Pacific Northwest: Paradise Lost?

April 18, 1980

Report Outline
Concern about Popularity
Opening up the Wilderness
Northwest's Energy Questions
Joint Venture into the Future
Special Focus

Concern about Popularity

Unofficial Motto: ‘Come But Don't Stay’

There was a time not long ago when the Pacific Northwest might have qualified as one of the country's best kept secrets. Life in this far corner of the United States was an unpublicized pleasure that residents jealously guarded and people elsewhere usually associated with endless rain. But the weather may be one of the few things that has stayed the same. Change is coming to the coastal states of Washington, Oregon and neighboring Idaho, and it is not entirely welcome.

Attracted by its spreading reputation for “livability,” outsiders are migrating to the Northwest in growing numbers. The sharp influx of newcomers and the problems they inevitably bring with them have left many natives wondering if the region's best qualities — the unspoiled beauty of its forests and shores, the peace and quiet of its urban areas — can survive its new popularity. “We have a deep and abiding love of this land,” said Washington Gov. Dixy Lee Ray. “We're all very defensive about it.” Most people realize that population growth and economic development go hand-in-hand, Ray said. “But we want them to come in a way that preserves the natural flavor [of the environment].”

Basic individualism and an almost religious appreciation of nature have produced a community of values and interests unique to the Northwest. Residents refer to the region as “God's country,” a description which may be only a slight exaggeration. The opening stanza of “America the Beautiful” could easily have been written about this land, with its majestic mountain peaks and amber waves of grain. From the foothills of the Rockies to the Cascade and Olympic ranges, and beyond to the Pacific, it encompasses a varied geography of rain forests, fertile valleys and deserts.

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