You've got one more chance to weigh in on the repair of the Suiattle River Road, a tremendous opportunity to regain access to some magnificent hikes in the North Cascades. Landslides resulting from floods in 2003 and 2006 have kept this road closed past milepost 12, effectively locking out hikers from some of the best trails in the heart Glacier Peak Wilderness.
The Federal Highways Administration Western Federal Lands Division, in conjunction with the Darrington Ranger District have updated their earlier (March 18) Environmental Assessment (EA) in response to your comments earlier this spring. With the release of an Amended Environmental Assessment, hikers get one more chance to call for repairs to the road.
Comment by Sept. 10 to repair Suiattle River Road, regain hiking access
road to its end at milepost 23.0. Your feedback will help ensure that this critical access road is available to hikers once again!, which will repair the
Public comments will be accepted until September 10. Please send them to email@example.com or mail them to:
Federal Highway Administration
610 East Fifth Street
Vancouver, WA 98661-3893
Washington Trails Association strongly supports repair of the Suiattle Road to its end. Together with the White Chuck River Road, the road was one of two access corridors into to the depths of the Glacier Peak Wilderness from the west side of the Cascades. The White Chuck River Road will not be repaired, which makes repair and reopening of the Suiattle even more essential.
What changed since the March assessment?
Not much. The Amended EA is in substance the same as the original March 18 document, clarifying a few points and cleaning up some punctuation and other language issues. The EA still identifies repair of all damaged sights as its proposed action, and Alternative B is still the one that best meets hikers' needs.
Here are some of the changes made in the Amended EA:
- Discussion of the two active EAs previously conducted on Suiattle Road Repair, including timing and appeals.
- More detail on some of the site repair descriptions.
- Clarification of the project's comportment with the Forest Plan.
- Reference to the Fish and Wildlife Service's ongoing rulemaking on northern spotted owl critical habitat.
- Noting that the Suiattle is classified as a level 3 road in many places per the 2008 Suiattle Access and Travel Management (ATM) Plan.
For more background on the Suiattle, read WTA's blog post about the March 18 Environmental Assessment.
In a major victory for Washington trails this month, Governor Gregoire determined that Washington would use Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds disbursed by Congress earlier this summer as part of the recently passed Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 to fund recreation-program grants.
The Governor could have diverted the funds into highway projects, but after hearing from WTA, hikers and other recreation advocates, she kept the funds focused where they belong: on trails.
RTP: essential to trail maintenance
WTA receives $175,000 annually from RTP -- nearly 20 percent of our Trail Maintenance Program budget. We leverage that money four or five times over when we field volunteer work parties. Without it, WTA would have been forced to significantly scale back a trail maintenance program that both hikers and land management agencies have come to rely upon.
WTA and a number of other organizations weighed in with comments to Governor Gregoire. We told the story of the program. Recreation advocates told her how important RTP is to their programs, to Washington's quality of life and to the economy that it sustains. She heard us loud and clear, and early this month, we received word that she would continue to fund recreation funds using RTP dollars.
What will RTP fund? WTA uses RTP funds to field Backcountry Response Teams, Volunteer Vacations and to fund our Youth Program. They help us work in Holden Village, at Bird Creek Meadows, on the PCT or in Leadbetter State Park. They help us get young people out for a transformative week in the woods on the Hoh River Trail or at Spray Park. Most importantly, the funds allow the great trail maintenance work we do on these lands to continue, and hikers across the state will benefit.
Thank you for supporting trails!
Thank you to everyone who spoke up on behalf of the program. Without the support of our members, volunteers and the many other hikers who stood up and were heard, we might have lost RTP!
The threat of exploratory drilling has returned to Goat Mountain, which sits just north of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
In 2006, WTA listed the Goat Mountain Trail (#217) as one of the most endangered in the state, because a proposal to develop a copper mine there seemed imminent. But after a hard fight, the Bureau of Land Management denied the mine application in 2008, much to the relief of the many thousands of people who called for protecting the natural beauty and recreation opportunities in the area of the trail.
But another threat looms as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released an Environmental Assessment (EA) on exploratory drilling at Goat Mountain.
