Meet John Roskelley – CELP Board Member

Water advocate, legendary mountaineer, and author, John Roskelley has a long history of public service and joined the CELP board in the fall of 2014.  He has also served on the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the Growth Management Hearings Board, and as a Spokane County Commissioner. John’s latest book is Paddling the Columbia: A guide to all 1,200 miles of our scenic and historical river.  John is especially interested in removing dams, and in restoring health to the Columbia River and its tributaries. In the photo to the left, he is fishing with son Jess.

John Roskelley near Mica Dam on Kinbasket Lake - Joyce Roskelley

John Roskelley near Mica Dam on Kinbasket Lake – Photo by Joyce Roskelley

How did you first become aware of/involved with CELP?

I first became aware of CELP after following the group’s legal actions to protect in-stream flows on the Spokane River and during the relicensing of the Post Falls Dam. I also attended a Winter Waters event.

What’s your first memory of being aware of water conservation, or conservation in general?

As a member of the Spokane Mountaineers and mountain climber for the past 50 years, it feels as though I have always been involved in some conservation activity or another. My first involvement in conservation work was in 1966 when I wrote my first letter asking Congress to create the North Cascades National Park. As I climbed throughout the world, I was always conscious of “leave no trace” and protecting the natural resources of the countries I visited. In 1986, I volunteered for a month to eliminate feral sheep off Santa Cruz Island for the Nature Conservancy. As a Spokane County Commissioner from 1995-2004, I was able to influence many environmental decisions in our county, including a more restrictive critical area ordinance and pass one of the better county comprehensive plans under GMA in the state. During my commissioner years and while on the Eastern Washington Growth Management Board, I was selected to sit on the first Salmon Recovery Funding Board; the Nature Conservancy Board; and the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Board.

What do you find most challenging about protecting water in Washington?

In my opinion, the most challenging aspect of protecting water in Washington is the blatant disregard for rules and regulations of the state by agricultural interests; the minor slaps on the wrist for industrial and municipality pollution; and the refusal of the DOE to enforce the law.

What do you wish other people knew about CELP or water conservation generally?

Water conservation can only be achieved through educating our youth. Environmental issues classes, like water conservation, should be a part of the K-12 curriculum to catch them early and often. We have to hope that with each generation more and more people will know better than to pollute or waste this precious resource.

If you could change one thing about CELP, what would it be?

If I could change one thing it would be the name. Better name recognition means more money; more money means more lawyers; more lawyers mean better compliance, whether through court orders or fear of being sued.

What’s your personal philosophy on what should be done about water conservation?

It’s a battle we have to win. There is no other option. We have to enlist everyone involved in water use and educate them to the seriousness of continuing along the path we’ve been on.

Why are you supporting CELP as opposed to other groups working on water conservation?

I support CELP because this environmental group has a hammer – litigation – and isn’t afraid to use it frequently. Sometimes there is no other option to overcoming political pandering; corporate greed; and just plain ignorance than a good old fashioned lawsuit.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming involved with CELP?

Becoming involved with CELP is money and time well spent for their future and that of their kids and grandkids.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CELP?

When I’m not volunteering for CELP, I’m finishing up the landscaping around our new home and planning my next project, which this summer is paddling the Snake River from source to mouth, a journey of 1100 miles. Like my paddle down the Columbia River, I plan to write another guide book despite the fact it’s a labor of love and not a lot of money.