not allow a single person from the Park Service to be involved in the plan. Of course we got a plan that was a complete piece of crap, that allows grazing in spawning streams, just for one example. So he kept trying, did everything he could, but once he had Gordon, Evans, and Hatfield against him, and had the Sierra Club basically whoring to prevent us from bringing in outside - you know, fighting us bringing in senators from other states, because Sierra Club’s a very major group. We had all the Audubons, but Sierra Club was fighting - preventing Sierra Clubs from lobbying for us in states back east and such. Once it became obvious we weren’t going to win, then it was a matter of the tributary - we really concentrated on the tributaries, and things like that. Packwood, right to the very end, still kept trying to improve, and kept pushing, pushing, pushing. It would be a lot worse - this is one of the things that - if it had not been for the Coalition, and the other groups we brought in, and Bob Packwood, there’d be no acquisition east of Hood River. The Friends of the Gorge, specifically Nancy Russell, had totally sold us out on any acquisition east of Hood River. Now, she’s making money, her and her friends, selling land to the Forest Service in the Rowena area. But we had to organize Audubon and the O.N.R.C. and the Coalition had to launch a campaign - even the Sierra Club was appalled by that one. There would be no protection for the tributaries at all. There’s a number of things we got that are strictly - Bourgogne Mountain would be solid subdivisions. Major Creek would not be protected. Nancy Russell bought a big complex at the mouth of Major Creek, and you can see it for ten miles up and down the river, but she doesn’t have to screen it like other people do. It’s just a horrible blight, a big, huge complex. She fought protection for Major Creek. Even after we had Dan Evans and Slade Gorton on board, they still continued to fight it. They were like - even if you give them credit for wanting to do the right thing, which obviously I don’t, they were like the British Army: they took a position, no matter how wrong, and they just pushed ahead, and they’d lo- it was horrible. And we were more like the Colonial guerrilla fighters: if they were fighting us over here, suddenly we had two new state parks we were proposing over here. We just kept - the opposition never knew how to deal with us. Plus, we weren’t easy targets. We were not rich, wealthy city people trying to throw people out of their homes, so that didn’t stick. We had - like I say, they killed those state parks we had. Anything that was our idea that was good, they would go after us. So they were just one mind [that] would never flex, would never even entertain anything. One of the ironic things is, being Indian, I just hate Slade Gorton, Slippery Slade. He built his career on fighting Indian fishing rights, but he met with us. We had a situation where Dan Evans, Mark Hatfield, and Ron Wyden would not meet with anyone who was not a millionaire. We were told we had to go through the Friends of the Gorge. We were not allowed to ever meet with those three people, but Slade Gorton would meet with us poor people. We would go into office - actually it was more Morrison, but they were never allowed to hear the other side. They just would not even allows us into their offices and such. We were told we had to deal with lower staff, and that’s not who makes the decisions. Lower staff, as you know, are real important, but you have to get to the big boy at some point [laughs]. Hatfield made it very clear - that’s one reason the reason the Sierra Club caved in - he would never meet with them unless they supported his position on the Gorge. They were more interested in access. That’s where the wildlife refuge and other stuff they wanted, and so obvi - we can’t prove it, but obviously they agreed to support him on the Gorge, and kill Park Service protection for the Gorge, in exchange for him supporting stuff elsewhere.
CH: Do you think that - with the change in 1981 of Reagan coming into power, that maybe the whole chemistry of trying to make a park out of the Gorge was all of the sudden that much harder to...
CW: It was harder, but it was far from being impossible, because we had really good people in Congress. This was Nancy Russell’s excuse. In fact, they even build themselves as a Republican organization, when they were - in late eighty, right after Reagan got elected. See, I had already cut the deals with Cecil Andrus and [the] Carter administration. We were already on the Park Service. We had already totally agreed on the bill and everything. When Reagan got elected, that was Nancy [Russell] - ,”well, we have a Republican administration; we need a Republican group to deal with them,” and that was her excuse. The fallacy in that is that we still had total control over Congress. We could have gotten, with Hatfield’s help, anything we wanted out of Congress. A few weeks, if not days, before Reagan signed the Gorged scam, he signed the Great Basin National Park bill. So there is no reason to think - one of the things that is so frustrating to us is that there would have been - not only would there have been less - for anyone like Reagan or something, there was no more damage in signing a good bill than there was in the bad bill. There were some people, other than the timber industry, that had written the Friends Bill and were getting - had their Christmas tree, but for the right wing anti-park people, they didn’t car if it was the Forest bill or the Packwood Bill. This is an interesting point: for the politicians to sell out, claiming they needed the Forest Service because [of] Reagan is nonsense, because they would have actually taken less heat if it had been the Park Service bill, because there would have been acquisition. There was no more damage in Sid Morrison or someone supporting the Park Service than there was the Forest Service. The fact that you supported a National Scenic Area was - it didn’t matter what the details. So they would have, short-term, not had any more wrath supporting the Park Service, and in long-term would have had a lot less wrath because there would have been acquisition, and people would have been treated. Ron Arnold, who’s one of the main spokespeople for the right wing, the anti-park group - it’s really interesting, because he did an editorial in the - they wouldn’t let it in the Oregonian, of course, but in the Columbian - he’s out at Bellevue - he got a hold of the letter I was telling you about - I think I gave you a copy, that John Gray, and Schnitzer Steel, all of the - PacifiCorp, Weyerhaeuser had signed - and he did a column in eighty-three saying that, “I bet you anything that people like John Gray are going to get millions of dollars to build lodges and develop the Gorge, and poor people aren’t going to be allowed to develop it. The rich people are not only going to develop, but they’re going to get paid federal money to develop,” and of course he was right [laughs]. I pointed that out. So he did - I ran into him three or four years ago, and he had just come out with a new book, one of his exposés of the environmental movement [?]. It’s a fascinating book. So he gave me a co- I ran into him at the environmental law conference in Eugene, and he gave me a copy, and he said, “to Chuck, who turned out to be right on the Columbia Gorge. We wish we would have supported you,” - or, “it was a mistake to not support you.” So what we have is that the right-wing people realize that we have a totally incompetent of the Gorge, and local people are not being treated fair. If we had the Park Service, there would have been compensation for people, and it would have been done professionally. A whole lot of people who were opposed to us, now would support Park Service. Dan Durrow [sp?], who moved back to the Gorge in seventy-seven, and worked for the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, when they were trying to build the zirconium plant in Dallesport - we’ve been butting heads since seventy-seven, but we’ve remained good friends, he lived in The Dalles, so we see each other all the time. So he - out in the really stormy - when they were adopting the plan for the - the Gorge management planning - the Gorge Commission was having all these meetings, we were standing outside in The Dalles and a guy came out - so we had just made an agreement that I would make sure all the environmental groups support acquisition authority and thus compensation throughout the whole Gorge. In exchange, he and the other people that fought us would back the Park Service. So we came to this - what I thought was a great deal. One of the guys he knows comes out, just in a rage, “goddamn commies are stealing my land,” and everything. He kind of winked out me and said, “let’s try out our new theory.” He says, “well, what if we had gone in there with the Park Service and we had bought the quarter they want to protect, and then you’d have been left alone in your other land, maybe getting it in seed [?] -.” He just, “yeah, I could have lived with that,” [laughs]. Just totally defused. But the Friends don’t want to do that. They want to do it through this bureaucratic regulation.
CH: Where’s the Coalition, your group? Where’s that at now?
CW: We’re in hibernation. I mean, we still [indiscernible] every year, so I do a newsletter, just to raise hell.
CH: How many members would you think...
CW: Oh, we don’t even try to have regular members. We’ve got eight people on the board. We still file suits, and timber sales - we shut down a big timber sale on the White Salmon River. But Columbia Gorge Audubon has become the major local force. We do that because they have the credibility to be in the national group. Audubon used to be really good, but they’ve since hired Paul Katchin [sp?] from Thousand Friends of Oregon, and now Portland Audubon’s horrible. They won’t help us at all in the Gorge. They won’t even - they just had two opportunities where they had meetings and hearings they were invited to: one by Blumenauer and one by Channel Two, and they never told Columbia Gorge Audubon. So no one showed up from local environmentalists. So they’re now trying to - Portland Audubon’s trying to basically ruin Columbia Gorge Audubon. But having a group like that, that’s affiliated with a national group, has so much more credibility than the Coalition, so basically - and we’ve done this twice before - we’ve gone into hibernation, but kept the group alive. We’re still incorporated, and renew it.
Our main goal now is to be a truth - is just point out the truth, to go to some area and say, “wait a minute, this is not true. Here’s what’s really going on.” We’re not allowed to take part in the political process, and we have no money or anything, so we just file appeals. We concentrate the tributaries primarily, the Klickitat. Like I say, we just filed a big appeal on the Klickitat River.
CH: And how did you kill the governor’s bill?
CW: Got the national groups to - went back to D.C., and I knew that John Siberling [sp?] was chairman of the Parks Committee then, and just built up opposition among national groups, you know, what you were talking about. I went back and got National Parks and Conservation Association, Wilderness Society at the time was still a pretty good group - I have a lot less respect for them now. They had a person, Ron Tipton [sp?], who I had known going back to when we exposed the scandals in Yosemite, when I was working for Friends of the Earth. He was their national parks expert. American Rivers was a very good group. They helped us out. So basically, I just got all the lobbyists for the national groups to go in and make it very clear that we were against it. It was able to - it was just flying through Congress, and we shut it down really fast [laughs]. So - I think you told you - I called Nancy Russell and she offered to hire me for a day to take pictures...
CH: Oh that’s right, yeah.
CW: proved to her. We were looking to forty thousand dollars and she was looking at one day of pay. That’s a little bit of discrepancy.
CH: Little discrepancy, yeah.
So, at this point, is there anything else you’d like to say on that, or -?
CW: Well, do you want - I could go ahead and just kind of my personal - where I went with the tribes there from -.
CH: Okay, well, we can go back onto that, and then if you think of anything else that will come up, we’ll probably have another session. And in between the sessions then, you’ll be able to...
CW: Right. How soon do these get transcribed?
CH: I don’t what the schedule is. We’re trying to do them pretty quickly, though.
CW: Usually that’s the type things that drag...
CH: Then you’ll be able to go through it...
CW: Yeah, know what I’ve missed.
CH: Exactly. Well, that’s a good idea. We might want to wait for that, just so you can do that.
When I was going back over some of the early things here, I wanted to ask you what you remember as your first contacts with the Columbia River and Columbia River Gorge. You had talked a little bit about spending summers...
CH: ...up in Stevenson...
CW: In our Stevenson land. Yeah well, Skamania.
CH: Skamania rather.
CW: Stevensons kind of at the bottom [laughs].
CH: And do you have any other recollections of your first impressions, your first connections with the Gorge.
CW: Well, that property I have - and I can’t even remember when it wasn’t in my mind. There was this wonderful creek we had - and she was actually one of our secret weapons - is Duncan Creek went along our property there, and on the east side is where the old general store used to be [that] my dad owned, and that’s where I moved back to. It was where he was born, on that piece of property, in the back of the old general store. And then, across on the west side of the creek, Stella Hazard, Stella Potts [sp?], was the local postmistress. She was my dad’s high school girlfriend. She was just wonderful, and everyone loved her, and she was an adamant environmentalist. She was one of our secret weapons. By the time Nancy ruined us and we were getting back, she had passed away. So we’d always go up and spend time on the property, and walk around. I remember my sister chasing a little bear, trying to look under its tail, and we’re, “oh no!” [laughs], trying to drag her back. We’d get steelhead out of the creek, and then we’d go see Stella and have dinner over there. So that place is so ingrained in my mind, since I can remember. I can’t remember not knowing that place. That to me was the Gorge. The rest of it was sort of abstract. To me, the Gorge was western Skamania County, the rain forest, where my Indian family was from, and my great great grandma’s orchard. We’d go down there and pick apples and stuff. My main image of the Gorge was our property, and the area around it there.
CH: Could you explain on a real - sort of a general level, and then maybe more specifically, why the salmon are important in the Columbia River.
CW: Well, being Indian, it goes beyond the food. It’s not sport. In fact - kind of a little side thing here, but it’s one of my favorite stories - the biggest problem among environmentalists and Indians is over sport fishing and catch and release versus commercial or subsistence fishing. The policies of the environmental movement are for the most part determined by sport fishing groups, like Oregon Trout, and such. They often try to take the moral high road in dealing with Indians. They say, “we throw our fish back so we’re morally superior to you Indians who won’t throw them back.” When I was working with Intertribe, a guy from Woodland came down, a sports fisherman, made a bunch of presentations to the commission about why Indians should be doing catch and release fishing. All the leaders sat there very quietly - very amazingly politely, because these people were really fighting them on every level. And they sat there quietly, and in about an hour and they got all done, and they got done making the presentation. Harold Culp [sp?] was an elderly, since past away, Warm Springs guy, had a massive grin with gold teeth, just ear to ear grin. He just smiled and says, “well, I was raised to not play with my food,” and that was [laughs] - that was the end of the meeting. So the idea of the fishing for sport is not something that’s an Indian mentality. You fish for food or spiritual reasons, but it’s not a sport. Indians view fishing as, why would you harass a fish and then let it go, if you’re not going to eat it. I had someone one time, knowing I was both Indian and [an] environmental activist, ask me, “So what do you think about catch and release fishing?” I said, “well, if you’re on a stream where there’s both native and hatchery fish, and you’re letting the wild go, and keeping the hatchery, that’s one thing. Other than that, how’d you like to be walking along a stream, and you see an apple, and you pick it up, and suddenly you’re yanked under water and shook around until you’re almost drowned to death, and then a fish throws you out to the bank to let you recover?” He said, “well, that’s pretty clear,” [laughs].
So for Indians, it’s the whole center of the religion and such. You don’t eat salmon in the spring until there’s the ceremony at Celilo, which is probably the most important religious ceremony, for a Northwest Indian. Celilo’s kind of Mecca for Northwest Indians. It’s integrated into our whole culture. Even though I’m not a traditionalist that way, it’s something I definitely honor that way. But to me it’s subsistence or spiritual. It’s nothing to do with sport fishing, or flyfishing. I have no particular interest in that.
It’s just a sad thing to have them disappear. A lot of the problem being - Bonneville Dam’s built on top of my village. It’s really ironic - is the second powerhouse at Bonneville Dam is the newest dam on the Columbia River, and it’s the biggest fish killer. So somehow technology has not advanced. I’m not ready to get into it, but a lot of the problem have with being from Bonneville Dam was that in the Mitchell Act in 1938, the company, Bonneville Dam was to set up hatchery programs to restore salmon that are being destroyed by the dams. Obviously, the salmon runs being destroyed by the dams are upriver from Bonneville, because it’s a lower - eighteen out of the twenty-one hatcheries put in under the Mitchell Act are below Bonneville Dam, purposely set up so the Indians would never get the fish. They’re set up as terminal hatchery fish producers for commercial, not Indian, fisherman. That’s one of the things I really worked with when I was in Intertribe, was forming an alliance between upriver sportsmen and the Indian tribes, which worked very good. It kind of forced politically Congress to reprogram the money, and start spending the money upriver, were the dams were done - or where the dams were doing the damage. One of the key things is that the biggest harvester of salmon at the dams, it’s not the Indians, it’s not the commercial fisherman, it’s the dams. And it’s not just the dams, the fact that there’s salmon runs, coho crashing on the coast, where there aren’t dams proves that habitat has - clearcutting and such has a lot to do with it. East of the mountains, mining and grazing are, more than clearcutting, the problem. But the dams - the Power Council estimates two thirds of the mortality is from the dams on the Columbia system.
CH: How did that all happen? I mean, the development of the Columbia River basin sort of happened back in the mid eighteen-hundreds, as the inhabitants started coming in, and navigation, and things like that. How did it get to the point where it is today, and why weren’t - maybe you could describe how the Native American people were involved in what happened.
CW: Well, they were basically left out of any decision making, and did not have political clout. The dams, there was a private dam that preceded Bonneville, but Bonneville in thirty-eight, and then Grand Coulee in forty were the big ones that really - and Grand Coulee, by itself, blocked off a third of salmon spawning habitat. When they closed it in 1940, it immediately wiped out the June hogs, the hundred pound summer Chinooks that used to go clear up into Canada to spawn.
CH: Why would Canada allow that?