You can comment on this proposal until August 15* by sending a letter to:
Bureau of Land Management
c/o Goat Mountain Prospecting
P.O. Box 2965
Portland, OR 97208
You can also comment via email at: BLM_OR_Prospecting_EA@blm.gov
Goat Mountain, Mount St. Helens has more to offer than a mine
Those who have hiked the trail know that it puts on a spectacular wildflower display in the summer and huckleberries in the early fall. On any clear day, open ridgetop hiking provides views of Mount Adams, Mount Rainer, Mount Hood, and St. Helens. But the BLM’s decision in 2008 did not prevent future attempts to mine there. The issue flared up again last year when Ascot Resources, Inc. a Canadian corporation, signed an option agreement to purchase interests in the Mount Margaret deposit, which lies in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
More exploratory drilling, the next step in developing the full project, would have happened without an opportunity for public input, but last summer the Gifford Pinchot Task Force filled an injunction pressuring the BLM into conducting an Environmental Assessment (EA) that gives the public the opportunity to comment on the project.
Ironically the land in question was purchased in the 1980s by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) from a mining company to protect it from mining. In 1986 the Forest Service used Land and Water Conservation Funds, a federal program established for conservation and recreation, to purchase the land.
This spring, WTA joined an extensive coalition of recreation and conservation groups voicing opposition to building a large mine adjacent to Mount St. Helens National Monument. Such an operation would threaten all of the recreational activities for visitors to the area, including hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding. Indeed the proposed test drilling sites are just across the road from the popular Green River Horse Camp. Increased noise, dust and traffic from exploratory drilling could grow into full-blown mining, which would threaten recreation opportunities and wildlife with earthmoving equipment, toxic chemicals and possible obliteration of trail miles.
Comment to protect Mount St. Helens by August 15
Add your voice to help protect one of SW Washington’s cherished recreation areas by sending a letter. Let them know how much you value Goat Mountain and Mount St. Helens, and how devastating a mining project would be to this one-of-a-kind resource. You can send your letter to:
Bureau of Land Management
c/o Goat Mountain Prospecting
P.O. Box 2965
Portland, OR 97208
You can also comment via email at: BLM_OR_Prospecting_EA@blm.gov
*Updated 7/30/12 with a new deadline for submitting comments.
Update June 29, 2012, 1:05 PM: The Senate voted to pass the House-approved transportation budget 74-19.
A new federal transportation budget is right now being approved by Congress. Today the U.S. House approved a multi-billion dollar package, voting 373-52 in favor, and the Senate is expected to follow suit on Saturday. This budget had been at a stalemate for three years - funded through a series of continuing resolutions - as lawmakers were unable to come up with an agreed upon compromise until this week.
Why does this matter to hikers? A small program deep within the transportation budget called the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds off-highway recreation and trail projects throughout the country. On Thursday, we received news that the compromise bill contains Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funding.
As decision-makers have debated the transportation bill, RTP has consistently been in jeopardy of being left out of the transportation package. We have detailed its saga in this blog and in Washington Trails magazine over the past three years, asking you to weigh in on behalf of this program that helps fund about 20 percent of WTA's trail maintenance program.
As recently as last week, we had heard that RTP was out of the bill and asked you to call your senators and congressperson to ask that it be included. Washington state's delegation member on the House Conference, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), really went to the mat for RTP. Hikers in Washington State are in her debt. We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for their work on the Senate side. Although they were not on the conference, they are both strong RTP supporters and made their voices heard with Senate transportation leadership. Finally, thank you to everyone who contacted their Members of Congress to advocate for RTP. Your support was essential!
The compromise proposal is not perfect, but it is quite good. Governors have the discretion to use RTP dollars for highway projects rather than trails if they notify the Secretary of Transportation within 30 days of fund distribution. That means that WTA and other recreation advocates will have to work with our incoming governor to show the value of outdoor recreation to Washington State.
Even with that caveat, the fact that RTP is dedicated in the transportation budget is great news. Tonight, I suggest you make a small toast with your beverage of choice, and thank Congress for doing right by hikers and Washington State's quality of life.
Yesterday, Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced new legislation that sets out to permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries (464 river miles in all) as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
The current area designated as wilderness on the Olympic Peninsula totals 950,000 acres, composed mostly of Olympic National Park (876,000 acres) and five wilderness areas hugging the south and east sides of the park: Colonel Bob, Wonder Mountain, Mount Skokomish, The Brothers and Buckhorn (totaling 88,000 acres).
The new legislation would push the wilderness acreage to more than 1 million by creating nine new areas and adding acres to the five current areas. The legislation also designates 19 new Wild and Scenic Rivers running across National Park, National Forest and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lands.
