Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning (HMCOL) grew from a Fraser-Cascade School District program called “Hope Mountain School.” Today, two distinct organizations have emerged, providing outdoor education to a wider audience. Fraser-Cascade Mountain School (FCMS) serves grades 6 to 12 throughout School District 78, while Hope Mountain Centre (a registered charity) reaches adults, families and youth of all ages. Over the last several years, Hope Mountain Centre has also branched out to leading local conservation projects and restoring and maintaining heritage and community hiking trails in the region. Both organizations receive core funding from the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission (SEEC).
Title photo by Kelley Cook.
The Story of SEEC and the Skagit
The Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission (SEEC) was established in 1984 by treaty between Canada and the US. It is based on an Agreement between the City of Seattle and the Province of British Columbia to resolve the controversy over the High Ross Dam expansion proposal.
In the treaty, Seattle City Light agreed not to raise Ross Dam for 80 years in exchange for power purchased at rates equivalent to what would have resulted from raising the dam. The High Ross Treaty also created SEEC to manage an endowment fund that has among its purposes “to conserve and protect wilderness and wildlife habitat . . . to enhance recreational opportunities . . . to acquire mineral or timber rights . . . to conduct studies . . .” and more in the Upper Skagit Watershed until 2065.
SEEC is composed of eight volunteer Commissioners, four appointed by the B.C. Premier and four by the Seattle Mayor. The Commission invests proceeds from the Skagit Environmental Endowment Fund in partnerships and projects that help achieve its mandate to protect the upper Skagit Watershed. Four initiatives provide structure to that mandate and objectives that will be achieved over time. SEEC’s initiatives for education, recreation, land management, and conservation each involves complex social relationships and scientific information. To assist with attaining the goals of the Commission there are 4 partners at the table: BC Parks, National Park Service (NPS), North Cascades Institute (NCI) and Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning (HMCOL).
Central to SEEC’s mission is the long-term protection of a healthy upper Skagit ecosystem. This requires strong and consistent management by resource agencies, oversight of human activity that can impact the environment, and in some cases expanded public ownership protections. At the same time, these resources should be available for the public to enjoy through recreational access and amenity. Public education is the glue that binds the program together, fostering human use that is compatible with a healthy ecosystem, while recruiting and inspiring the next generation of citizens who will appreciate and advocate for resource protection in the future.
Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning is a Canadian partner at SEEC’s table providing educational experiences to the public in the Skagit Watershed of BC.