CW: They didn’t really have a whole lot of choice, plus they wanted a dam up there. But I doubt if they had the political clout to stop the United States. It was, everyone kind does what they want in their borders, and there was not a treaty with Canada involving fisheries until eighty-five. But I imagine they wanted to build their own dams. No one was really concerned about fish at the time. It was never even brought up. A number of factors happened - most of the dams were authorized during the war. Like The Dalles Dam, even though it wasn’t completed until fifty-seven, [it] was authorized during the war. The Warm Springs and the Indians that tried to fight it were literally threatened that they’d go after their patriotism. In other words, if they tried to fight the dams, they would go after them for being unpatriotic to the war effort. So you weren’t allowed to do that. And then you had agencies. One of the most stunning things is when the Bureau of Fisheries, the predecessor to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, did the environmental assessment on the impacts from The Dalles Dam, they said, “yes, it will kill a lot of fish, but it’s also going to have the side benefit of destroying Indian fishing, and prevent Indians from being able to fish. So their will be a net improvement in salmon runs because of The Dalles Dam. No federal agency could ever get away with [laughs] - with that today, which shows a chance. The tribes - traditionally it’s been the states and private citizens going after Indian fishing, and the federal government has trust responsibilities. So the main opponents of Indian fishing have always been the states, which until about twenty years ago commercial white fishing groups had control over the state fisheries agencies. And since then, sport fishing probably has an equal - you know, it’s much more equitable there. So what would happen is - and the tribes, it took them decades and decades, and went to the Supreme Court: the Boldt and Belloni decisions. The Boldt decision’s the one for Puget Sound, and the Baloney’s the companion one for the Columbia River, which was the Warm Springs, Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce, tribes filed that. They one their treaty rights, I think it was sixty-nine. It took them many many years to get up to the Supreme Court. So the Supreme Court ruled that the states could not regulate Indian fishing, except for conservation reasons. There had to be - we didn’t have an Endangered Species Act then, but there had to be endangered species. At the time, BIA had trust responsibility over tribal fisheries. The tribes themselves, it was still a patronistic system, and the tribes didn’t really have much direct input into fishing policy. So what happened after the - sixty-nine, when we won all the Supreme Court cases, what would happen would be the states would open up the commercial fishing in the lower Columbia, and as soon as the run would start crossing Bonneville Dam, they’d go into court and shut it down for commercial reasons. So the tribes would still lose. They won the Supreme Court [laughs] but had no way of enforcing it. So, in seventy-seven, Carter put in a self-determination program, and the tribes said, “Whoa boy! Yeah, we’re all for that. Give us BIA’s money and we’ll run our own fisheries.” That’s when each tribe really upped their professional expertise, and that’s when Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, so that the tribes had their own biologist. I don’t know, I don’t work their now, but when I left Intertribe, they had never lost a suit. Since seventy-seven, when the tribes had their biologist, the states would keep going in and, “well, we’ve got to shut this down.” The tribal biologist would come in, and it was real obvious who was telling the truth, and the tribes won every single law suit after that.
Things got really better for a while. The fish runs started coming back, fall Chinook, steelhead...
CH: When was that?
CW: From seventy-seven into the early eighties. But then around eighty-five, just all the other factors, dam moral- you know, all the other dams going in, just kind of undid that. But there was a huge improvement following the tribes getting control over their own fisheries. There’s another - that’s not really been enforced - there’s a second decision called Boldt Two, that ruled that half of nothing doesn’t fulfill treaty rights. So the federal government, under treaty rights, cannot allow any more development that hurts salmon runs. It was one of those that has never been tested all the way to the Supreme Court, and it’s in no small part because this is still the Reagan Supreme Court, and it’s not a time to take Indian issues to the Supreme Court. So there’s a lot of debate going on. But that’s theory - I mean, I don’t know, this may be what Ed Chaney mentioned. But that’s theoretically the most - strongest way of protecting salmon that will ever be.
CH: I think part of his view too, was that so many people were arguing - so many of the various groups were arguing who had what percentage of the catch.
CH: Including, you know, the Native American groups...
CH: ...Were doing the same thing, and that, by framing the debate within that context, that it was ignoring the main problem of the fish, which was the dams -the dams killing the fish. And instead of everybody focusing on that one issue, they were focusing on who would get the percentage of the catch.
CH: And that gave the dams, the B.P.A., the Corps of Engineers, and whatnot, sort of the excuse to say, “well, we’re only part of the problem, and the commercial fishers are part, and the Forest Service is part, and the other groups are part, and the other groups are part, the natives are part. And that - So we’re just one part. Do you think that was a...
[End of Tape 5, Side 1]
January 25, 1999
Tape 5, Side 2
CH: ...You wanted to finish up with the chronology on your involvement.
CW: Right. And so - is that going?
CH: Yes it is.
CW: So then, like I say, when I got back involved, the Friends of the Gorge had promised Packwood that they’d give us tens of thousands of dollars. We were looking at a tenth of there - a ten percent tithe of their $400,000 a year budget. And they refused to ever give that money. They went through - there’s some really interesting stuff there, where they only one executive director that ever tried to work with us, and this was after the bill passed.
Just to throw this, in case I don’t forget it, he came up to me one time and wanted to take me to lunch and I said, “I don’t take anything from the Friends that doesn’t have at least three zeros behind it,” but I did go out and talk to him. And he’s the only director they’ve had out of - who knows, ten, twelve - that ever tried to work with local people, and treated local people right. All the rest had known their job was to prevent us from ever being able to take part in politics, and to disfranchise us, to not only not talk to us, but do everything they can to never allow us. The condition of his being hired was that he get to look at the books, and they stalled and stalled, and they finally got a hold of the books. It turned out that the treasurer was the treasurer and writing the checks, and when he got a hold of the books, he found out $80,000 had disappeared. So he was fired by Nancy Russell and Bowen Blair. And the person embezzling wasn’t gone after, they went after their new executive director. He filed a law suit against them, and ended up winning a huge settlement against them. A lot of the stuff in his files are just incredibly incriminating. I guess - I never made an effort to go get them. If I do my book, I probably will. But there’s some mind-boggling stuff in there, but he was fired.
Anyway they had - Bowen Blair was the director during - after the Don Clark era ended, well, they hired a new director. Nancy Russell was, my - from a fairly good source, was the only guy that wanted to hire this guy, Bowen Blair, who’s an heir to International Harvesters, old Chicago money, [indiscernible] money, and very elitist lawyer, just graduated from Lewis and Clark. She was the only supporter on the Friends board of him. The others wanted to hire Alan Mercer, from Seattle, who made the mistake of telling me he thought that my pol- my proposal made a lot more sense [laughs]. She blocked it, and they hired him. Things were supposed to change, but they didn’t. He was every bit as horrible as the previous ones, and just refused to work with us and such. Anyway, we came up through - and like I say, we were not fighting them directly, which is the worst mistake of my life, which is why we lost. By late eighty-five, we knew we were going to lose. It was just - you know, it ain’t much. But Packwood kept trying. When the Friends of the Gorge never gave me the money, and I lived on money off my book sales, rather than paying my debt. I had borrowed over a hundred grand to get my Gorge book out in time to save the Gorge. Instead of paying that off I lived off that money to protect the Gorge. And it ended up, by eighty-five, I was on the verge of losing everything. So Intertribal Fish Commission hired me at the beginning of eighty-six, versus the publications editor. I stayed there for about three and a half years, and the last half of that I was the manager of the Public Information Department, and did the publications end as a department manager. That was when Tim Wapato was the executive director. It was a much smaller place. It was just the most wonderful place to work then. And now it’s a bureaucracy [laughs] unfortunately. Then it was just family. It was wonderful. When Tim left, in 1980 - No. In ninety.
CW: Yeah. He left in late eighty-nine, early ninety. I had been there three and a half years, so I just left - I had to move into Portland, and rent an important. I stayed in Vancouver first, and that commute about killed me, so I rented an apartment in Portland, and lived for about three and a half years working for Intertribe, and got totally burned out with city life, and got enough debts paid of to get back on my feet. Then in ninety, I went to work for the Yakama Indian Nation part-time, doing the publications for the Yakama- Klickitat Hatchery Project, in which our other tape I’d go into a lot of detail, because that’s a fascinating - you know, that’s a really fascinating one. And I did that for a year, and then just kind of worked my way back into being an artist and a photographer, and start working on books. Then, I bought my gallery, in the beginning of 1994, in The Dalles, and had just opened it. While I was in the process of opening up my gallery, I wrote a friend of mine, who had done a documentary on fishing throughout the country I helped him on for ABC, formed a non-profit group called the Earth Conservation Corps, and had a connection to the Department of Energy, and he called - back during the Bush administration, we had first met, we had come up - we didn’t have the name [indiscernible, two words] yet. But we had come up with this idea to have an Indian youth group that worked to restore salmon habitat in exchange for college scholarships. We made a proposal to the Department of Energy, and were promised a billion dollars by the admiral who was in the - the secretary of energy and such, and we never saw a penny. So we had kind of given up on the idea. Then, in the beginning of ninety-four, he gets a call from - there’s some carryover for the Department of Energy. Hazel O’Leary had just ordered the Department of Energy to put together the most innovative AmeriCorps program in the country. One of the carry-overs remembered our proposal, and dug it, and called us up and said, “hey, you’re sitting this?” And we said, “hey, we’ve been there before,” you know [laughs]. They said, “no, no, no. This is the Clinton administration. We do things. So I took a couple months while I was opening up the gallery, and went and visited the four Intertribe tribes.
CH: Which ones were they?
CW: Warm Springs, Umatilla, Nez Perce, and Yakama. Same ones in Intertribal, that’s why I knew all the heads at the fisheries. And then the Shoshone Bannocks at the Fort Hall reservation. And that program, they weren’t part of Intertribe, but Lockheed bankrolled that money. So while we were in the process of writing this grant, waiting for our AmeriCorps money - and we worked. We got a 2.1 million dollar grant from the AmeriCorps and the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy matched it, and were really wonderful, I must say. I had the real doubts about them being one of the three - my three bosses, but they were wonderful. So we wrote this grant, and we ended up getting a 2.1 million dollar grant. So that summer in August - all the other AmeriCorps projects around the country, almost all of them had year-long planning grants and a lot of staff, and time to get ready. From when we finally got the AmeriCorps money, I had one and a half months to set up an entire a program, and never got back to my gallery. I was on the road. You know, Monday I’d be at Yakama, and Tuesday at Umatilla, and Wednesday, Nez Perce, and Thursday [laughs] I’d be at Warm Springs. I just, I threw my back out. I just lived on the road, and I wasn’t even - [hadn’t] had time to have people run my gallery. So I ended up closing down my gallery for a while. Like I say, I didn’t plan to mana - we got the grant, and all this money, and a wonderful program, and nothing happened. Finally, the tribes said, “hey, smart guy. You dreamed it up, you run it,” [laughs]. So I managed it for the first year, until late ninety-five. That’s one of the proudest things I’ve ever done. One of the things I really liked about it was that we just had kids out there - eighty kids every day out doing incredible work. You get eighty pairs - or a hundred six- you know, eighty pairs of hands going four days a week, it’s just mind-boggling what you could do. The most wonderful thing about it for me was that the Nancy Russells and the rich people of the world couldn’t block me. We had the kids out there just doing work, and there was no way they could stop me [laughs] from doing all this great work. So, it was...
CH: Now, were you working with AmeriCorps then?
CW: Yeah, it was an AmeriCorps grant. I worked for the tribes and the Earth Con- it was a partnership between the five tribes involved, the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, the Department of Energy, and a non-profit foundation in D.C. called the Earth Conservation Corps, and they administered the program. So I was the manager of the Salmon Corps. Then the Earth Conservation Corps had other programs. They had the Eagle Corps working on eagles, and a few others, but Salmon Corps was their biggie. This is the one that put them on the map.
CH: So who were you working with in AmeriCorps, then?
CW: Well, we had a person, Brian Tressle [sp?] I think was his name - he was out of D.C. Each project has an officer. We were a direct federal grant. Most AmeriCorps programs are through the states, and you work - like at PSU is the Oregon office, and then there’s one that’s in Seattle I think it is, over the Washington - and most programs, the grants go to the states, and they divvy it up. But we were a direct federal with the Department of Energy, and there was another one locally in Portland and Trout Lake, the Northwest Service Academy, that was the one John Stuart [sp?] ran. They were a direct federal with the Forest Service.
CH: John Stuart ran the one in Trout Lake?
CW: Well, he was over the whole program.
CH: Oh, the whole program.
CW: Yeah. The Northwest Service Academy had a residency program in Trout Lake, where the young people stayed there and lived. And then they had a big one in Corbett that was strictly a daytime, where they went home at night, and they came and volunteered in during the day. He was the big boss over both of them, and then had a manager over each program, and did a great, great job.
CH: So then what was his relationship, in his structure, to yours?
CW: We were peers. We were both managers of our programs, and so...
CH: So did he coordinate his activities then, with your activities
CW: Oh very much, yeah.
CH: Did the groups actually work together?
CW: We did a couple of times, and it was great. At Celilo, there’s all kinds of work and such, so a couple of his crews from Trout Lake, and crews from three of the reservations came down and camped there for a week, and restored the kitchen, and put in insulation, and...
CH: What were you doing in Celilo? What’s there?
CW: Well, it was to get ready for the spring pow wow. There was thousands of people coming for the salmon feed and the pow wow, and there were no bathrooms, there was no - roof leaking, there was - just the infrastructure to host 5000 people [laughs] or however many showed up, wasn’t there.
CH: What exists there now?
CW: Well there’s, in terms of community buildings, there’s the longhouse of course, which is the religious center. And hooked onto it is the kitchen. There’s a big kitchen where they do all the meals. Then there’s the - what do they call it, the arboretum? Something, there’s another big building with no floors. It’s dirt floor and a real just plywood, tin roof building, but that’s where most of the pow wows are held, in there. Then there’s two trailers put together, and one side of it’s not active. It was kind of the local office for it, when they had a more active government there. The other half’s the Head Start and the Indian youth programs and such. So those are the only public buildings, and then there’s maybe forty people that live there.
CH: So people are still living there.
CW: Yeah, there’s about forty that live there, despite the fact that they’re not legally not living there. The courts did everything they could to get them out of there, and they just never left, and just stayed there. So technically, most of them are squatters and such, but they still have their community.
CH: But they’re endowed lands. I mean, they’re...
CW: Well, they’re trust lands that are in a unique position where they’re jointly administered by the Warm Springs, Yakama, and Umatilla tribes. I don’t know of any other trust lands that are administered by more than one tribe. It causes a lot of problems.
You kind of have the tragedy of the commons, where everyone else is the - there’s a long tradition of the river Indians, the river people of which I’m one, fighting the tribal councils. When the river people were forced - after the 1855 treaty, when the river people were - well, that reminds me, on your list of the Homestead Act and such, in the Gorge in the Columbia River, the Donation Land Act in about 1850 was much more of a factor of getting white-owned land than was the Homestead land. It was the early eighteen-fifties. That was where the Indian land was really taken away by whites, was the Donation Land claim, similar to the Homestead Act.
CH: Was that what followed the Stevens Treaties?
CW: Yeah. Or actually, it preceded the treaties.
CH: Preceded them? Because I think it was 1853 or something.
CW: Yeah, and the treaties were fifty-five, the main ones. So the treaties were kind of - they had already illegally - and Indians talk about that a lot, that most of those Donation claims were not legal because the lands hadn’t been ceded to the U.S. government. But a hundred and fifty years ago, it’s hard to go back [laughs] and do that, but that’s a definite sore point.
CH: I know that Celilo’s always been talked about the longest settled, inhabited place in North America.
CW: Well it’s just downstream from there. It’s actually more Chinook people, Wishram people. It’s the Wake-em-up [sp?] that was excavated, before it was flooded by The Dalles Dam. It’s actually Celilo-speaking people. So, from the mouth of the Columbia to where the long narrows were, to where Horse Thief Lake State Park, is roughly where that village was, and was Chinook people. Although, on the Washington side there were a lot Shahaptian speaking Klickitats intermingled with Chinooks, which is real unusual. Two different language groups lived together in the area. But, in general, up to a little east of The Dalles, was Chinook people, Wascos and Wishrams - Wishkums as we call ourselves. Then, from Celilo on, were Shahaptian people. The place that was continuous - see, they were migratory - is a Chinook area. It had been continuously occupied for 11,000 years. When they excavated, there was a total - I can’t remember what you call it - stratification without a break for 11,000 years. 11,000 years ago was the last Missoula flood, and so...
CH: Even if there were people before that, they wouldn’t...
CW: Right, there’d be no trace. So there probably - if there were people there immediately after it, you could make a good logical argument that there people there, but there’d be no - you know, when you have a mile of water [laughs]...
CW: ...roaring through, there’d be no - but it had been continuously occupied, and that is a Wishram - Wishkum village there. We’d always say, “at least 11,000 years.”