The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012 (H.R. 5995 and S. 3329) was a labor of love for Washington State wilderness advocates. It involved a great deal of public outreach by Senator Murray and Congressman Dicks, including to diverse recreation users and the tribes. Both Members of Congress and organizations involved in creating the proposal took pains to preserve existing access to Olympic National Park and the potential new wilderness areas. They started by setting wilderness boundaries back at least 200 feet from existing roads, which would allow roads damaged by washouts to be rerouting. They did the same for damaged or washed-out roads slated to reopen.
Advocates for the proposal went one step further and created a non-wilderness buffer around Lena Lake and its access trail. The buffer preserves access to the trail and lake by large groups, such as scouts. Finally, Wild and Scenic River designation provides for continued road access, and in many cases it preserves access by developing new river opportunities for kayakers and other water users.
If enacted, the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic River Act of 2012 would be the first new wilderness on Olympic National Forest in nearly three decades and the first-ever protected wild and scenic rivers on the Olympic peninsula.
You can read more about the news from our news partner, The Seattle Times.
The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is in danger in DC. The House and Senate Transportation Budget Conference Committee is close to reaching a compromise that may remove this critical trail funding program from the transportation bill. RTP delivers nearly $2 million to Washington State each year and WTA receives $175,000 annually from RTP - nearly 20% of our Trail Maintenance Program budget. Call your U.S. Representative and Senators today and ask them reject any transportation budget reauthorization that does not include dedicated funding for the Recreational Trails Program.
It's a sure bet that no area in the state sees as many hikers as the Snoqualmie Pass corridor does. Once past North Bend, every I-90 exit leads to a proliferation of trailheads. It's easy to find a hike here, and if you're from the Seattle area, you'll be close to home. The downside is that you'll almost never be alone on these trails, and it can be very difficult to find a parking place at the trailhead on weekends.
The proposal includes expanded parking, relocating sections of the Franklin Falls trail out of the floodplain to keep it from washing out, developing some new trails and gating sections of unused road. On top of that, they'll likely develop some new signage and add a handrail on the slippery rock approach to Franklin Falls. If you've been to these trails, off exit 52, you know they are heavily used and could stand some significant upgrades. This is a very welcome project.
If you'd like to find out more for yourself, the Snoqualmie Ranger District is holding a public meeting on the proposal on June 20 from 5:30 - 7:15pm at the Douglass Truth Library, 2300 Yesler Way, Seattle. We'll be there, and hope to see you!
There are new developments in the controversy over the Green Mountain Lookout, an old fire lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness that was built in 1933. The popular trail up Green Mountain has been largely inaccessible since floods washed out the Suiattle River Road in 2003 and 2006, but the lookout itself has been restored in that time.
The restoration, and how it was carried out, was at the heart of a lawsuit brought by Montana-based Wilderness Watch. In March, Federal District Judge John Coughenor ruled in favor of Wilderness Watch - that the restoration, and specifically how it was carried out (helicopters were used to remove and return it), violated the Wilderness Act. He ordered that the Green Mountain Lookout be removed. You can read more about the ruling here.
Now the clock is ticking. The 60-day period that the Forest Service had to respond to the Judge's order to remove the lookout ended on May 27. In that period, a couple of interesting developments occurred.
Jenny Durkan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington State, filed a brief asking that Judge Coughenour amend his ruling and remand the decision back to the Forest Service, giving them the opportunity to decide how to comply. Typically, when a judge rules against a defendant in a lawsuit against a federal agency, they require the agency to come up with a plan to comply with the ruling rather than specify a remedy and timeline, as was done here. Should Judge Coughenour amend his ruling, the Forest Service could take a step back and do an environmental assessment to show that the lookout does not detract from the wilderness character of Green Mountain, or propose another course of action that would keep the lookout in place.
Secondly, Congressman Larsen and Senators Murray and Cantwell sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking him to "...ensure that this [removal] is not the final result of this lawsuit..." Congressman Larsen represents the 2nd Congressional District, which for the time being includes the Suiattle River Road and Green Mountain. That will change in November, since the has moved the boundary of the 2nd District farther west.
WTA will continue to keep you up-to-date on the eventual fate of the Green Mountain Lookout. It's a part of Pacific Northwest history that we hope to keep alive.
Imagine what it would be like to take your young nephew with a disability to enjoy a day in the woods, only to find that the accessible trail you thought was suitable for him was indeed too difficult, after all. Had you been able to determine the trail specifications before setting out, you may have chosen to visit another location.
