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Where Mt. Hood, Inc. Came From
In our ideal world, our show from Timberline Lodge that kicked-off the OPB series on Mt. Hood would have included reporter Rob Manning to pull back the curtain and tell us how the whole idea for the series got started. (Rob couldn't get to the mountain on Friday — and even with great technical wizardry we couldn't get the mountain to him!) So here are a few follow-up questions. I thought it was pretty interesting stuff!
Allison: What sparked the idea to quantify Mount Hood? Isn’t that just a wacky idea to get people talking?
Rob: The idea came to me a few years ago, when I first learned of a study commissioned by the Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition. ECONorthwest did the study, and it looked at the economic benefits of wilderness on Mt. Hood’s north side. The study looked at the value of recreation, water quality, and carbon sequestration, primarily. It was done as part of this controversial land swap involving Mt. Hood Meadows (which owned lots of land it couldn’t develop on the north side) and the Forest Service (which was willing to part with a far smaller — but developable — piece of land outside Government Camp on the southwest side). The swap got hung up and, frankly, we forgot about the study for a few years, until three things surfaced last year:
1) Nestle began pursuing a water bottling plant in Cascade Locks, depending on water that would essentially be coming out of the Mt. Hood National Forest
2) Bagby Hot Springs and a number of other Mt. Hood sites (mostly campgrounds) were offered for private management
3) The land swap was opened for public comment, following its inclusion in a Mt. Hood wilderness bill
Allison: So all those things were coming at the same time — how did the series become “Mt. Hood, Inc.?"
Rob: In the years between the initial Cooper Spur study and the end of last year, other things had happened – mostly related to the emergence of an economic field known as “ecosystem services.” The Forest Service has an office for ecosystem services, now. There are more and more economists looking at this field — there’s even a city in Oregon (Damascus) that's looking at how it can use its natural resouces to save money on built infrastructure (like treating storm water runoff). I pitched the idea to Managing Editor Eve Epstein, to look into “ecosystem services” with an eye toward “what Mt. Hood is worth” to the region. Then Eve took that idea and pushed in what we think of as a “Planet Money” or “Marketplace” direction – to really emphasize that the mountain has value, and a value possible to measure in a way that would help us all look at the mountain in a new way.