CH: Yeah. Right.
CW: And they’re starting to date back further. I think they’re - in North America, they’ve got sights going back 30,000 years.
CW: I think Fort Rocks, back to something like that now.
CW: Yeah. They keep - you know, everyone said the Indians came over 11,000 years ago over the Bering Land Mass, and the Indians said, “no, we were here before that.” Now, they keep going further and further back. I don’t - in fact they were talking about that this morning, across - with the Indian curator across the [indiscernible] - the fact that there were Indians here before doesn’t necessarily conflict with people coming over on the Bering...
CH: Oh, yeah.
CW: You could have both.
CW: And particularly from the mouth of the Columbia up to Alaska, a lot of the coastal people have somewhat Asian - my great great grandpa had a Fu Manchu mustache, and such. So you have some Asian characteristics. So, like I say, they’re not mutually exclusive. Anyway, the Salmon Corps, I ran that until late ninety-five. Then - this is just personal - then a week later I got the type of bacterial pneumonia that killed Jim Hansen of the Muppets, and ended up I was within an hour of being dead. I was into the death rattle, and lost most of that year, and wasn’t able reopen my gallery, and left me bankrupt. I just got well and found out my mom was dying, and spent time with her. Then, [I] got last year by a drunk driver in The Dalles, and totaled my car - hit my with a great big Cadillac, and they never caught her, and that pretty well wiped out that year [laughs], so I just opened my gallery finally, here, just a few months ago, in the fall of ninety-eight, and tried to get back on my feet. I had already been bankrupt from all the Gorge work, and lost most of my property because I wouldn’t clear-cut it. So, I’m just now getting back on my feet. In terms of the Gorge - actually this is just - I guess you want some personal history there [laughs].
CH: Yeah. No, I appreciate that.
CW: So I finally have reopened my gallery a couple of months ago, and I’m slowly trying to get books published, and I’m just - you know, I have massive debts, sixty-five grand in credit cards to support myself when I was laying the hospital almost dead [laughs] and stuff, taking care of my mom and stuff. Which, this makes me really angry because the Friends of the Gorge have - I don’t really care that much about money, but when they have a minimum of six people being paid high salaries, none of them had ever lifted a finger on the Gorge until there was a high paying job for it. None of them ever lifted a finger afterwards. They just get keep getting paid, and not one penny has ever gone to a local person. It just tends to make you really - you know, when you start getting into financial troubles, and you see people fighting you getting big salaries, and you never got a penny, it’s a very bitter pill [laughs] to take there.
CH: So are you doing anything on the Columbia Gorge right now?
CW: Yeah, we still raise a lot of hell, and a lot - actually, I picket the Friends of the Gorge [laughs] as much as anything. We’re down to the point where basically the biggest problem we have in the Columbia Gorge right now is the cover up. The Friends of the Gorge have totally covered up the truth, and they - we’re still banned from the Oregonian. There’s still never been an interview or a letter to the editor, or an opinion piece in the Oregonian since the mid-eighties, since the Journal was - but we had a screaming match in eighty-five that led to getting about a four-inch article from the Coalition’s office manager. That’s the last time a local environmentalist has ever been allowed in the Oregonian to comment on it. The Friends of the Gorge keep saying everything’s just wonderful and - one of the things that just enrages me about Hatfield is that he held a press conference last fall, here at PSU - I sure wish I’d known about it - with the Friends of the Gorge, and announced, “for some people just don’t understand, there still are some problems in the Gorge, and the Friends of the Gorge say the same thing.” He held a tenth anniversary hearing right before he retired, and didn’t allow a single environmentalist to testify. The Friends of the Gorge person, who was from Arizona, got to testify, and none of us were allowed to testify. She said, “we have no problems at all in the Gorge. Nothing that will -” and there was already 700 houses at that point, which she didn’t acknowledge. Hatfield, from information I had given to his staff person who really was impressed - he thought I was a crackpot until I met with him. About ten minutes into it, he realized I knew what I was talking about, had all the...
CH: Who was that?
CW: Dave Robertson?
CH: Jack Roberts? Jack Roberts is with the B.P.A.
CW: No, I think his name - he’s been doing contracting work for Friends of the Gorge. Nice guy, and he was really impressed, and went and asked Hatfield to let me testify, and Hatfield said, “No way. Absolutely no way.” So the Friends of the Gorge said we have absolutely no problems, and they did an editorial piece in the Oregonian saying, “the Gorge Bill’s paid off and it’s all protected. A little more land acquisition money and everything’s protected. Now they’re saying, “we don’t understand why people -” but they totally covered until the Bea House was so ugly that it blew the lid off. So, we’ll never get Gorge protection until there’s a public perception that there’s a problem in the Gorge, and...
CH: Have you tried to go through other public forms to do that, either like publications, and you were talking about Vancouver...
CW: Vancouver Columbian will, and Seattle Times - both interview us. But the power that can save the Gorge is in Portland. Until we get Portland - the Oregonian won’t acknowledge problems except for the one house.
CH: What about Willamette Week?
CW: Willamette Week will not either, there since - they were wonderful back when Pat Amadeo - remember how I told you how she lied to the Gorge Commission about the days they were supposed to meet? I leaked all that information to Tom Alkyer [sp?]. You probably remember him.
CH: Tom -?
CW: Alkyer. He was a writer, and he worked with them from the early eighties. He did a great piece called “Twilight for the Gorge.” I think I have it in that stuff - and he exposed all that. In fact, Craig and I actually gave him all that information. Pat Amadeo almost got fired over it. I mean, it just blew her job to pieces. That’s the last time Willamette Week - when I got arrested chained to the Heathman, they printed the Heathman’s rebuttal, but never said why I got arrested, or what our problems were. They just - assessment’s totally in with the Friends of the Gorge. They’re just the yuppy dating paper [laughs] as far as I know. They trash Skamania County, being responsible for what problems are in the Gorge, but never allow us to print our rebuttal, saying, “wait a minute. Let’s look at Multnomah County.”
CH: What about any of the environmental organizations for getting these ideas out?
CW: It’s almost - the Friends of the Gorge, after two million dollars - there’s almost nowhere we can - they’ve just worn us down with money. We basically rarely go outside the Gorge, except to picket the Friends. Like I say, there will be no hope for the Gorge until we get the word out that there are problems. We have this massive cover up. We go to people in Portland, “well, everything’s just fine. Why would we want to change legislation?” So, almost all of my energy on the Gorge now is spent exposing what’s going on and why. I’m as likely to picket the Friends as I am S.D.S. lumber and such. My main focus now is on exposing what is going on in the Gorge. Like I say, the Vancouver Columbian will print articles and such, but we got to get - Portland’s where we do -. I’m still involved. We still file appeals and things like that, but we’re not really that active, in semi-hibernation. But our day may come. Things are getting so bad that somehow they’re not going to keep the - but people have been telling me for six seven years, that know what’s going on the Gorge - the local people - “things are so horrible, they just can’t keep the lid on this.” In fact, when they started clearcutting there below Crown Point - John Katen [sp?] - did you meet him? He was an environmental reporter for Channel Eight. See Channel Eight and the Oregon Journal were the two Portland media that really supported us. As late as eighty-five was doing editorials, which I have copies, and even did a brochure, urging people to make the Gorge a National Park Service area, and had the Coalition listed above the Friends of the Gorge as the group to contact. They’re still the only one. They were great. People try to cover up that we actually [laughs] had some support. But they and the Oregon Journal were the two Portland media that the Friends were able - but now, we just don’t have the people - we just do our work in the Gorge and don’t come in. I forget what I was telling you about Channel Eight. Something about...
CH: You were talking about someone that was...
CW: Oh yeah, so they started clearcutting about three years ago below Crown Point. The Friends of the Gorge were appalled, of course, and they ended up doing a trade for some old growth of the Forest Service that’s now going to be raped, that they traded. That’s the way the Friends work. It’s not in the Gorge, so that’s okay. Their land trades in the Gorge are a real scandal. Old growth timber was given in national forest elsewhere for third growth in the Gorge. It was just a massive boondoggle for the timber industry, and Dan Evans and Hatfield orchestrated that whole thing. It’s just sleazy beyond belief. So anyway, we called up John Katen and said, “that’s nothing, I could name you a hundred clear-cut right now.” He’s like - he obviously did not believe me, and he said, “tell me where,” and I said, “mouth of the Little White Salmon, mouth of the -” and I named all these places. So, he called me up the next night and he says, “I got them to let me take a helicopter through.” He says, “you’re right! It’s almost clear-cut. From the air, there’s just almost nothing left standing in the Gorge,” my point. So he went up and interviewed Dennis White. We had three days on T.V. of local environmentalists. He’s now - went to work for an environmental group in Montana, so - our person that would cover it. I remember a friend of mine’s working for Elizabeth Furse, and she said, “man, Chuck, you’ve finally blown the lid off this cover-up. We were getting more calls on this than anything.” I said, “Friends will have it totally killed within the week. I guarantee it.” She said, “no way! We’re getting hundreds of calls a day.” Within a week there was no more mention of that, to any clearcutting in the Gorge [laughs]. The Friends just totally...
CH: Do you know who the Friends then talked to, to squash that?
CW: Well, at the Oregonian, they go right to Fred Stickel, the publisher. He’s one of Nancy Russell’s friends.
CH: What about the television stations?
CW: There, it’s more just neglect. They don’t want to do the homework. It’s not like they really have to squash it. They only talk to people in Portland, and they know the Friends of the Gorge, so they just call them. It isn’t really - I don’t think with say, Channel Two or Six there’s any particular intent on it. They just don’t know any difference, and will not - that’s the thing with Channel Eight. They did a documentary in eighty-five - you ought to try to get a copy of it - called, “The Gorge Under Siege.” It was wonderful. I need to get a - in fact, when Boyd [sp?] was still there, the news director, I had ordered one, and we never got up there. I wonder if you can still get one that old.
CH: Channel Eight?
CW: Eight, yeah. They did one, “The Gorge Under Siege.” It was an hour-long documentary, and it’s by far the best thing ever done on the Gorge. There was, Lory Van- beautiful young woman - but they used to give them like six months or so to do documentaries, where other stations, “you’ve got a week to do on the Gorge.” She went in, like everyone else in Portland, with The Friends of the Gorge are the main group. They gave her six months, and about a month into it she realized that the Friends knew nothing about [laughs] what was going on. So she based it on - I’m on there two or three times, as much as the Friends of the Gorge are. The whole thing’s centered about me, and interviewing the inner office in White Salmon, and such. It was an excellent - the best piece ever done on the Gorge. They were totally supportive of us. We just don’t have the money. So we’ll go educate these people, and the next week we get a call from them, they got a new reporter on. So we spend five days educating them, and they’re gone in two weeks. We just can’t do it. The Friends have six staff to just go around full time, “there’s no problem. There’s no problem,” and have unlimited expenses. We have no income, no money, so there’s no - we just can’t - we did every take ever day, every minute we’re awake, and can’t finance it, so we go after the Friends now, instead of second hand. We just go right to the problem [laughs], and picket their annual picnics, and whenever they’re having some scam meeting that they’re raising money, we picket them and point out the truth [laughs].
CH: Well, at this point is there anything else you’d like to add to that? Or should we pick up later on...
CW: Well, not too much. I mean, I do think it’s totally hopeless. I don’t see any way. Until we can blow the lid on the cover up. The Friends have total control over Earl Blumenauer. One of the things that enrages me about Multnomah County is there’s only been two counties ever in the history of the country - and I don’t know if I mentioned this the other day - that fought a National Park Service Urban Area adjacent to their city. The other was Los Angeles County. There we had a great congressmen, a friend of mine, Tony Bealason [sp?], and he just pushed and pushed for the Park Service. We won there, despite the opposition.
CH: You’re talking about the Santa Monica Mountains?
CW: Right, National Recreation Area. L.A. County’s the only other county other than Multnomah that fought Park Service area next to there, adjacent - like I say, Nixon’s head of the secretary of the interior over the parks said, “any kind of big city official would have to be nuts to fight one of those park areas,” So Ron Wyden sold us out. If we had had - if Don Clark had supported Park Service, and if Ron Wyden had kept his promise, we could have won the Gorge. Now he’s a senator, he’s never going to - I mean, the Friends will never admit wrongdoing. All the problems in Gorge, or ninety-nine percent of them, are directly the fault of their legislation. They will not even acknowledge they are any part. Like I say, Earl Blumenauer screamed at me at the legislation, “it’s perfect! There’s absolutely no problem with their legislation.” I said, “why are we having all the -.” “Well, it’s the budget! They’re cutting the budget,” and I say, “740 of those 750 houses were approved when they were fully funded.” You know, “don’t tell me -” [laughs], the Bea House was approved by both the Friends of the Gorge and the commission before the budget started getting cut. So, it has absolutely nothing to do with it, but everyone’s looking for a scapegoat. I don’t think Nancy Russell ever will admit there’s any problems with the bill. She’s made it very clear that she’d rather, unfortunately see it wholly destroyed, than ever admit she was wrong. That’s just kind of the way her personality is. Then you have politicians - they give them out. If Nancy Russell really wanted to protect the Gorge, you don’t go to Hatfield and let him set your policy. You work to force him over. By having a fake environmental group, she just gives people like Wyden and Hatfield an out, and allows them to claim that they’re environmentalists protecting the Gorge, when in fact they’re not. If Hatfield hadn’t had a fake environmental group we would have won the Gorge, because there would have been no way the public would have let him put in the bill the way it is now. If it had been the regular environmental groups, there’s no way Hatfield could have put in such a hoax as that. But he had his own personal environmental group that he controlled the strings of, that would never buck him on anything, never once have ever bucked him, no matter how abusive it got for the timber industry. So anyway, I just think - I don’t see any hope now. Like I say, all we do is try to go around...
[End of Tape 5, Side 2]
17 March 1999
Tape 6, Side 1
CH: This is an interview with Chuck Williams at my house, this is Clark Hansen, 3200 NW Skyline Boulevard in Portland, Oregon, at the top of the west hills and I am the interviewer for the Oregon Historical Society. The date is March 17th, 1999, and this is tape six, side one.
In our last session you were from my impression at least, very pessimistic about the Columbia Gorge and the Columbia River. You said that things won’t improve until people perceive that there’s a problem with the Columbia Gorge. And then at one point you said that the situation was totally hopeless.
CW: Yes, it is. It is totally hopeless. We’ve lost...
CH: How do you feel about the article that came out today, in today’s paper about the listing of the various fish and fish runs on the Endangered Species Act? Do you think that’s a step in the right direction?
CW: Oh I think it definitely is. It just brings up a tension, urban people have tended to cover over the problems they’ve created. They’ve just kind of assume those are rural problems and where of course we’ve got the great city of Portland still dump sewage in the river every time it rains and hasn’t made a, doesn’t to me like a really serious effort to try and clean up that mess although the sewage rates keep going through the roof.
CH: What do you think needs to be done? What steps need to be taken?
CW: Well, the problem with salmon is that so many, they cross so many jurisdictions and there are so many things need to be done. And I don’t know whether the things that need to be done will ever be done, I mean they tend to go after the weakest links first. I know Tim Wapato when I was working for the Intertribal Fish Commission debated an Idaho supposed environmental group and on their board they had a person who worked for the Corps, you know a dam person, they had a rancher, they had a timber industry so all the blame was on Indians. And Tim was saying well, whoa, we’re the only people being blamed for this because we’re not at the table there. And the thing is you have the ocean catch, you have the habitat, you have the passage on the river and so much has to be done. I think the draw downs are going to have to happen but you still need habitat there too. I don’t know, it’s such a - you need to get two countries together, Alaska catches more Columbia River salmon than Oregon and Washington do.
CH: Off the coast.
CW: Off the coast when they’re up there. They actually were able to block a treaty between the U. S. and Canada for a couple of decades. They had enough power in eighty-five when the U.S. and Canadian treaty was finally signed basically Alaska finally got rolled. But they had been able for - they catch Canada’s fish and the lower forty-eight’s fish, so they just fish on everything. So they had enough political clout to block any treaty for along time. So much has to be done in terms of logging and in terms of restoration that I don’t know whether - how serious - look at the controversy over the draw-downs and there’s still no draw-downs yet there’s really no dams really being taken out.
CH: If you had it your way, what steps would you take? Are there certain dams you would take out? Are there certain draw-downs you would put in place or?