To better inform people with disabilities about what to expect of a trail in Oregon and in SW Washington, a committee called Access Recreation is in the process of developing guidelines so that land managers can provide useful information to users with disabilities to better decide if a particular trail or a portion of that is suitable for them. For example, if a viewpoint on a trail is not connected to an accessible route, that information should be provided.
Access Recreation is comprised of representatives from federal, state and local agencies, and organizations involved in public recreation and accessibility - people who understand the spectrum of disabilities and what trail design features might mean a deal-breaker. Access Recreation is developing universally-accepted shapes, colors and symbols to denote accessible amenities at trailheads to be used on trailhead signs. Consistent placement of universally-accepted icons that users can rely upon finding on a specially-designed webpage will also be a part of the guidelines.
A public presentation of the guidelines is May 10th May 10, 2012 from 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm at 1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, Oregon.
For more information, check their website here.
If you haven't commented on the Suiattle River Road Repair Environmental Assessment (EA), now is the time! The closing date for comments is tomorrow, and if you care about this area you should make sure your voice is heard.
WTA is commenting on the EA, in support of Alternative B. This alternative would restore access to the road end and all the amazing Glacier Peak Wilderness backcountry accessed from it. Alternative B would move the road back from the river in several places, allowing the Suiattle to conform to a more natural flow and reconnect with it's historical wetlands. Alternative B also restores Downey Creek to a more natural flow pattern by extending the bridge and demolishing an embankment that's constrained the river for years.
Finally, Alternative B is the only one that will fully restore vehicle access to the end of the road. The Suiattle is the last of the western access points to the Glacier Peak Wilderness, so this EA is a tremendous opportunity to regain some magnificent hikes.
Thank you for taking the time to weigh in on this EA, regardless of your views!
Here's a quick note to put a bow on the package delivered by the legislature this month!
Today, Governor Gregoire signed HB 2373, which makes the Discover Pass transferable between two vehicles. WTA is pleased that Governor Gregoire signed this legislation, since it will better serve hikers and likely increase Discover Pass revenues this year. The pass has fallen short on revenue collections, and according to survey data collected by the State Parks and Recreation Commission, that's largely due to the fact that it wasn't transferable.
What's the best part of this legislation? It's retroactive and contains an emergency clause, meaning it takes effect immediately! So take your Discover Pass out of your glove box and write another license plate number in the same section where your current number is, assuming you have two vehicles.
The new law also creates a new $50 universally transferable pass and lets purchasers choose their own start date.
A great deal of work went into this legislation. WTA's been there from the very beginning. When the agencies came to us late last summer and asked what we wanted to see regarding the Discover Pass, we told them what you told us: transferability. They listened, and due to a lot of hard work - and your amazing contributions - the legislature did as well.
Thank you for helping us move this bill, and for all you do as WTA members, volunteers and advocates!
>> To learn about the Discover Pass and other recreation passes and permits, please visit our Recreation Pass Info page.
The historic Green Mountain Lookout might be breathing its last. On March 27, Federal District Judge John Coughenor ordered that the Green Mountain Lookout be removed.
Built in 1933, the lookout, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was used for decades to spot fires in the North Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Since the mid-1980s the structure has been a popular destination for hikers venturing in from the Suiattle River Road (this road has been closed due to flooding since 2006).
However, decades of heavy snow, rain and mountain sun weathered the lookout and its foundation. A failed 2002 attempt to repair the foundation led to the Forest Service helicoptering the structure to Darrington, where it was restored by volunteers. Seventy-five percent of the original structure's materials were used in the restoration project, and in 2009, it was helicoptered back to its former perch.
In 2010, Montana-based Wilderness Watch sued to force removal of the structure, contending that the project violated the Wilderness Act's ban on structure and motorized equipment and did not comply with procedural requirements outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). And on Tuesday, Judge Coughenor ruled in Wilderness Watch's favor. Peter Forbes, Darrington District Ranger told me, "The judge made his decision on March 27, and we received the ruling today. We have 60 days to review the decision and determine whether to appeal, as well as how to apply with the Court's decision."
Appeal is certainly one option that the Forest Service has in this case. According to Brian Turner, Senior Field Officer/Attorney in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's San Francisco Field Office, "It's unclear as to whether there will be an appeal. The U.S. Attorney will make the case for an appeal to the Solicitor General, and they'll make a decision based on that." Turner continued, "A small silver lining of this case is that the ruling clarifies that the meaning of the word "historic" as used in the Wilderness Act can refer to man-made as well as natural history. This decision is not the death of historic structures in wilderness."
