Okanogan-Wenatchee-Colville Forest Planning
What's going on?
After much waiting, the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests have taken the next step in developing their Forest Plan. Forest Plans are the overarching documents that land managers use to develop individual forest projects and to which they turn for guidance when developing new recreation opportunities. These plans typically last for 15 years, but the planning window is much longer, due to the immensity of the task and the money involved.
The forests have recently released Proposed Actions, which provide us with a first blush of what they'd like to do for the next several years. Comments on the proposed actions will be incorporated into a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) in 2012 and a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) in 2013.
Why should I care?
The Forest Plan will be a framework for where the forests site new trails and which trails are maintained on a more regular basis. Planning will dictate how access roads are treated - for instance whether they are maintained to passenger vehicle standards or higher, or whether they will be abandoned and decommissioned.
This Forest Plan is the first one in which forests are required to prepare wilderness recommendations. The Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests inventoried their roadless areas and came up with a set of new wilderness opportunities. While these will still require congressional action in order be designated as wilderness, the recommendation by the forests is strongly influential and enhance the protection of these lands until Congress acts.
Your hiking opportunities will be directly impacted by the Forest Plan. It's important that we shape it in this phase, since work now will make the coming two years of planning much easier.
- Comment on the Proposed Action by the September 28 deadline
- Attend one of the Forest's public meetings, especially the August 13 Seattle meeting
What's in the proposed action?
Lots! Although the proposed action is not very specific, there's a great deal to chew on for the hiker who's deeply interested in how his or her favorite places are managed. For example:
- The proposed action recommends setting up five new non-motorized winter recreation areas. That's great news for the many hikers who have taken up snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as a way of extending the hiking season.
- It states that "Any national forest system road, bridge, trails, or dock that is not needed to meet resources or social and economic objectives and/or user-created roads would be decommissioned and the landscape restored." As hikers, we have to make sure that forest managers know which areas we care about and to which we want access maintained.
- The forests would like to "reduce the trail maintenance backlog on ten to twenty percent of the system." That's a laudable goal, but a little too non-specific. We would like to know how they will prioritize areas on which they'll reduce backlog and whether or not those areas will see full treatment or just partial backlog reduction.
- Finally, wilderness recommendations are fascinating. Some potential areas get mostly full recommendations - Heather Lake, for instance - and some are given surprisingly short shrift. Liberty Bell, a redoubt of high peaks, streams and wooded valleys between North Cascades National Park and the Pasayten Wilderness that includes Cutthroat Pass and Golden Horn only sees 5,200 acres recommended out of a potential 114,700.
OK, what can I do?
There are several ways you can be involved in shaping the Okanogan-Wenatchee-Colville Forest Plan. But first, read the Proposed Actions, for both the Colville and the Okanogan-Wenatchee, particularly the Access System and Recreation sections. It's easier reading than most Forest Service documents. After reading the document, consider participating in one of the following ways.
- Attend a Forest-sponsored August 9 or September 1 .
- Attend one of the forests' public meetings, especially an August 13 Seattle meeting. There are also meetings in Colville, Republic, Okanogan, Spokane, Newport, Wenatchee, Yakima and Cle Elum.
- Comment on the Proposed Action by the September 28 deadline.
Send your comments to:
Forest Plan Revision
Okanogan Valley Office
1240 Second Avenue South
Okanogan, WA 98840
You can email your comments to: email@example.com
We suggest that you talk about the places you love and know the best. Make your comments personal and speak from your experience. Your area-specific comments, taken from your personal knowledge, will go a long way toward getting your voice heard.
Here are some key points you may want to incorporate in to your comments.
- Are there areas in the Okanogan-Wenatchee where you would like to see new day hiking opportunities?
- Do you value access to sub-alpine and alpine environments of this forest? Are there regions of the Okanogan-Wenatchee where you would like to see this access improved or preserved?
- It is important that Forest Roads leading to trailheads continue to be maintained to Level 3 (passenger vehicle standards.