CW: Well, the two dams I’d move the most are of course Bonneville Dam, that’s built on top of my village. The second powerhouse is built on top of the village that my great-great grandfather was chief of. And their visitors center is on top of what was my family cemetery. So, I have a pet peeve there. And Celilo, of course, was flooded by The Dalles Dam which was one of the major crimes in history. So I have a pet peeve about those. But actually, for the Snake River runs it’s the four lower Snake Rivers which are not really big power generators. It’s more recreation and irrigation and I think the draw-downs of those is crucial to ever get the Snake River runs back. And on the Columbia the John Day is the long one. I don’t know whether we’ll ever be able to see that or not.
Actually, I just read an article in High Country News had an article on the Bea house in the Gorge and I was totally perturbed. It was written by Kathy Durbin who used to be with the Oregonian and she’s with the Cascadia Times which was supposed to be an alternative to the Oregonian slanted coverage and she wrote this totally slanted article on the Gorge. I was wondering why she had done it and I looked at the thanks and they had thanks to Nancy Russell for giving them a big contribution which explained that and evidently Bullet foundation which is really tied to the Friends just bailed them out and such. So, she wrote an article for High Country News which described the Bea house as an anomaly It said that it was one that slipped through the cracks. Well, five hundred and fifty others have slipped to the cracks. And so I mentioned to her, I had dug out an old article in High Country News had a big feature on me on what an optimistic person I was, this very hopeful was one of their exact quotes. I just send them off tomorrow my rebuttal letter saying that I’m not hopeful anymore, I’m totally cynical and demoralized because the political process just won’t allow the right thing to be done. Particularly here in Oregon where we have the Oregonian, a monopolied media. There will never be any real debate I don’t think. I don’t know, I’m not really optimistic about the salmon.
There’s so many things that have to be done. You have the harvest problems. River harvests are really the problem. The closer you get to the source of the spawning the easier it is to regulate fishing so you don’t hurt the endangered runs where you can fish on the hatchery runs and such and the fall chinook runs which are pretty good.
CH: So, why is it not a problem to have - why is it easier to control the fishing at the source?
CW: Well, you’re down to which run. When the fish come up the river in the lower river they’re all mixed together and that’s the biggest problem for commercial - people who fish commercially, it is hard to separate runs. And the closer you get to the source then you can fish on harvest runs or ones that aren’t endangered and so that’s one of the biggest problems is the Tribal fisheries in Zone 6 between Bonneville and McNary and that’s been the way through treaties and lawsuits and negotiations and such. You fish further up the tributaries you have an easier time separating out the runs. It’s a mixed run. Of course in the ocean you have everything really mixed in to everything.
But harvest - ocean harvest is fairly big. Last I knew about sixty percent of the fall chinook were being harvested in the ocean. But then you have river passage and the common thinking has been that upstream passage had been, wasn’t great but had been fairly been solved at the fish ladders but that’s even come out lately but that there’s not near the passage people thought there were of the upstream, of the adults returning was near as good as people had thought. And then the downstream passage, of course, is really horrible. They average about fifteen percent kill on each dam. So the runs coming down from Idaho that have to pass six dams or so you have ninety percent mortality in a good water year and ninety-seven, something like that, in a low water year. And so that’s where the real passage problems have been down river and the barging, of course, is very controversial. I did a newsletter for the Intertribal Fish Commission once talking about fish are on truck coming down the highway and wheat’s in boats coming down the river and somehow the fish ought to be put on the river and wheat on the road. [laughs] So it was mixed up there.
CH: I guess scientifically I have a question about the barging of fish that - since salmon have some mechanism that guides them back to their source...
CW: They think it’s smell primarily.
CH: Well then how did they - I mean if you take them down in trucks or barges or anything else, how are they able to figure out how to get back?
CW: Well, most of the scent is from where they were born so that should already - by the time they’re coming down river that should already have been ingrained in them.
CH: But if they don’t allow them to come down the river...
CW: Right. But they have the smell from the original, where they spawned and were born. They have that born in. I think probably a bigger problem is putting them together in barges. You have the incredible disease problem and such. And so I think that’s actually one of the bigger problems is putting them all together in there. But they seem to be imprinted fairly well if they’re acclimated to the area where they spawned, to their natal stream and such.
CH: There’s a lot of damage to the fish in terms of the vacuums or whatever that they use to draw them up and spit them out.
CW: Right, yes. Just the crowding in tanks and such. And it’s got to be incredible stressful. When they dump the release down below Bonneville then the Corps just assumes that they all live which is not a valid assumption. And then the third part between the passage and the harvest, the third major factor is the habitat which in the forested areas clearcutting is by far the biggest problem. And the dryer areas it’s more grazing and mining are the bigger problems. There’s finally some work starting to be done in habitat which has been fought for years. Like Salmon Corps, the AmeriCorps program I set up does incredible amount of fish restoration work. A lot of the bigger environmental groups talk about that but that’s not where their money goes. Most of the habitat restoration is being done by small groups, AmeriCorps groups and such.
CH: Could you tell me some more about the Salmon Corps and how that was set up and what you did?
CW: Sure. Yes, it is one of the proudest things I’ve ever done in my life. A friend of mine who’s a film maker, Bob Nixon, we worked together on a film done for ABC called Fishing In America when Bush was president and it started out with Bush fishing in the Everglades. This guy Bob Nixon I had met who was the film producer was finishing up the film and he was rafting down the Colorado River with Martin Linton who does the dory, the old environmentalist who takes the wooden boats down the Colorado. And was telling him and Harriot Burgess [sp?] who back then was with the Trust for Public Lands rafting with him. And he was telling him, “I know I’ve got to have Indians in a program about fishing in America but I don’t even know where to start.” So, they said, “Call up our friend Chuck.” So he called me up and came up and ended up hiring me to help produce the Indian side of it and it turned out to be the most praised part of the film, of the documentary. And so he had been planning for quite awhile to set up a nonprofit group that would train kids, to have kids do habitat restoration and environmental work. So we got together and dreamed up Salmon Corps, we didn’t have that name at that time, that would involve primarily the lower Columbia River tribes. I went and met with the tribes and got everything and we made an application to the department of energy - can’t remember his name who was the secretary of energy under Bush - he was a general I think. Anyway, he promised us a billion dollars with a ‘B’ and such [laughs] and we never got a penny out of it.
And so when Clinton came in we got a call one day from the Department of Energy and Clinton had instructed the secretary of energy, Hazel O’Leary to put together the most innovative AmeriCorps program in this country and their had been a holdover person in the administration from the Bush days that kind of remembered our proposal and went back and dug it out. And they said, “Wow, this looks great” so called us up and are you still interested and we kind of been there done that, we don’t really care to put time into something that’s going to be rejected. And they said, “no, no, no this is the Clinton administration, we do things.”
So I took a couple of months off and went and visited with primarily the Warm Springs, Yakama, Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes, the ones that work through the Intertribal Fish Commission and worked out a proposal. He was in the process of forming Earth Conservation Corps, a non-profit group out of D.C. so we put together a proposal for Salmon Corps on five Indian reservations and the other reservation was Ft. Hall, the Shoshone-Bannock people in southeast Idaho. So we got funding from Lockheed to do a test program there while we’re waiting for the AmeriCorps and we ended up getting a two million dollar grant. It was AmeriCorps funding for about forty percent of what we needed and then Department of Energy matched it five to four, I think they put in about fifty percent of funding and the rest we raised from private sources. And it was one of the proudest things I’ve ever done in my life.
We started out with eighty young Indians from eighteen to twenty-five all on five different reservations in the Northwest. They would work a year and they can extend it for another year for up to two years and they do fisheries restoration, other habitat work and at the end of the year they get a forty-seven hundred dollar AmeriCorps scholarship to use for college. And they work four days a week and the fifth day is an education day called a payback day. And that was for me was a really exciting time because one of the things that I wanted to do was to expose the young Indian kids to environments they’d never been in before.
For instance, on the Umatilla Reservation over half of the young people in that program had never seen the ocean. We think of people living near Pendleton in Oregon never having seen the ocean. So they say, “Hey, we want to go see the ocean.” So I told my manager up there. Well, go visit the Hatfield Marine Science lab don’t mention anything about the ocean in your report [laughs]. We won’t get in trouble if you do it that way. So they did, they did a trip out to the Hatfield Science lab and all the kids got to see the ocean for the first time and such. Took them up to universities, and they went to the University of Washington spent a couple days there, went to a football game and we’d just take them around different environments.
Took them down to the environmental law conference in Eugene and we’re in the huge meeting where they had four white lawyers arguing about paper fish as I said and talk about all they were doing. Finally during the question period I announced to the room that we had thirty young Indian kids in there that were out every day fencing off streams, planting native plants and it ended up they got a huge standing ovation. And I said while all you lawyers are arguing about paper fish these kids are out there everyday really returning fish and they end getting a standing ovation and it was great for their self esteem.
I think that was the biggest surprise for me, the most pleasant surprise out of the program was how much the self esteem came up in such a short time. So many of these programs are aimed towards kids that are in gangs and are really in trouble. That wasn’t really the problem on the reservations they just had no opportunity. And here some people came along and gave them a chance to really make something out of their lives and they really responded to the vast majority. At least two hundred young Indians are in college now of which three or four maybe would have been able to go to college otherwise. I’ve had about a half-a-dozen parents tell me I saved their kids life which is the biggest reward of all. Particularly after the Gorge and being fought every way. It was really refreshing because I had eighty people out everyday restoring doing environmental work and none of the Nancy Russells and people could do anything to stop it. [laughs] It was such a fun thing for me to do because I could every day see physical work. I could see the trees being planted and such. And within two or three months the young people had self-esteem that I figure would take a year to have. They had the confidence and most of them are really make something out of their lives and they’re doing really good. So I’d say that’s one of the proudest things.
So I co-founded it and then managed it for little over a year, set up the program. We started out one of the really fun projects was the Trust [ ] and BPA had bought a big ranch, the Conforth Ranch near the town of Umatilla that had huge section along the Columbia and they had an option on the land. It was supposed to become a national wildlife refuge. About half of the land that they had the option on was water. They had these massive potholes with tens of thousands of waterfowl in there at any one time plus a couple mile long stretches of undeveloped to the Columbia River. You sit down there at night and you couldn’t see lights. I don’t know any place else on the Columbia River you could sit there, even though it’s a reservoir, it was wonderful. And so the local ranches there went crazy over this land. It was the biggest feed ranch in Oregon and they were really mad about it. So they went to Bob Smith the then congressman, and he killed the national wildlife refuge. So the Umatilla said, well, we’ll be glad to take this over. And so we’re arranging for that and they finally got title to it just as I was setting up Salmon Corps.
It had no fences around it and it had had two years of no cow and the burling owls had resettled into the area, two endangered species had settle back in. The waterfowl was just coming in by the tens of thousands and they’d had a two year rest from any grazing but it wasn’t fenced on the outside and the rancher was just salivating. All the cattle that had been raised on the Conforth ranch he was releasing in month and they were all going to head in there. There was all that wonderful high grass and they’re all headed in there. And the tribe didn’t know what to do. They were in a panic. So, let’s just take all the eighty kids and lets go camp out there for a month for training. So we did and within the month they.... It was a rough time. It was really cold, they suffered a lot but it really put them together. One of the proudest things is that Shobans called Indian country and the Nez Perce have been traditional enemies and have not had anything to do with each other and I got the kids from those two tribes camping together and we’ve got life long friendships out of that. And I think a lot of the tribal leadership in a couple decades most of it I think will be out of Salmon Corps and they’ll have these relationships that go way back and they’ll be old buddies. I think - it’s not something I talk about publically much but it’s one of the things I’m proudest of. Being out there freezing our butts of and really hard work. It really in a way kind of common adversary that really bonded all the young people together but we fenced off the whole refuge, tore down all the internal fences and fixed up the house and we had an operating tribal wildlife refuge at the end of the month. And the rancher next door was so mad he kept cutting the fences and they had a Umatilla crew up every week to redo te fences and keep the cows out but we had some major success stores. Just this wonderful little now natural gem along the Columbia River.
And we fenced off a huge section of the Deschutes River on the Warm Springs Reservation which had been really hurt on both sides of the Deschutes going through. It had just been hammered by grazing with no vegetation and we fenced off the Warm Springs side of the Deschutes and put in solar pumps which we can’t do in most places because they’d be stolen. But out on the reservation there’s so much control there’s no problem. And put watering tanks...
CH: Like a holding tank.
CW: No, for the cows to drink out of.
CH: Oh yes.
CW: Like a kids swimming pool kind of thing.
CW: Yes, basically round troths and had solar pumps with solar collectors pumping the water up into these to keep the cows from getting near the river. So along the Deschutes we fenced off most of the Deschutes through the Warm Springs Reservation and put in troths for the cows to get to water back away from the river and fenced out within a month there was about an inch of grass and within a couple months about a foot of grass and it’s now just day and night on the other side of the fence.
And we did another one. One that was really fun, Wild Horse Creek which is just east of Pendleton, runs there along Athena and the little towns there. And it was totally hammered, I mean there was nothing over a foot tall growing along that poor river. I know tribal elders who remembered when there were salmon in there but grazing’s wiped out all the vegetation and the water temperatures get up into the eighties and such and it wiped out all the salmon in that river. A lot of landowners there are pretty anti-Indian and resisted any type of restoration work. And finally one rancher there that owned a mile of Wild Horse Creek signed an agreement with the Umatilla Tribe. And we sent the Salmon Corp in there and all he had to do was sign an agreement that he would maintain the fences for the next five years and then BPA put up the money for the fencing as part of the salmon restoration effort. And the Salmon Corps kids went in there and built fences within the riparian zone. And then they went through and planted native willows and alders and cottonwoods along the river and it’s just amazing. There’s just really thick, really high vegetation in there. It became such a showcase that the other ranchers started feeling really guilty and papers like the East Oregonian out of Pendleton which is not a really pro-environment paper were doing big front page stories about how the Indian kids were restoring that. And even the most racist rancher up there finally went in and signed up with the tribe. And so we’ve got a whole watershed there being restored. That was a really fun one.
And then up at the Nez Perce Reservation we raised sturgeon, took over some old PUD utility tanks and started raising sturgeon in there to release back into the Snake River. We raised about - I can’t remember, I think about three million salmon out at Hanford in the old tanks out there. And Salmon Corps kids from Yakama went in there and their, fortunately, in the upstream side of the reactors so you don’t have the contamination. They’d been sitting there for decades empty and were full of mud and the Salmon Corps kids went in and cleaned it all out. One of the Department of Energy big shots working with Salmon Corps actually was staying in Hanford in one weekend, she turned on the TV and here was all the union people that work at Hanford working for free on a weekend hauling away all the mud and dirt that the Salmon Corps - she was just blown away [laughs]. She said, I’ve never heard of a thing like this. And so I think we raised I think three million the first year of chinook and raised sturgeon in there.
And down at Shoban the bottoms there along the Snake River we had the same problem with grazing. Not only had to keep the cows out, which barb wire fence will do, but had to keep buffalo out and they don’t pay any attention to barbed wire. So the kids built these beautiful split river fences all along the river and fenced off the whole bottom lands to keep the cattle and the buffalo out.
CH: They had buffalo in there.
CW: Yes, the tribes reintroduced buffalo into the lowlands. So, I said, they don’t pay much attention to barbed wired fences [laughs]. So the fences are really beautiful. They’re really works of art that wind down along the river there, along the Snake River, they’re really neat. I say it’s just been incredibly successful and the tribes within a year or so couldn’t even imagine what they were doing without a program like that. The program I think will go on forever. It’s become such a part of the tribe. And suddenly when they realize that each tribe had about twenty pairs of young hands to go to work, I mean, it’s just mind boggling how much we planted. I think the first year we planted fifty thousand native trees along streams.
Up in Yakima, for instance, a couple of the big farmers loaned us - they had huge greenhouses they weren’t using and so - and then a big nursery donated all the potting soil and pots. And the young people went out and took particularly willow and cottonwood and did trimmings and then raised them all year in the greenhouse. Then next spring went out and planted them. The Yakima River goes through the town of Yakima. The Corps had channelized it, and straightened it out and basically tore out all the structure that’s necessary for fish on the river. So up there there was a big windstorm that blew down a lot of cottonwoods so the Yakama Salmon Corps crew went out and built these huge triangles out of the cottonwoods. Then they collected all the Christmas trees from the tribal members and hooked them on to these triangles and sunk them in the bottom of the Yakima River all through the town of Yakima to provide shelter for the salmon and such. I used to joke that we’re the un-corps. We go around undoing what the Corps of Engineers did in previous centuries. [laughs]
CH: How closely did you work with AmeriCorps.