Lookouts are a deep part of the post-settlement history of the Pacific Northwest. These solitary buildings in their rarified environments are a touchstone to others who have explored these peaks before us. For decades, they housed hard workers, loners, wilderness mystics, and in the case of North Cascades lookouts, poets. Should the Forest Service decline to appeal this decision, one more piece of that history will pass, and we'll be poorer for it.
There’s a lost generation of hikers who have missed out on expansive wildflower meadows on the slopes of Green Mountain, the immense old growth forest of Downey Creek and western access to the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Landslides resulting from floods in 2003 and 2006 have kept this road closed past milepost 12, effectively locking out hikers from some of the best trails in the Cascades.
Now, more than eight years after the first of two devastating floods ripped through the Suiattle watershed and severely damaged the road, an Environmental Assessment for the repair of the Suiattle River Road has been published. This kicks off a 30-day public comment period in accordance with the Forest Service’s policy on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which runs until April 20.
NEPA ensures that federal agencies appropriately consider the various laws designed to protect endangered species of flora, fauna and fish, the historical aspects of the project area and the human environment. Along with NEPA are other considerations, such as tribal rights and Forest Service policy on the provision of recreation opportunities to the public. The NEPA Process typically identifies a number of alternatives and proposes an action.
The Suiattle River Road EA entertains three options:
- Option A would keep the road closed to vehicle traffic;
- Option B would repair the road to its end at milepost 23.0;
- Option C would repair the road to milepost 20.2, the turn-off to FR 2680 and the Green Mountain trailhead.
Washington Trails Association supports repairing the Suiattle River Road and will be commenting on the document.
For those whose eyes glaze over at the thought of reading this massive tome, the Western Division of Federal Highways Administration and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest are hosting an open house on March 29 at 6:00pm at the Firefighters Hall in Everett. Engineers and other staff will be on hand to answer questions about the proposed design of the road and a fish-friendly bridge at Downey Creek.
Public comments will be accepted now through April 20. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to:
Federal Highway Administration
610 East Fifth Street
Vancouver, WA 98661-3893
For background on this issue, please see WTA's blog post from May 19, 2011 about a lawsuit that precipitated this EA.
UPDATE March 7, 2012: Just moments ago, the State House passed the Senate-amended HB 2373 by a 60-37-1 vote. It is on its way to the Governor for signature!
Today, the state Senate passed a striking amendment that made changes to the House-passed Discover Pass legislation - inching the transferability bill closer to enactment. The newly engrossed and amended HB 2373 has the following provisions:
- Makes the Discover Pass transferable between two vehicles, retroactive immediately;
- Adds a $50, universally transferable Discover Pass;
- Lets Discover Pass purchasers choose a start date for their Discover Pass;
- Requires state land agencies to find consistent recreational policies where inconsistencies exist and to report back to the legislature by December 31, 2012 on plans and progress.
These provisions would be enacted upon being signed by the governor. There are several other provisions as well, but these are the ones that should interest hikers the most. WTA's one disappointment with the striking amendment is that it does not fix the requirement that day-use Sno-Park permit holders also carry a Discover Pass.
HB 2373 passed 30-17 on a very bipartisan vote. Since this legislation is different from the bill that passed the House, the process around HB 2373 is not over. The House has to take up the changes that were made by the Senate and decide if they can concur with them or if the differences are severe enough that they will have to be taken up in a House-Senate conference.
WTA has been involved with this Discover Pass legislation since last fall. When State Parks, DNR and Fish and Wildlife began to plan fixes to the Discover Pass, they came to WTA to get a sense of what our members wanted, and their requested legislation has reflected what we told them.
Your help and feedback are instrumental to everything we do in Olympia. Thank you for your continued support of WTA and our advocacy work!
Last week I spent three whirlwind days in Washington, DC, with WTA board member Jeff Chapman. Our docket was packed: meetings with Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as eight of our state's nine representatives.
Our two top priorities were the Recreation Trails Program (RTP), which is part of the transportation package, and the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service trail funding, which is part of the Interior Appropriations bill. Depending upon our audience - and the time we had - we also spoke about forest planning, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Secure Rural Schools and other local issues.