CW: We were an AmeriCorps project. Most of the AmeriCorps projects are through state AmeriCorps offices but a few are direct federal. We were a direct federal one through the Department of Energy and they put up money. And so AmeriCorps paid for about forth percent of the cost of it and they provided primarily the scholarships which was a big - and we raised the money to pay the young people about a hundred-and-fifty a week living stipend so they could get by. Newt Gingrich was trashing AmeriCorps for being paid volunteers or ridiculing the idea of paying a stipend to people who were supposedly volunteers. Well, I’ve been in both the Peace Corps and [ ?] you get paid comparable amount, a hundred-and-fifty a week to get by. The thought that Indian kids would have enough money to volunteer a year of their time without any living expenses is just totally out of touch of reality. Obviously Newt had his idea of volunteers was rich people’s wives volunteering down at the art museum or something [laughs]. So fortunately he lost that fight. That’s one of the great thing Clinton did AmeriCorps. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful program. I’m really proud to be one of the...
CH: Who were you working with most closely in AmeriCorps?
CW: Well, they had Brian Trello I think was his name. He’s now down at the Presidio but he was our contact person back in Washington, D. C. Each program had a contact person back there and Brian, I’d have to look up - Trello or something like that. And then Department of Energy we had various people, Pam [ Devo ?] and Linda [Lingle ?] people like that. They always had a person in the Department of Energy and they were just wonderful. I was really expecting trouble at the Department of Energy and they turned out to be just wonderful partners. Just couldn’t have been more supportive.
CH: Do other environmental organizations work along with you those projects?
CW: Not environmental groups per se. We had another AmeriCorps program, the Northwest Service Academy which has one program out of - they’re more closely tied with the forest service and they have one program up at Corbett, up in your old neck of the woods that a day - where people live at home and go up there during the day. And then they have another one at Trout Lake where people actually live there for the year. A smaller one. We did a lot of joint project with them. No, most of the environmental groups are not directly involved in restoration. Some of them like Pacific Rivers Council raise millions of dollars supposedly to restore and spend it on big salaries and never do a tenth of the work that the Indian kids are doing now. Evidently, I guess, there’s more and more volunteer groups doing watershed restoration. Big environmental groups, sorry to say, aren’t - don’t get their hands dirty [laughs] doing that type of work. They’re out there arguing in Congress but meanwhile a lot of kids are out there working.
CH: But, is it important that there are groups arguing with Congress and lobbying and whatnot?
CW: Oh, very definitely. But I have a real - unfortunately coming to loath the environmental movement these days. I don’t know whether this is what you want me to get into here or not. I used to be the national parks experts for Friends of Earth in the seventies and been involved in the environmental movement for about three decades now. And starting about eighty I’ve seen a real change for the worst in the environmental movement. It used to be primarily run by idealists, the people that were most activists were the grassroots, unpaid people. And when people would become so valuable on an issue as a volunteer well then someone like David Brower would go figure out where to get the money to give a minimal salary to that person so that they can work full time on the environment. And there was a period at the Wilderness Society...
[End tape 6, side 1]
Tape 6, Side 2
CH: and the environmental groups were trying to be more like the corporate structure they were opposing.
CW: Right. I see that Bill [Turney ?] who is actually married to Ansel Adams daughter and became his business manager and the one that talked Ansel Adams into destroying his negatives and made him so famous. And he became the head of the Wilderness Society and fired all the grassroots activists and replaced them with lawyers with three-piece-suits with double, triple the salaries and such. And they no longer work with grassroots. And Sierra Club’s the worst of all. Where the paid staff won’t even work with the local Sierra Club people and the local Sierra Club people supported us on the Gorge and the paid staff in Seattle Jim Bloomquist specifically, fought park service protection and fought what the local group stood for and was actually involved in the salvage rider, one of Mark Hatfield’s great legacies that destroyed a lot of ancient forest and such.
So, I’ve become very disenfranchised. Like the joke that David Brower is probably the last visionary left in an environmental movement run by bureaucrats more interested in careers than they are in the environment. We have people more interested in access. Most of the major environmental groups no longer even talk to grassroots people. You know, they think grassroots people should write letters but shouldn’t be involved in decision making, shouldn’t meet with people in Congress and such. And so they’ve become major lobbying groups and got real rich during the James Watt era. The fundraising went through the roof and they got comfortable with these big fat salaries and such and then when Watt got fired it was - all their fundraising dropped off and they just at that point quit working at all with grassroots groups. And David Brower and some Friends of the Earth used to support local grassroots groups and would help them get foundations. When I worked for them that was one of my main jobs and now the big groups will not even have anything to do with the local grassroots groups and view them as competitors for funds not as allies that could be very helpful. You see, I like to compare it to the environmental movement for the last couple of decades has built this real fancy facade of this real strong movement. But the foundation of the environmental movement, the grassroots is just crumbling and the effectiveness is really dropping off. I think here in Oregon A Thousand Friends is the epitome of this. They will absolutely have nothing with poor, rural grassroots people. And I personally think they’re becoming the main enemy of land use planning in Oregon. They have no compassion at all. Is this something you’re interested in?
CH: Of course.
CW: I went and crashed the Thousand Friends of Oregon’s, besides the Sierra Club’s staff, the only group that support the Friends of the Gorge against us. And now they’re fundraising - they doing their last fundraising letter to send them money to help stop all the trophy houses being built on every ridge in the Gorge. And they fought real protection for the Gorge and have never lifted a finger, ever, and are hated by most grassroots environmentalists I know. And they just have no compassion. I went to one of their meetings last year, their big annual meeting, and their president Gail Ackerman who wrote the horrible Gorge bill behind the back of environmentalists - there was something in the paper a couple of weeks ago she’s representing the irrigators who are trying to wipe out ground squirrels in northeast Oregon. And I went to this meeting and she was the president of A Thousand Friends, someone that works for a corporation. She was the one that did all the ads fighting the shutdown of Trojan and such. And they wrote down Environmentalists of the Year under her name on the ads but forgot to mention that she was on retainer from PGE and such. And she’s the president of A Thousand Friends of Oregon. And she and Robert Liberty, the executive director whet on for over an hour talking about how A Thousand Friends of Oregon were no longer an elitist white group but now were very grassroots and included a lot of people of color and such and I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. There were about four-hundred people in the room and I stood up and said, “I’m the only Indian in this room and I see one person of color in this room and I see a whole lot of rich white people, where are these people of color?” [laughs] And what it was obvious they were doing was that they had gotten a huge grant from Meyers or someone to spread out diversity so they were making a video tape about how they were doing this. But if their videotape ever spanned the audience they wouldn’t see any people of color. [laughs] And they won’t even talk to rural people other than a few rich ranchers.
They’ve got a dozen or so multimillionaire ranchers rural people that are their supporters that are their idea of grassroots. But they refuse to ever talk to any of the grassroots activists in the Gorge or anything. I think they’re a large part responsible for the problems we have. The opposition to land use planning is is that it’s very elitist. It is purposely set up so the wealthy people that can hire the lawyers and such can go in their and do whatever they want and poor people are hung out to dry. And I was, I lost most of my property in the Gorge because I couldn’t rebuild an existing house on a hundred and seventy five acres. But down the hill from me people are building subdivisions that rich and just the right people rear ends and such and can do whatever they want. So I think Oregon land use planning is extremely elitist and is very destructive. I mean, it’s very pro-timber industry also. But there’s no rural support for the actual land use planning. There’s plenty of rural support for protecting areas but the land use planning is so pro wealthy people and so anti populist that it’s really loathed by most rural grassroots activists I know loath the land use planning. But, we’re in a real dilemma because we’re not allowed at the table. And so A Thousand Friends are the only group that really have input into the land use planning and they could care less about poor people.
So, it’s kind of the epitome of what’s going on nationwide in the environmental movement is right here in Friends of the Gorge and A Thousand Friends of Oregon. I’m afraid we’re the precedent for what’s happening in the rest of the country. Foundation money now has become the driving force in the environmental movement. David Brower, who I idolize, says that the biggest problem in the environmental movement now is foundation money and the strings come with it. If you want to get money in the Columbia Gorge from say Bullet Foundation who have to go along with the Friends of the Gorge. You can’t ever criticize and take a position different. You can’t ever complain about a problem in the Gorge. They’ve basically, the foundations have become the arms of the corporations to control the environmental movement and they’re so dependent now on the foundations. Virtually all the money of the groups which used to be member supported are not corporation and foundation supported. Enron, PGE supported the Friends of the Gorge and another couple dozen environmental groups in the Northwest including some like Meyer and they just kind of pretend that that’s not a conflict of interest but it’s a major conflict of interest in my mind [laughs].
It’s hard for grassroots people now because we all just do it out of our own pockets and here we’re fighting paid environmentalists who get paid sixty to seventy thousand dollars a year, have unlimited expense accounts so they can just spend their whole time going to meetings to disenfranchise us and we can no longer participate in that. When I was working for Friends of the Earth in the seventies all the environmental groups would get together and we would put together in the back room, any problems we had we’d settle internally and we’d come out with one united position. We would always with congressional delegations as a group with one position. Now local grassroots people go in an meet with someone like Hatfield when he was in Congress. The next day the Sierra Club would go in and say well, we’re totally against them we’ll settle for half of this. I mean, they supported Hatfield on the salvage rider, the same Jim Bloomquist who helped kill Columbia Gorge protection supported the salvage rider from hell and worked with Hatfield.
David Brower wrote a wonderful letter a few years ago. He was attacked by the conservation director of the Sierra Club for being not willing to compromise enough. And he went back to his hotel room that night and wrote this classic letter. I think ONRC published a few years ago but it’s basically saying the Sierra Club wants access so bad that they’ll sellout an environment just to be part of the process. Hatfield is just a master of that. On the Gorge he wouldn’t speak to anyone on the Gorge that didn’t support his position which was a losing position so the Sierra Club’s the only group that got to meet with Hatfield on the Gorge for selling us out. Brower had a great line in there. He said how the Sierra Club thinks that there so powerful lunching with the corporate bosses but it’s still Bambi lunching with Godzilla [laughs].
CH: How do you feel about Brower now? Do you feel that he’s maintained his integrity?
CW: Oh, yeah. Like I say, he’s the last real visionary. I just saw him last week and his wife’s right at the end of her life. I had dinner with him last fall down in San Francisco and it was really sad because she’s just a wonderful person. He’s not doing very good at all. I saw him last weekend and “how are you doing Dave and he said not real good. So I think he’s right near the end of his life but he’s still the last visionary and a real purist. And he’s a grassroots person. Any group he’s involved with views the local grassroots groups as the core of the environmental movement. The other groups just loath, there just kind of pests that should write letter to support the big groups but aren’t ever allowed to meet with the big groups, have any say in decision making and such and Brower’s a real grassroots [person]. He understands that’s where the strength of the environmental movement is. In fact the big fight in Friends of the Earth that kind of led its not being the incredibly powerful, effective group is was in the seventies and into the eighties was that people more and more wanted to be supported by foundations and Brower wanted to have a membership grassroots based group. And that’s just become an anachronism in the environmental movement where all the money now is corporate and foundation.
CH: So, what kinds of things are you involved in now? What are your current efforts?
CW: Well, I don’t do near as much politically as I can. I mean, I’ve been destroyed financially, spent over a hundred thousand dollars of my own money. The other main activists in the Gorge likewise have spent over a hundred grand out of our own money while I’ve had over two million of corporate and foundation money spent fighting us and we’re not allowed at the table anymore. Rivers are still my pet passion but we can’t - we don’t very rarely lobby or we’re not - like Earl Blumenauer or instance won’t even meet with Gorge activists. He will only meet with city environmentalists that will support the Friends of the Gorge. We’re not allowed to attend any of his meetings beyond panels and such. Basically, we’re left with pointing that the kings naked or the queen as the case may be in the Gorge and rabble rouse and getting arrested. I was arrested a couple times stopping illegal clear-cutting along the White Salmon River. And we can still file appeals and lawsuits to the degree that we can do it ourselves or get lawyers to donate time or do it at minimal cost but we’re no longer at the table, we’re no longer able to take part in mainstream politics. So we’re kind of gadflies around trying point out the trust. We’re as apt to demonstrate against the Friends of the Gorge as we are SDS Lumber which is our main adversary in the Gorge. [Telephone rings - pause in tape]
Anyway, basically I and the other local environmentalists that started the campaign to protect the Columbia Gorge now we just kind of look at what noone else does which is the tributaries and we go in and we’ll fight subdivisions along the Klickitat and a lot of it is just publicity and such. We’re banned from the Oregonian so we can’t ever have any say. I just sent an opinion piece in last - to the Oregonian, I dropped off last Thursday now that they have ombudsman or woman or something to complain to and I don’t expect too much. But we’ve sent in hundreds and they haven’t printed one since a few months before the bill passed in eighty-six after a two week scream and arguments with the editorial board. They finally published about a four inch opinion piece by one of our representatives and that was the last time any local environmentalists has ever been allowed to be interviewed, quoted, to say nothing of a letter to the editor or opinion piece in the Gorge which makes us really mad because Pulitzer prize winning reporters like Bill Dietrich from the Seattle Times will come interview us whenever they do a story on the Gorge. They give us equal time but we’ve been banned from the Oregonian since the mid-eighties, totally banned. So we just kind of go out and sometimes lay in front of bulldozers or whatever we have to do but we’re not allowed to take part in mainstream politics anymore.
So, we just look at what noone else is doing and go after which is primarily the tributaries like the White Salmon. Now we’ve got a situation, we’ve got young windsurfers coming in that are getting foundation money now supposedly represents environmentalists but we never see them anywhere. There seems to be a trend among the younger environmentalists, you get paid to do environmental work. I’m guess I’m kind of an anachronism out of the old generation some things you did volunteer but to the young people expect to get paid. It’s now become a career. We have people working for the big groups that aren’t the environmental idealists they used to be. Now it’s a career position and people will go to work for the Sierra Club and then they’ll get in and then they’ll go work for a congressmen and then a Senate staff and it’s just a career step so there willing to give away because their motivation isn’t to protect the environment, it’s a career choice or something, sorry to say.
CH: Do you feel that your focus on tributaries you can affect more action on a smaller....
CW: Well, it’s partly that but it is more that noone else will do that. The Friends of the Gorge fought any protection for tributaries and they were bankrolled by PacifiCorp, PGE, and still are, to fight any protection for the tributaries. So that fact that noone will do it, it has more to do with that those are the areas that noone and none of the major environmental groups, with a couple exceptions on tearing out Condit Dam on the White Salmon River we have had help from American Rivers and Friends of the Earth.
CH: You haven’t mentioned American Rivers before I don’t think.
CW: No, there a pretty good group although they’re now getting money from Enron, PGE too but they did help us along on our campaign which looks like we’ve almost won to tear out the dam on the White Salmon River although PacifiCorp’s backsliding now but I think we’ll end up winning that one. Not out of the goodness of their heart but we were able to force them to put in fish passage back in the mid-seventies. The Klickitat County Public Utility District was trying to build seven more dams in the White Salmon basin. The port of Klickitat County was trying to build a zirconium plant at Dallas port, across from The Dalles. And it was Western Zirconium, it was a spinoff of Wah Chang. It would have been just a horrendous thing. The whole eastern end of the Gorge would have smelled like a cat box and the utility denies there any connection but the output of these seven dams just happened to be identical to the power needs of this zirconium plant. It was actually one of the original fights we got in in the Gorge when we were putting together the parks service proposal. We didn’t even take the radical position of being against the plant per se, we just demanded they put pollution controls on it and Western Zirconium tried to blackmail, and said “well, if we have to put on pollution controls we’ll go to Utah or someplace else.” And expected there’d be a big backlash against the environmentalists and instead people said “Good riddance.” And so they didn’t build it there and they went and built it near Provo, Utah. The day it opened up all the oil workers at the refinery next to it went on a wildcat strike because of all the horrible pollution from the zirconium plant. And the mayor of the town said they were tricked and it’s a disaster and we were totally vindicated. But that was one of the big fights that kicked off the Gorge plus the seven dams.
So having worked with Friends of the Earth and having had a little experience in environmental things I said, you know, if we’re going to fight these seven dams lets go after their existing dam. The best defense is a good offense has always been one of my guiding rules. And so we went - in 1977 our group that was forming then The Columbia Gorge Coalition and Friends of the White Salmon River, which formed to fight those dams, and the Yakama Indian started a campaign to tear out Condit Dam and it looks like we’re about to win it. This is one where Hatfield had a really horrible role in. We got the Northwest Power Planning Council demand - not demand but require PacifiCorp, whose a subsidiary of PP & L own the dam and it has hardly any power output. The power wasn’t as much an issue as they didn’t want a precedent for tearing out dams. And so they went and hired - so they were ordered to have fish passage around Condit Dam in place by November of 1985. When it was built back in the nineteen-teens the first year - they put in fish ladders and they washed out in 1918 within a year after it was built and noone ever put the fish ladders back in.