This was my first lobby visit to Washington, DC, and it was fascinating to see first-hand how the legislative process works. We met with staff of each of the representatives and both senators. Some of the meetings were held in large conference rooms, others in dark-paneled offices, and a few while standing in the marbled hallways surrounded by dozens of other Washingtonians.We were able to meet with both of the Washington senators during meet-and-greet coffees.
During each meeting we emphasized the importance of RTP to trails. Because it is such a small line item in an enormous transportation budget, most legislators were receptive. But all of them were considerably less optimistic that the overall transportation bill would be able to pass by the March 31 deadline.
In addition to Washington's congressional delegation, Jeff and I also met with three top U.S. Forest Service trails officials, as well as our national hiking non-profit partners, the American Hiking Society and Outdoor Alliance. The discussion with the Forest Service was particularly enriching. We spoke for two hours about forest planning, standardizing the crosscut saw certificate process, Wild and Scenic Rivers, youth in the outdoors and much more.
My favorite moment of the trip was meeting with Senator Cantwell and seeing her eyes light up as she described her climb of the Grand Teton with a WTA member last summer. It was great to get a chance to connect on personal level about the importance of trails and WTA.
Thirteen meetings in three days left me exhausted but energized. And although I feel more comfortable walking the trails of the Cascades, this trip was a reminder that walking the halls of the Capitol is equally important.
The next step for HB 2373? It'll now move on to the Senate, where it may be heard in policy and fiscal committees but more likely will form the vehicle for a House/Senate compromise. A similar, but less detailed bill, passed the state Senate on January 27.
Here's what's in the bill:
- Adds two-vehicle transferability.
- Creates an up to $50 Family Discover Pass that is transferable
among any vehicles registered in a householdbetween any vehicle.
- Does not allow WDFW to charge vendor fees when people buy a Discover Pass from the WILD site.
- Exempts possessor of a daily Sno-Park permit from requiring a Discover Pass or Day-use permit at designated Sno-Parks.
- Allows Discover Pass purchaser to designate a start date, making the Pass giftable.
- Allows for Iron Rangers (unstaffed pay stations) on State Parks.
- Requires free access days at State Parks and suggests they be timed with National Park Service free days.
- Codifies that the DNR, the WDFW, and State Parks must designate free 15-minute short-term parking.
- Adds to the types of vehicles for which the owners are given the opportunity to donate to state parks upon vehicle registration (heavy trucks, single-axle trailers, RVs and ORVs).
- Creates a $10 state parks support fee on recreational vehicle registrations until July 1, 2015, to be used to pay for State Parks sites that serve ORV users.
- Allows tsunami cleanup to count as volunteer hours towards a free Discover Pass.
- Requires the agencies to develop proposals for finding consistent state recreational policies where inconsistencies exist and to report findings to the Legislature. Refers to inconsistent management of Discover Pass and Volunteer component.
It has been five years since hikers have driven Snohomish County’s Index-Galena Road to Blanca Lake, the North Fork Skykomish, Quartz Creek and West Cady Ridge trailheads. In November 2006, the road was severely damaged by floods, and hikers have since accessed these trailheads from the Beckler River Road, a much longer route. During this time, we have missed access to a tremendous scenic drive and summer camping at Troublesome Creek and San Juan Campgrounds.
The good news is that much of the Index-Galena Road has already been repaired by Snohomish County, using Emergency Relief funds obtained by a grant from Federal Highways through its Highway Trust Fund.
But now the final piece has been delayed. In October 2011, with just a half mile of repair studies and engineering left, work was stopped in order to arrange a full Environmental Assessment (EA) before finishing. Much of the work has already been completed under a Categorical Exclusion (CE), an accepted procedure under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). However, recent litigation regarding the use of a CE instead of an EA on another project prompted the decision by the county and Federal Highways to stop work and compile an EA for the Index-Galena Road.
The EA is going to take awhile, and we likely won't see repairs restarted until 2014 or 2015. That means hiker access to these trails will continue to be via the Beckler River Road. But that's not stopping WTA from getting some work done on trails in the area. We have scheduled two Youth Volunteer Vacations at the Troublesome Creek Campground this summer, where teens will build and install a bridge.
This week WTA's Executive Director, Karen Daubert, and board member, Jeff Chapman are in Washington, DC meeting with our state's elected officials. Their mission: help preserve the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).
RTP funds critical maintenance projects by the Forest Service and non-profit volunteer organizations like WTA, keeping hundreds of miles of trails hikable. In fact, our state receives roughly $1.8 million annually from RTP, a portion of which goes to WTA's trail maintenance program in the form of grants. Washington Trails Association then leverages this money several times over by using it to field volunteer work parties all over Washington state.