So, PacifiCorp, rather than putting fish passage around they hired Tom [Imason ?] from Hatfield’s staff and walked in and got Hatfield to go behind the scenes and require a multi-year study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service out of Olympia and they just refused to do it. We finally persevered and persevered and finally got FERC to require them to put in passage and the passage turned out it’s gonna cost them around fifty million dollars to put in the passage and FERC claimed it would cost about that much to tear out the dam but the Yakama Nation hired a consultant and they figured out that you could tear it out for about fifteen million, about ten to tear it out and about five to restore the fish runs. And so we’re going to win on economics [laughs]. PacifiCorp’s sitting there, we don’t want this dam out but the economics point to tearing it out. And that’s one that the only national groups or major groups that have helped in the Gorge at all in recent years have been American Rivers and Friends of the Earth Seattle office and they did the legal work for tearing out the dam, been very helpful. And Greenpeace did a little help out on Lyle Point which we’re about to win without one bit of help from a single national group or Friends of the Gorge. So the two biggest victories in the Gorge in the last decade have been from local grassroots activists with the Yakama Indian Nation people without any help at all from the national groups. Not a single group like Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, A Thousand Friends of Oregon, none of the major wealthy groups will lift a finger on the Columbia Gorge. They wash their hands of it, given it up basically.
CH: Are you doing group work with the Native American tribes in the area.
CW: Yes, both with local activists, Johnny Jackson, Cascade Chief there lives right at the mouth of the White Salmon, he’s real active. But almost all the victories in the Gorge now are the local environmentalists working with the tribes. All the victories. That partnership goes way back into the mid-seventies. Our group, the Columbia Gorge Coalition for instance worked real close with the Yakama Tribe, and a sportfishing group, the Clark Skamania County Flyfishers and we killed a bunch of dams on the Wind River. They were going to dam up Panther Creek and one of the people building the dams one of the bankrollers of Friends of the Gorge and so, of course, they didn’t fight it. And we killed a bunch of dams. And most of the big victories have been through that coalition with the local group. And our group, the Columbia Gorge Coalition is somewhat in hibernation.
CW: Because there’s nothing we can do. So, we’ve put all of our resources into a local Audubon Society now, the Columbia Gorge Audubon Society. There the main group working in the Gorge now. And the reason for focusing on them is that they have that national connection and so it’s easy for the Friends of the Gorge, A Thousand Friends, Sierra Club to ridicule and keep local environmentalists and even our group, even though we were a massive group at one time and credibly effective from being at the table. But if you have that name Audubon it will open doors, having that national affiliation. So, the local environmentalists put most of their work into the Audubon Society now, although we increasing are fighting Portland Audubon Society now has become opponent of the Columbia Gorge Audubon Society.
CW: Yes, which is sad because I’ve worked with them for years. Part of that’s Paul Ketchum, they hired a person from A Thousand Friends of Oregon as their conservation director and he’s right out of the - controlled by the corporate people, Friends of the Gorge, and is a major adversary of Columbia Gorge protection now. One of the biggest fights out there, which I’m not involved in, is over the windpower in the Columbia Hills on the east end of the Gorge. The Vallican Foundations bankrolling environmental groups to fight for the windpower and to fight Columbia Gorge Audubon and the Yakama Indian Nation who are the main opponents.
CH: What is your reason for being opposed to the windpower?
CW: It’s not an issue I’m real involved with. It’s the location of it. It’s just going to wipe out raptors. It’s going to have a horrible - it’s right in a flyway, and it’s going to have a horrible affect on the raptor population. But being against windpower, you know for environmentalists is being motherhood and apple pie. And so the local Audubon Society and the Yakama Tribe are not fighting windpower per se it’s this particular project and they were going to put poison all over the ground to wipe out the rodents so that the raptors wouldn’t be attracted to it. A horrible place right up above Maryhill Museum up on the whole ridge-line there. They’ve got major environmental groups fighting for it and getting bankrolled by foundations with corporate money.
CH: Why were they going to wipe out the rodents?
CW: So the raptors wouldn’t be attracted and get killed by the blades. The main downside of this. And it’s right in a flyway with a huge raptor population. So they figured if they poisoned all the raptors’ food then the raptors wouldn’t come around. But Dennis and Bonnie White are the ones to talk to about that. I’ve got my hands full with the tributaries. Being Indian rivers have always been my main priority. In fact my name Chuck is Chinook jargon for river. My nickname in Indian Country is wild and scenic Chuck because of all the rivers that I’ve helped save around the Northwest.
CH: Anything else that you’re currently working on?
CW: That’s the main thing. Unfortunately, the main role left for me now is to go around and point out the queens naked. Actually just go places to hearings and call people. They’ll have these stacked meetings on the Gorge where not a single Gorge person is allowed to testify. And just stand up and say, “Wait a minute. That isn’t one house. That’s five-hundred and fifty of those Bea houses and such.” And since we’re not allowed at the table we just have to rabble rouse and like I say, we lay in front of bulldozers. And we know enough to file appeals. Like on the Klickitat River is just one of those horrible situations in the country. Friends of the Gorge are bankrolled by PacifiCorp to fight any protection for the White Salmon and Klickitat. They were our main opponent of protecting those rivers in the Gorge bill. They’re in cahoots in the Forest Service so on the Klickitat River we got the lower ten miles designated a National Wild and Scenic River and the Forest Service washed their hands of it, walked away from it, refused to manage it. The first time in history a federal agency has walked from an area they’ve been ordered by Congress to protect. But they get away with it because the Friends of the Gorge are against the protection of it and so won’t criticize them. We file appeals and like we filed against the plan and we won one level on making them expand the boundaries out for wild and scenic rivers but then they walked away from it. We took it as far as we could go with appeals but when we got to the point where we had to have lawyers then we couldn’t take it any further because we didn’t have any money. And so it’s being destroyed. So we file the worst of the timber sales we still file because we can take that to a certain level without money. So what we do is we file appeals and publicize through letters to the editor. The local papers, of course, will let us print until the Portland media we’re allowed to. And so a lot of our goal right now is just trying to be a truth sayer, going around trying to point out the truth about what’s going on.
CH: You had mentioned several times that you’d been involved in laying down in front of bulldozers and things like that. Which projects were those that you were...
CW: The two times I’ve been arrested in the Gorge were over SDS clear-cut along the White Salmon River. When we lost the Gorge being protected, when I went to Forest Service in a weak commission instead of the park service. Some people in Congress knew that we were being screwed horribly. So we took all the Washington delegation rafting down the White Salmon and Klickitat Rivers, Don Walker’s staff and Senator Evans’s staff, and even Slade Gorton’s staff loved it. And got them so excited that, despite the fact the Friends of the Gorge fought it, they added in two ten mile - a ten mile section each of the White Salmon Klickitat Rivers as National Scenic Rivers as the crumbs given us for losing the Gorge fight. It’s been pretty hallow. We’ve got a moratorium or a ban on any dams being built on those rivers, that’s about all we have. It’s been twelve years ago and the Forest Service has still not bought a single acre on the Klickitat River and when we get someone like Senator Patty Murray who still works with the local environmentalists, one of the last politicians that will, appropriate money for the tributaries the Forest Service and the Friends of the Gorge go and buy it for land in the Gorge even though it’s designated for the Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Forest Service allowed SDS to go in there and clear-cut all of their lands that are within the boundaries of the National Wild and Scenic River along the White Salmon. And when we confronted the manager of the Forest Service why he was allowing them to go in there and clear-cut all this land that was supposed to go into public ownership he said it’s to save taxpayers money. That it’d be a lot cheaper to buy the land after it’s clear-cut. So he’s just helping out the taxpayers. [laughs] I thought that was a quite unique theory.
So SDS is in there clearcutting and so all the local area - horrible area along Spring Creek where it comes into the White Salmon, just a horrendous clear-cut. And so all the local people are laying in front of the bulldozers and such. We occupied - and the Forest Service approved it and we went and occupied the Forest Service office in Hood River. So we occupied and I got arrested chained to their door there. And the manager of the National Scenic Area wrote a letter to the SDS turned out to be our smoking gun. Basically said that the clearcutting was illegal. My attorney couldn’t believe that they were dumb enough to give us a smoking gun. But the Oregonian and the Portland media wouldn’t cover it. So the people doing the clearcutting, SDS Lumber owned by the same people that own Heathman Hotel.
So we moved - we figured we had to go where the money is and so we started coming into Portland every day demonstrating in front of the Heathman Hotel and driving off customers and we started getting attention because about half the people were turning away and not going into the Heathman because of us. We’d get of course the scruffiest hippies we could find to get the blue bloods that stay at the Heathman really upset. So finally got arrested chained to their door. And Jackson Browne was playing in town that night and his environmental aide saw us getting arrested and came down and talked to me as I was being hauled off. Turned out he and I used to go out with the same woman, an environmental activist back in D.C. So Jackson Browne gave me a ticket for his concert when I got out of jail that night, which was nice. And Jackson Browne stormed down the desk and demanded of the Heathman if they didn’t stop clearcutting by the next morning he’d make sure no musicians ever stayed at the Heathman again and they did stop clearcutting the next day. And the Forest Service still never bought the land. So now it looks like we’re about to go through it all over again.
[End tape 6, side 2]
17 March 1999
Tape 7, Side 1
CH: Alright, this is an interview with Chuck Williams at my house, Clark Hansen, 3200 NW Skyline Boulevard. I’m the interview for the Oregon Historical Society. The date is March 17th, 1999 and this is tape seven, side one.
So are there other things that you would like to mention regarding this oral history?
CW: Well, I think the saddest thing of all about the Columbia Gorge fight is the fact that we’ve lost the fight and we have all the problems right now. It was totally unnecessary. If when the Friends of the Gorge formed if they would have complimented our organization we probably could have won. We knew what we were doing. I was the national parks expert for Friends of the Earth, I knew these fights, I knew what we needed, we had the precedents done and people for publicity seeking and elitism destroyed our organization and killed any support for the Gorge. And if Nancy Russell and the Friends of the Gorge had not been such elitists and had not been so intent on getting all the publicity and had complimented us we could have had the Park Service, we could have had the tributaries protected. What they did - the best angle that can be put on what they did is that they were tricked by Mark Hatfield into selling out the environmentalists on the Gorge. And Nancy Russell and Don Clark went into him and said, what will you give us? And he said, no Park Service, no tributary protection”. And they said, yes boss and set out to destroy us because we wouldn’t go along with that. Anyone that knows anything about environmental politics knows you don’t let Mark Hatfield set your agenda and set your position. You take the right position, like we did on wilderness and then you work to force him politically over to that and they didn’t. They just let him dictate the Friends of the Gorge policy which is a total failure. And if they had taken their money and influence and complimented with our incredible grassroots organization and our knowledge and my connections with the environmental movement we could have won the Gorge. We could have had Park Service, our life would all be wonderful. I could go hiking again. We wouldn’t have wholesale destruction.
Bill Dietrich, the Pulitzer prize winning reporter for the Seattle Times interviewed me a couple years ago in my gallery up in The Dalles and he had just interviewed the Friends of the Gorge. He said, boy they hate you. Why does Nancy Russell hate you and force you out of the fight. And I said, I’m poor, I’m rural, I’m Indian and I’m a hippie. I’m the poster child of her hatred all rolled into one. [laughs]. Unfortunately, it was class warfare and that’s the saddest thing. None of this was necessary if they would have worked with us. Because we used to turn hundreds of people out at hearings, we had an incredible grassroots network. But once it became an elitist, social battle, it was class warfare not an environmental fight. The day the Friends of the Gorge formed there’s never been any debate within the Gorge about what our vision was or what the Gorge should be like. It’s strictly been class warfare. So that the saddest thing. All of the crisis in the Gorge and all of the suffering we’ve gone through, local people have gone through is just totally unnecessary. It’s just a few people wanted publicity more than they wanted to protect the Gorge. That’s the saddest thing of all. All of this is unnecessary.
It’s also become the stalking ground for the corporate people to take over the environmental movement. When the Friends of the Gorge declared war on us and forced us out of the fight, that was unheard of then. And now it’s becoming the norm. We have friends of this, friends of that all over that are corporate and foundation sponsored fighting the grassroots groups. Unfortunately, it’s become a precedent for - Friends of the Gorge still like to talk about the Columbia Gorge legislation being a great precedent for saving areas. But it’s not. We’ve lost it. It’s a precedent in how rich people can destroy an area while getting credit and even awards for saving it. It has become a precedent but it’s how you destroy grassroots environmental movements and coopt them with corporate money and such. That’s the saddest thing.
And also the salmon. Here we had a wonderful opportunity to protect a whole lot of rivers. Bob Packwood, that radical environmentalist totally supported our position which was that the Gorge be protected under the National Park Service. And the lower ten, fifteen miles of each of the tributaries and that’s the Sandy, Hood, Deschutes, Washougal, Wind, Little White, Salmon, White Salmon, Klickitat Rivers would all be arms of the Parks Service area. And then we’d have wild and scenic river studies for all the tributaries on top of that which would give us a two year moratorium on dams and would give us breathing time. And that would have done so much to save salmon runs but when the utilities Friends of the Gorge to fight that we’ve got horrible damage going on on virtually all of those tributaries to salmon. And the Gorge legislation is so bad that you can graze cattle. There’s no restrictions on grazing cattle right in salmon spawning streams in the Gorge. There’s no ban on that or anything. This was a chance in one bill to really save a whole lot of salmon because those tributaries in the Gorge are really important because they only have one dam - well, the Deschutes has two. The fish have to go through The Dalles dam but the rest of the tributaries are either downstream like to Washougal and Sandy from the first dam on the Columbia, the Bonneville, or else they have to pass one dam instead of eight. And so we had a chance to really rebuild fish runs into there. The Deschutes a lot of that’s since been protected, fortunately, but the Klickitat is being destroyed. The White Salmon we may still restore fish runs but what the coalitions position on that was to protect the Gorge proper without protecting the tributaries is like cutting off all the branches off a tree and then saving the tree. And that’s been a really horrendous loss. We could have saved a lot of salmon. But we may get them back on the White Salmon. And Friends of the Gorge used to criticize us for being too radical. And I’d say, yeah, salmon in the White Salmon river, what a radical concept. [laughs] We may win that one.
The other good news we have locally is that Lyle Point’s going to be saved it looks like and we’ll finally embarrass the Trust for Public Lands into buying an auction on it. I don’t know whether - probably become a state park possibly a Yakama tribal park. But that was within an urban boundary so the Friends of the Gorge refused to fight that subdivision and they have all the resources. We and the local Indians did what we could to fight it but Klickitat County just rubber stamped it through and we had thirty arrests or so out of there. We occupied it for two years, illegally, all kind of harassment. And finally it looks like we’re going to win it. Every time they’d get a real estate - they’d win huge legal fights because Klickitat County approved it so fast that everything was in place and the judge would say you we’re there when it happened. Well, we never had a shot at it. It was rubber stamped so fast. So, whenever they’d get a realtor we’d go picket them and after a couple of that the realtor would drop the listing. They won every legal fight but couldn’t sell any of the lots. So we finally got the investors - the person that was doing that is a guy named Henry Spencer who’s from Massachusetts and he destroyed big areas out on Cape Cod and then moved out here and bought Lyle Point, old railroad land through dubious negotiations and then subdivided into thirty-four lots for windsurfers and million dollar lots and selling them.
I like to joke that the old pioneer trick of people coming from the east coast out on the Oregon Trail and getting land particularly through the railroad through dubious legalities and then chopping it up to attract more non-Indians from the east coast to come out. Still goes on. The only difference is now they come out on the Oregon Trail in Jeep Cherokees. [laughs] But we finally got to his investors and through some rich people, Ethel Kennedy’s in the Gorge helping the Audubon Society we got his investors back in Massachusetts and let them know this was going on forever. There was no way we were for sale and such and they finally ordered their guy out here, Spencer to sell it. We could have had it half price three or four years ago if the Trust for Public Land would have moved then but they have an option on so it looks like we’re going to win that. Those are really the only two victories.
Did we talk much about the Bea house?
CH: We did talk about in context with the other houses that have managed to get through the system and approved, hundreds of other houses.
CW: Right, yes, it’s about five-hundred and fifty now. That’s been a real - the Oregonian just had an editorial here saying that the Skamania County and the Beas and the Gorge Commission all share some of the blame for that. I just wrote an editorial - or an opinion piece they probably won’t print but it says they’re all to blame but the real villains are the legislation and the Oregonian and that five-hundred and fifty mother houses, that’s who’s responsible for it.