Nearly every hiker in Washington has benefited from the funds provided by RTP, but unfortunately this program is in jeopardy of being eliminated. That's why Karen and Jeff are in Washington, DC. And that's why we need you to contact Senators Murray and Cantwell and urge them to support RTP.
RTP dollars run out on March 31 when a continuing resolution for surface transportation expires. Unless Congress passes a surface transportation bill that reauthorizes the program by then - or extends surface transportation funding through another continuing resolution - RTP dollars will disappear.
But passing a bill means that the House and Senate have to agree, and they're a long way off on many critical elements of transportation funding. In fact, the House draft of the transportation bill includes RTP, but the Senate does not.
On Friday, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced Senate Amendment (SA) 1661, which, among other things, restores RTP to the Senate version of the transportation bill, so that it aligns with the house.
This Wednesday, Karen and Jeff will be meeting with Washington's senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. They will be stressing the importance of RTP and Sen. Klobuchar's amendment for the long-term health of our trails and recreation in Washington state.
You can help make a lasting impression of WTA's visit by contacting Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell. Thank them for their long-time support of RTP and urge them to continue to fight for the program in the Senate by supporting SA 1661. Speak from your experience as a hiker and from your passion for Washington's outdoors.
Thank you for your continued support for trails!
The Recreation Trails Program (RTP) - the grant program in the federal transportation funding bill that provides essential support for trail maintenance all over Washington state - is in jeopardy and we need your help to preserve it.
The re-authorization of the Surface Transportation Funding Bill has been delayed for nearly three years now, but pressure is building to re-authorize it this spring. Despite the fact that RTP is a tiny line item, the program only appears in the House version. If the Senate bill becomes law, WTA and hikers will feel the pain. For 2012, WTA was awarded $175,000 in grants to fund our Volunteer Vacations, Backcountry Response Teams and Youth Program. Without RTP dollars, WTA would have to seriously curtail its trail maintenance work.
RTP expires on March 31, and can be reauthorized by either a continuing resolution or a new surface transportation funding bill. The House and Senate have competing proposals:
- House: HR 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, contains RTP funded at $85 million annually for its four year authorization.
- Senate: S 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (or MAP-21) does not contain RTP, but Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is offering an amendment that would restore RTP to MAP-21.
Here's how you can help.
Washington Trails Association is going to Washington, DC from February 26-29, and your calls to Senators Murray and Cantwell will really help strengthen our message. Let them know that you support Senator Klobuchar's amendment that restores RTP to MAP-21.
Please remember to thank them for all their hard work on behalf of hikers. You can reach Senator Murray at (202) 224-2621 and Senator Cantwell at (202) 224-3441.
Thank you for helping us preserve RTP!
The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has kicked off its recreation planning process for the. The process is intended to culminate in a plan to manage DNR recreation, conservation and trust lands in one of the most heavily-used landscapes in state.
The Snoqualmie Corridor planning area encompasses Tiger Mountain State Forest, Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA), Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area, the Middle Fork NRCA and the Raging River State Forest. This is a huge landscape threaded with trails, and the process will take some time. But the potential payoff for hikers of being engaged from the beginning will be equally as large.
A February open house run by DNR held presented a bird's-eye view of the many places that DNR manages in the corridor. The one point that became immediately clear is that DNR is bound by any number of agreements, land designations and historical uses within the planning area. Those obligations make it impossible for the agency to accommodate certain kinds of recreation in the corridor - for instance, motorized uses. But some types of fast-growing recreation might find new opportunities. For instance, the Raging River State Forest potentially has room for new mountain-bike opportunities, as well as increased equestrian activity.
It's too early to tell what is specifically going to happen here. It's possible that we will see some new trail connections develop between popular areas. For instance, connecting the Snoqualmie Ridge Community to the forest via trails, adding trail connections on the west side of Mount Si, and connecting Grand Ridge with Duthie Hill and East Tiger are all potentially on the table.
Much of the decision-making around this process will be informed by a Snoqualmie Corridor Recreation Planning Committee, a 12-member group for which DNR is taking applications through February 15. We encourage hikers to apply. Getting involved on a committee like this one can be very rewarding. And if you're interested in commenting or being kept in the loop on what DNR is doing in the corridor, sign up here to receive updates.