Since we talked last time I went up the Washington side where I used to live there, in Skamania, and there’s just new houses. I was in tears but the end of the day. Everywhere you look there’s new houses. There’s three new ones by the Bea house already. So there’s just no stopping it. Every single ridge up there now has houses being built all over the place. It’s just wholesale assault. And every comparable place in the country there’s a moratorium on development and very little ever goes on. And every one of those houses there - I mean, I hate clearcutting but it grows back. But those are house are, you know five-hundred and fifty new houses now. And the fact that there is no land acquisition in the area of the Bea house is indefensible. You know, that land in any other park would have been in public ownership years ago. And the very fact that we’re still debating building houses, to think nothing of building them directly across from Multnomah Falls, the most visited place on the Gorge twelve years after it’s protection proves that the bill is a failure. But they’re trying to bill it as an anomaly, just something that slipped through the cracks but five-hundred and fifty more slipped through. That whole areas going to be developed.
When we started the Gorge fight land in that area in Skamania County was two hundred an acre, that’s where I’m from. We could have bought the whole western end of the Gorge. And now, because of all the rich houses being built, all the trophy houses, that land’s just going through the roof and we’ll never be able to. But if we had really protected the Gorge we could have bought the whole western part of Skamania County under public ownership and that would have given us north south wildlife corridors. One of our key things was to get all the land there between Stevenson and the Washougal River into a public ownership and then we’d have a north south corridor for animal migration and such and now there’s just hundreds of houses in there so that dreams totally gone.
The most protected lands in the Gorge right now are the National Wildlife Refuges and we have three of them. Steigerwald Lake which was one my first battles when I moved back to the Gorge beginning in seventy-seven. The local Audubon Society then, it was the Vancouver Audubon Society were fighting the industrialization of the wetlands there at Steigerwald Lake and weren’t having too much success. I had a little experience in that matter and it took me about a week to block all the federal funding. They had a - the Port of Camas and Washougal had a one-point-three million dollar grant from the EDA, Economic Development Administration money to fill in the rest of the wetlands and turn the whole thing into industrial park. And they had about a third of them filled and I went in there and blocked that. Dixie Lee Ray went crazy. I had the head of EDA call me up one day and say, “Now that you and Friends of the Earth are involved we’re pulling the money. We know we’ll lose.” Dixie Lee Ray went bananas and she held a press conference and said it was her top priority in the state and she was really mad and we needed more industrial transportation to develop the Gorge. And I’m like, we’ve got a waterway, an interstate freeway, a state highway, two railroads, an international airport at the mouth, I mean ,we have everything except a space shuttle I don’t know what your talking about [laughs]. But we blocked that long enough. It was owned by the Stevensons the same people that own the Heathman Hotel and SDS lumber and they bought those wetlands for something like fifty-thousand dollars in the fifties, got the Corps of Engineers with federal money to dike it all off, drain the wetlands then got Clark County to change the zoning from agriculture to heavy industry and when we finally blocked all the development and forced it into the National Wildlife Refuge we had to pay them six million dollars to buy back that land to get Steigerwald Lake. They cried all the way to the big. They’re big contributors to Mark Hatfield too. The one good thing about that is that money came out of the Corps of Engineers budget. It was mitigation money so it didn’t come out of the Gorge acquisition money.
Then [when] we’re protecting Wells Island the Trust for Public Lands, which had helped to save Steigerwald, bought that option and rather than waiting a year or two for us to get the money for Wells Island which is right off of Hood River, the biggest Heron Rookery in the lower Columbia. They turned around and sold it to the Forest Service immediately and made a big profit off it and it came out of the Gorge money instead of the mitigation money.
The other - we have the Pierce Ranch National Wildlife Refuge which was donated by Mrs. Pierce, the old Pierce Ranch and that’s an important piece there just on the east side of Beacon Rock. That was an interesting one. Friends sold us out on payments in lieu of taxes when land went into federal ownership in most of the Gorge but that was a National Wildlife Refuge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife was paying Skamania County far more in payment lieu of taxes when they took over the Pierce Ranch as the ranch had been paying taxes. Back then I was living in Skamania County, Skamania County was getting about eight million dollars a year from the Forest Service for timber revenues and we had six thousand people in the county. So, property taxes were zilch and they’d do a paved road, you know, hey, I want to clear-cut my land you’d have a paved road there the next day or something.
But the one close to my heart is Frenz Lake when I realized that we were going to lose having the Park Service be the manager of the Gorge I wasn’t about our allotment. It was my Grandma Kalliah, Indian Mary’s land, it was her allotment. And we had been saving it in the family for decades assuming it would go to the National Park Service when the Gorge was finally protected. When it became clear the Park Service wouldn’t get it I got a rider through Congress setting up the Frenz Lake National Wildlife Refuge and our property was the cornerstone of that. That’s when I moved to the east end of the Gorge.
CH: So, you said three but there’s the Steigerwald wetlands and the Wells Island and Pierce Ranch?
CW: Wells Island didn’t end up a wildlife refuge. It’s under the Trust for Public Lands in between had been taken over by the Friends of the Gorge and they’re now a moneymaking machine so they - I wrote to their president begging them to hold onto it so we could get appropriations through Congress to make it another National Wildlife Refuge. What our plan was to have a Columbia Gorge National Wildlife Refuge and it would have a number of units within it. And the Trust for Public Lands by then had gotten into financial trouble and were taken over and all four senators looked this wonderful woman named Harriet Burgess, I don’t know if I talked about her at all.
The Trust for Public Lands used to be the best friend the Columbia Gorge ever had and they were involved back with the Forest Service, the Corbett Station and Gene Zimmerman was there before there ever was a Friends of the Gorge organization. The Columbia Gorge Coalition worked very close to the Forest Service and the Trust for Public Lands. They couldn’t buy very many lands outside of the Forest Service boundaries. But within the Gifford Pinchot Mount Hood Forest where they went into the Gorge there were huge in holdings. So during that era we concentrated on buying out lands within the Forest Service boundaries and then getting appropriations to get those lands into public ownership and we had a great project going.
Then all four senators - there were subdivisions being built like crazy. There was a sixty-seven house subdivision approved there in Skamania County and so all four Senators looked the woman, Harriet Burgess from the Trust for Public Lands in the eye and told her to go in there and buy out all the subdivisions in the Gorge and they’d bail her out within the year. And that’s when Dan Evans came in and killed legislation for two more years to allow the subdividers including the Columbia County commissioners, to subdivide the hell out of their land and develop it and drive up all the prices. So TPL had put about ten million into the Gorge and they were about to go belly up and so the rich people had to come bail them out.
CH: What was TPL?
CW: Trust for Public Lands.
CH: Oh, I see.
CW: Which used to be, boy, they were the most wonderful friend we ever had in the Gorge back then. Then when they got in financial trouble the Friends of the Gorge had no contact with them till then, went to Meyer Memorial Trust and got a big loan to bail them out and then they fired the woman that was out helper and then put Bowen Blair in charge of it who was executive director of the Friends of the Gorge so he was rewarded. Took over it. Now they’re just a money making machine. They don’t take risks like she did. So, when they bought Wells Island they had already taken over so they immediately sold it to the Forest Service before we could even start our campaign to get money. That money came out of the Gorge acquisition budget not out of the Corps of Engineers budget. That ended our whole plan for all these wildlife refuges.
We’ve been really vindicated in terms of the wildlife refuges are the best protected lands by far on the Gorge. Steigerwald Lake now there’s swans and bald eagles have come back in there first time in thirty-five years now. There’s over a thousand swans a day on Frenz Lake which was our family property. Once our family, our Indian land became part of the wildlife refuge than U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was able to buy the rest of Frenz Lake and we got the cows out of there. Wapato which was the most important plant for Gorge Indians, it was our potato, our main source of starch is real susceptible to cattle grazing and had been almost totally wiped out in the Gorge. There was one big patch left when we started the Gorge fight in the mid-seventies there was a big patch left at Rooster Rock and Dave Talbot, the then director of Oregon State Parks was a horrible opponent. He was the major opponent of Gorge Protection mainly because he was just a political hack. I don’t think he cared one way or the other. But he’d leased out Rooster Rock for cattle grazing and wiped out all the wapato in the Gorge. And now within a couple of years after we got the cows out of Frenz Lake now the whole north shore is solid wapato. I assume they were probably brought in by swan poop. There’s over a thousand swans a day during the winter time on that lake now. So that’s been a huge success. The Fish and Wildlife Service is doing great things. They took Gibbons Creek which is there - in Steigerwald Lake just east of Washougal - the Corps of Engineers when they diked it off and drained the wetlands channelized it and diverted over and built a new river and wiped out all the chum. Further up river a lot of chum salmon on the Columbia. So they’ve now put Gibbons Creek back into its old creek bed and restoring that and we’re going to have salmon back in there and I said we’ve got eagles back in there and swans. Three wildlife refuges have been the biggest success story. They’re being managed like the whole rest of the Gorge has but all the land above them is under the Gorge Commission and the Forest Service and it’s been virtually all clear cut. While the Fish and Wildlife’s doing all this great restoration work on the lower end of these watersheds, the area under the Gorge Commission and the Forest Service having the hell clear cut out of it, massive silt. And so it’s undoing all the work the Fish and Wildlife Service is doing. Those refuges are our main high points.
CH: Is there anything else that you’d like to mention at this point.
CW: I don’t know, like I say it’s just the sadness. This is the first National Park System caliber area in the country that’s being destroyed so some blue bloods can get publicity for themselves. There’s never been anything like this ever in the history of the environmental movement. I’m afraid other rich people are looking at this as a precedent. I’m afraid it’s going to be the model. But, like I say, it’s really sad. But we had an environmental movement, we had an office in the Gorge and the Friends of the Gorge have never had an office, they once had three offices. They were in Portland, Vancouver and Seattle for fundraising and would not have an office in the Gorge and that just makes local people hate them. And they should. And we had an office, we had the courage to have an office first in Hood River then in downtown White Salmon right next to a combination liquor store and gun shop, that’s a real... [laughs] - that was quite a neighbor there. That’s like nitro and glycerin, but we had the guts to do it. No one from the Friends of the Gorge ever came to our office. They refused to acknowledge we exist or anything like that. That’s the sad thing was that it totally disenfranchised the local environmentalists and left a lot of our lives in ruins. We’ve got one wave of a half-a-dozen so yuppies at a time getting paid big salaries to come in their and fight us and we’re not allowed to be on TV other than channel eight and their environmental reporter just left so we no longer have a single Portland media that will acknowledge there are even local environmentalists in the Gorge other than of course the Alliance or - your speaking to the converted. Although that’s even worthwhile, though.
The Alliance did a wonderful series of articles on Dan Dancer’s subdivision which is destroying upper Rowena Dell and it’s supported by the Friends of the Gorge and he’s one of the locals that’s getting foundation money to supposedly support the Friends of the Gorge. And the Alliance did a great article on him. It raised a lot of hell because people that would be sympathetic to us have no idea of what’s going on in the Gorge. They and KBOO actually did a good thing. KBOO has done some good shows but that’s the only Portland media really left that will cover what’s going on in the Columbia Gorge. Even the Willamette Week used to back when Tom Alkyer in the early eighties did some great stories and they won’t - seems to me they’ve become a yuppie dating service, it’s really not a paper [laughs] I think it was in eighty-one when Atiyeh was governor - I think we talked about this, Pat Amadeo was his environmental aid, yes, they had exposed her lying shenanigans. [laughs] But now they won’t even cover us, we’re not allowed. They’ve done two rogue of the month’s lately attacking Skamania County over the Bea house. And I’ve written letter, hey, it’s Multnomah County’s responsible for that not Skamania but they won’t print them of course or anything.
CH: Now why is it that Multnomah is...
CW: Because they killed protection for that area. Multnomah County was the ones that helped set up Friends of the Gorge and killed the environmental movement. They’re the - only two counties in the history of the country have fought national park - only two urban counties in the country have fought National Park Service areas adjacent to them and they’re Multnomah County and Los Angeles County. And in Los Angeles county the local congressman, Tony [Belifson sp?] fought for the Park Service and got the Park Service...
CH: This is in Topanga?
CW: The Santa Monica Mountains, the Santa Monica Recreation Area which includes Topanga Canyon. And here we had Ron Wyden who fought us. So Multnomah County’s the only county in the country to kill a National Park Service area on it’s boundaries. Richard Nixon - this is a carry over parks and wildlife refuges and Nat Reed made a statement that any city official that fought one of his park service areas adjacent to them has to be completely nuts. Well, Multnomah County was completely nuts and fought it. So I view them as one of the main villains. Skamania County just did what any rural timber dependent county would do and expected that. That was in our equation, no problem. But when Multnomah County came out against the Park Service that’s what killed protection. It was such a - did I tell you about the time Pauline Anderson about when they were passing a resolution to support the Forest Service?
CH: Pauline Anderson was a county commissioner for Multnomah County.
CW: Yes, Multnomah County formed Friends of the Gorge with Mark Hatfield. Mark Hatfield orchestrated it and was kind of the puppet master there and then they killed the protection so bad that we got back involved. And so they were going to Multnomah County Commissioners to approve the Friends of the Gorge position on the Gorge and we weren’t allowed to testify, noone was invited but Nancy Russell, not Portland Audubon who was on our side or any of the other groups. So someone I knew down in this government, Multnomah County, they tipped me off so I showed up that morning and Pauline Anderson was chairing the committee. So Nancy Russell gave her testimony and when they were setting up the Friends of the Gorge they refused to talk to their parks expert. They had Lorna Stickel who’s now with the state water, she was their head of planning and they let her determine their position and planners like planners and she fought the Park Service but they never talked to their parks person. So, they were getting to vote, Nancy Russell testified and they’re getting ready to unanimously approve it and I said, “Excuse me, Pauline, is this public hearing, can I testify.” Well, I guess and they reluctantly let me testify and I explained that every other comparable place is a Park Service area and I couldn’t understand that. “Well, maybe we should ask Charlie [Seikel ?] our head of Multnomah County Parks.” And he was in the room and they called him up and they said, “What do you think?” And he said, “Oh, Chuck Williams is a hundred percent right. It’s just totally nuts to have the Forest Service this is a Parks Service area.” And Pauline Anderson said, “Well, it’s too late to debate that.” They just voted and supported the Friends of the Gorge and it was just a total payoff and here their parks person was on our side and they would not even debate it. They said, well, it’s just too late. Anyway, I hold Multnomah County in a large part responsible for the disaster in the Gorge.
They still take this moral ground attacking Skamania County and they were the first county to get their plan approved by the Gorge Commission and that was in the morning. And in the afternoon they applied and won from the Gorge Commission to create new one acre lots at Bridalveil. And here we are, the county is supposedly protecting it is pushing for and winning approval of brand new one acre lots to build houses at Bridalveil and this is just after the Trust for Public Lands had just bought a whole bunch of property at Bridalveil and the old TPL would have let people live there they were poor people. So TPL and Friends of the Gorge are trying to force all those people out of their houses for no reason which the old stereotype used against us by the right wing is that these urban elitists are going to kick people out of their houses. Well, here we had it, proof that that’s exactly what the Friends - and there was no reason for that, no reason to [not] let people keep on living there. And it just turned all of east county against the Gorge protection, against the Friends of te Gorge specifically and against Gorge protection.
So anyway I hold Multnomah County - and they’re still - along the Sandy River letting people build houses on real tiny lots there and they fought Wild and Scenic protection for the Sandy River. It was so self defeating, Multnomah County’s main sheriff’s boat is named after my great-great grandpa, Chief [Tumove ?] and I was the one that broke the champagne on the bow of it which I’m kind of embarrassed at, but if we would - if Multnomah County wouldn’t have fought the Parks Service they would have had Park Service patrol boats out there and any comparable place the country the Park Service furnishes boat patrols and it really helps the county. But we don’t have any of that. The Forest Service isn’t going to put patrol boats out. And if Multnomah County hadn’t fought our position Park Service probably bought the whole shore
Bob Packwood was pushing for federal appropriations to buy out all the land along the Sandy River and now there’s house all over along the Sandy River thanks to Multnomah County fighting protection. So they fought payments in lieu of taxes and they really fought against the interests of Multnomah County residents and it’s when I kind of realized that Portland politics are run by the wealthy. I went off and was born in Multnomah County in fact and I’m now ashamed of considering what they did on the Gorge. They just fought of protection everyone else got. They just did themselves in. They hurt their own residents. It’s when I learned that Multnomah County and Portland politics are not near as democratic as it looks on the surface. There’s this nice veneer that looks....
[end tape 7, side 1]
Tape 7, Side 2
CW: ...foundation money for doing that. That’s kind of a really sad - and the people that really know it, like Dennis and Bonnie White, that really know the issues are not allowed because they were banned from all Portland media were banned from meetings. It’s really sad. Blumenauer paints himself as kind of a populist but he will not talk to anyone from the Columbia Gorge unless they’ve been pre-approved by the Friends of the Gorge.
I don’t know if I mentioned it to you, I went to - I said the Oregonian hasn’t printed a letter to the editor and when they were having some public forums here a few years ago the Oregonian had these kind of town meetings chaired by Fred Stickel and I stood up and I asked Fred Stickel why I and all the local environmentalists are totally banned from the Oregonian ever since the Friends of the Gorge formed and that I knew he went to Nancy Russell’s social functions of the Friends and such. Oh, that’s just nonsense, he just pooh poohed it and asked someone else a question. So I went up to one of the editorial board writers and I said, that’s true and he said yes, Hatfield came to our editorial board and said local environmentalists and the National Park Service aren’t in any way relevant to the Gorge debate and so don’t ever mention them and so we don’t. He confessed to me that that was what had happened. Like the old saying about freedom of press is guaranteed to those who own one. [laughs].
I never thought of the Oregon Journal as a liberal, pro-environment paper but they always gave - even after the Friends formed, they gave us equal time always with the Friends of the Gorge. If they interviewed Nancy Russell they’d interviewed me. And they editorially supported us, as did channel eight. And now we’re just totally banned. The day the Oregonian bought the Journal despite claims that they weren’t going to do it, immediately put it out of business. That was the end. There has never been any mention of the Park Service, any interview of a local environmentalist and such. The Oregon Journal kept the Oregonian honest. If you want to see the damage done by monopoly media just go no further than Portland. People move here from other places, [and say] how can they do that, isn’t that illegal? And I say, no [laughs] not when you own it. Even when they print outright lies, like Jonathan Nichols one of his columns one time about there’s this wonderful woman, Nancy Russell - did I mention this before?
CH: I’m not sure.
CW: and wrote a column about how there’s this wonderful woman named Nancy Russell that’s working around the clock to get the National Park Service to manage the Gorge and to protect all the tributaries like the Sandy River and send her your money. Did a big fundraising thing for them. And when I pointed out and proved to him that quite the opposite was true, she was the main enemy of both, he wouldn’t rebut it, they wouldn’t print any of my rebuttal letters. So they went ahead and raised money for Friends of the Gorge by distorting her position and taking our position and saying. That’s a lot of the reason we lost the Gorge was that every group that had supported the coalition, the environmental position like Audubon the ONRC and such the Friends of Gorge just went around and said they support our position. And they took our name, National Scenic Area, which was one of the stupidest mistakes ever made. I’m the one that came up with that name. The head of the Park Service study team and I were sitting up on top of Beacon Rock one night talking during the study period and watching the sunset and we’re starting to get this big backlash based on the fact we were pushing for a Columbia Gorge National Recreation Area and people were starting to in the Gorge about these images of hoards of recreationists coming in and wiping out the Gorge. The first public meeting a guy from Cascade Locks stood up and said, “I don’t want these urban people coming here trampling my trillium,” [laughs] and that became kind of a battle cry for them. And the Chuck Cushman, the National Inholders had gotten this right-wing film made attacking the Parks Service at Cuyahoga Valley national Recreation Area. And through Jessica Savage had got it put on Frontline and so it became a public broadcasting documentary even though it was funded by a far right-wing foundation out of Vermont. It was just blatant lies. They got it put on PBS which gave it incredible incredibility. For instance the film ended with a house burning with just black smoke pouring out of this house. They must have waited for it to hit some wiring or something. And the voice over implied that the Parks Service was burning these people out of their houses. Did I tell you this story?
CH: Yes you did tell me that, yes.
CW: Ok, yes. So I know I told Barbara Bernstein one of her things, I don’t know. Anyway, so get away from the bad connotations in National Recreation Area we decided to use the name National Scenic Area but unfortunately, there weren’t any precedents. Part of the reason was to allow more flexibility for the counties and such. We just put them on notice that the more you do before the bill passes the less direct federal management there’ll be. And the National Scenic Area gave them leeway but it turned out to be one of the two worst mistakes I ever made in my life in that we had no bottom line. If we had kept the National Recreation Area name, which we should have done, then we would have had a bottom line of protection, that there were precedents all over the country and we would have actually had protection. But by using the National Scenic Area name they were able to put in this stupid planning bill that didn’t resemble anything that had been done anywhere else and was a premeditated hoax and they were able to get away with it.
I wake up in the middle of the night haunted by that, primarily by the fact that I turned my cheek, I’ve gone into this, and didn’t criticize the Friends. Friends of the Earth was in a big internal fight at that time over David Brower, you know that infighting just really hurt me and everyone [said] you can’t attack the Friends. So I went from, they formed in late eighty until the bill passed in eighty-six I never publicly criticized them even though they attacked me, told me I was a too inferior person to be allowed to take part in politics, that’s a direct quote. And fought us. Wyden took money from utilities and corporations, Weyerhaeuser, people like that and I never exposed them. And now people get really made at me for attacking the Friends of the Gorge and say, we gotta get along. I said, no, that’s why we lost the Gorge. I wake up in the middle of the night haunted by the fact that if I would have exposed what they were doing we probably could have won the Gorge. The National Scenic Area is the second biggest mistake I made in my life. By far the biggest was to not attack the Friends of the Gorge and for trying to get along. That’s my basic philosophy, you know, is try to get along. I’m not a very adversarial person. But I really was way too much of a softy on that one. If I would have criticized and exposed what they would have done because they’d hold press conferences saying all these environmental groups support them. Blatant lies. And I should have held press conferences and pointed out that none of those groups - they supported a National Scenic Area but not what the Friends of the Gorge, not this Forest Service Commission thing. My biggest regret out of the whole thing is not pointing out what the Friends were doing, not exposing their collusion with the development interests and such. Something I’m going to have to live down the rest of my life for having been too nice [laughs]. So when people come now and tell me you gotta quit criticizing the Friends I just tell them to go jump in a lake, that’s why we lost the Gorge.
CH: Well, you’ve really got a lot to say and I really appreciate the time that you’ve spent on this.
CW: I don’t get very many chances to ....
CH: Well, it’s a lot of information.
CW: I’m the only person that’s been involved in it all the way through. I don’t know how much - did we talk about John Yeon do you know?
CH: A little bit.
CW: Dennis and Bonnie White came over the other night and that came up. We had started the fight and John Yeon got a hold of me and he was just so happy that I came along because he was really pro Park Service. I think I mentioned that but this came up the other night and I hadn’t really thought about it since then. He was just adamant that the Gorge protection end at the Forest Service boundary about five miles west of Hood River there. He thought that the eastern end of the Gorge was inferior landscape. He had that rainforest chauvinism of Portland people.
CH: Yeah right. [laughs]
CW: He was just sure that I was going to kill [it] by pushing that the whole eastern end of the Gorge be protected at the same time as the western end that I was going to kill the whole thing. My motivations for doing that were, number one, one of my main goals working with Friends of the Earth as a national parks expert was to get within the national parks system a protected area of every major ecosystem within the country. So that we had a - as a genetic bank. And that was one of my main motivations for Santa Monica National Recreation Area and the Channel Islands National Park was to get a huge hunk of chaparral in there into the national park system. And tall grass prairie has been the main gap in that whole project and was one of my top priorities. Only one of my thirteen top priorities I didn’t win during the Carter administration with Andrus. And so I was arguing for the protection of the eastern end of the Gorge for the biological diversity so that we would have some of the high desert within the protected area and then also the archeological sites, you know, Celilo the Wasco area around The Dalles are incredible historic areas.
But John Yeon was just adamant that I was going to lose Park Service protection by pushing for too much. He wanted us to only protect from the Sandy River to the Mount Defiance area there, the eastern edge of the Gorge. So right before we kicked off our big campaign I just found some notes the other day and I don’t think I mentioned it, but we had this big picnic with John Yeon’s place in late eighty. It was when my book was being published and it was a big...
CH: The Shire across from Multnomah Falls.
CW: Yes. So we’re having a huge party their. It was a kickoff celebration. It was the publication of my book and we just had hundreds of people going. And right before it we had a planning meeting at the Parker House in Washougal and John Yeon brought Nancy Russell with him. It was her first time she’d ever been involved in anything in the Gorge or any politics that I know of. And so after the meeting she went and got a hold of Craig Collins and Susan Kady of our staff and demanded that I be banned from the gathering at the Shire because I was quote offensive to the type of people whose support we needed. And plus we were really stupid to not use it for fundraising. And then when they refused to ban me from the kickoff meeting for protecting the Columbia Gorge that was when she said, well, I’m going to go form my own group. She didn’t say it but basically destroyed the coalition. She was, for the first year or so, she was going to work with us and support the Park Service and support tributaries which, I’ve since found out, she knew from the beginning she never had any intention of doing that. That type of blatant lying is just something I’ve never been around. We ran into that with the rich people in the Gorge. The poor people that have moral standards, even the right-wing people that we hate their politics, I mean, they were honest and I still have a lot of good contacts with the right-wing people in the Gorge because we respect each other.
CH: But didn’t John Yeon really, wasn’t he sincere in his desire to keep the Gorge protected.
CW: Oh, he was very sincere. But the irony, I guess the thing I was leading up to, the ironic was that he thought me pushing for a bigger area was going to hurt the chances of protecting the west in and it turned out the person he brought in, Nancy Russell was the one that killed the Park Service. She turned out to be the main enemy of the Park Service. He brought her into the Gorge fight and she was the one that did him in, not me, on the Park Service. But he could never, until his dying day, he could never admit that so he blamed it all on Don Clark and Lorna Stickel and he used it to call it the Lorna Stickel bill, the Friends of the Gorge bill, the Stickel bill and he blamed it all on Don Clark because he couldn’t acknowledge the fact that he had brought in the person that turned out to be the main enemy of the Park Service. But he ended up doing in all of his dreams fort he Gorge by bringing Nancy Russell into the fight. We’d all be better off if that didn’t happen. Ironically, he was so shook up about the Forest Service taking over his land that he turned it over to the university to keep it out of the Forest Services land he was so mad over losing the Park Service. To his dying day he couldn’t face up to the fact that he set the gears in place that killed Park Service protection for the Gorge. He was very sincere. Very nice man. We got along good. He was kind of a cheapskate. I mean, he could have really financially helped us a lot and that was the excuse Nancy Russell used for destroying the coalition is we weren’t good fund-raisers. That was her public reason. They could have helped us and if the Friends would have complimented us instead of fighting us and used her connections and money and our knowledge and our incredible organizing abilities in the Gorge we could have won the Gorge. We would have had it all. Because our only downfall was really finance. We weren’t all that good at raising money but that was partly premeditated in that I wanted to be locally based and I knew we were going to lose a lot of money and a lot the volunteer support by being based in the middle of the Gorge not the urban area but that was a tradeoff. We has right on our side. I knew we were going to prevail. I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind and most of us that started that we would have gotten the Park Service.
But when Nancy Russell formed the Friends and asked people to help destroy the coalition she said they’d have protection within one year and this was in late eighty. And by late eighty-one if everyone would support the Forest Service and fight the coalition they could have the Gorge protected within a year. And of course it was another five years and we had to get back involved in eighty-three to even get any bill at all. They had killed any chances of ever protecting the Gorge. We got back involved at Bob Packwood’s urging to salvage something and we salvaged a little bit but nowhere near enough. But it took another five years and a lot of heartache and such.
My only defeat, in my long environmental career I’ve only ever lost one fight. I was the national parks expert for Friends of the Earth for five years and been involved for over a quarter of a century and I got spoiled. The peak of my career was during the Carter Andrus years when we were winning thing left and right. I only lost one environmental fight in my entire life and it was for my own home, the one that broke my heart. It’s left me emotionally destroyed. I go through the Gorge, western end around Skamania where I’m from it’s just houses everywhere, very rich white people moving in and building their trophy houses and such. The poor are hung out to dry and such. It left me a broken man in a lot of ways. I guess that’s a good ending spot there.
CH: I appreciate your telling me your story.
CW: I’m sure I’ll think of some more you can save that little bit of the tape there [laughs].
CH: Well, I’ll be glad to add it if you come up with other things that you’d like to....
CW: Okay. I’m sure. That thing about John and Nancy Russell, you know, demanding to go into Craig and Susan demanding that I be banned from the meeting. I had forgotten all about that when I was going - I’ve got a whole packet of background information put together for you and I didn’t - I didn’t know we were going to get together. I found the note about that and I was like, oh, my god, I had forgotten how bad that had gotten.
CH: Well, I’d like to see the information.
CW: The Gorge Commission also has asked me to put it together because there’s noone on the Gorge Commission now that was involved in that. They have no idea. When I spoke in front of them the other day and they were like, oh, you mean other places are under the Park Service. You mean we could have had acquisition everywhere in the Gorge and they.... They met Tuesday at the Discovery Center and one of the - actually I’ve got a little time to tell one more story.
One of the problems was that the Friends of the Gorge fought and successfully killed any land acquisition in sixty-one percent of the Gorge. Only within the special management areas which is thirty-nine percent of the Gorge is there any authorization to buy lands. And without buying land or at least buying scenic easements you have neither protection, long term protection, because with the zoning can be changed immediately. The minute all the houses are built on the exiting zoning in the Gorge they’ll just start granting variances and they’ll just change the whole thing. So it will go on forever. But if you buy the land or even buyout the development rights on it then that’s forever.
And the other bad thing is that it’s horrible - you know, there’s no compensation for local people in which - they’re rich they didn’t care. And so we got neither protection nor compensation in the majority of the Gorge. And that’s one reason there’s so much development because the commission [said] “Well, we can’t stop people from building on their land because we can’t buy it out.” In Wasco Country there’s only one piece of land left that’s an open space that hasn’t been reclassified to allow development and so the owners have agreed to sell but it’s in the GMA so they were having a debate. The Gorge Commission was going to pass a resolution to send to Congress to ask them to appropriate the money to buy the last piece of open space left in Wasco County and that’s when I went through the roof and said, “You know, I came to this commission before and begged you and begged you to pass a resolution to Congress to make the whole general management area open to acquisition so we at least could buy out things like the Bea house and such.”
And I went to them once previously when the plan came out and I was just practically in tears begging them and said, “No, no, Friends of the Gorge they know what they’re doing, they’re ok.” That was before lunch. After lunch SDS came in and said, “Well, we’re going to clear cut all our lands between Hood River and Mosier if you don’t buy it.” And they said, “Well, it’s GMA and we can’t, you know, Forest Service can’t buy it.” Well we better consider this. And SDS came in and asked them to do it and they were considering it but they wouldn’t even listen to me.
The Oregon State University Press book, Planning the West that was done by some PSU professors, they have a whole section in there about how I was just adamant to the end that there be acquisition authority throughout the Gorge and that not listening to me has turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes in the Gorge. I keep xeroxing that and passing it out because no one acknowledges that I exist [laughs]. I think that book didn’t paint the bad side of the Friends of the Gorge, it was kind of a coverup. But they did acknowledge that I started, had a sidebar on me and they did mention that I was just adamant to the end that that be the case and that I’d been proven right. That’s still - the very fact that the Bea house is not in an area where you can buy land is just insane. I mean, that’s just total insanity. So anyway, if we’re ever going to protect it [we need] the Park Service and to get land acquisition authority throughout the Gorge. Those are two main things that need to be done. But with five-hundred and fifty new houses now instead of maybe fifty which we expected under our bill and there just going to keep on going forever. And everyone of those means that we’ll never have the wildlife habitat.
One last thing on the Bea house, the Friends of the Gorge signed off on the Bea house and they didn’t start fighting it until the public outrage turned out so bad they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar and they’ve signed off on all those five-hundred and fifty houses and they claim, well it wasn’t built like what they approved, signed off on. Which is true. It’s higher and more out front. But it doesn’t matter in terms of destroying wildlife and plant life and such whether it’s a pink house or three story or two story, they signed off on all those houses and that’s destroying wildlife habitat. If it had been built a little further back like they approved it and been more earth colored it wouldn’t have been as noticeable when they took their friends on their Sunday drives. But it would have done just as much to destroy wildlife habitat and such but that’s never been one of their concerns. And we could have locked up that whole area across from Multnomah Falls all public ownership and total wilderness and such and now those five-hundred and fifty houses aren’t going to be moved in my lifetime anyway [laughs]. And the land costs were so cheap back then. We could have bought so much of that.
CH: Well, thanks for your postscript, I appreciate it.
[end tape 7, side 2 - end of Interview]