The country's latest fiscal stand-off, known widely as "sequestration," is set to commence on March 1. Should Congress and President Obama fail to come to a fiscal agreement, one of the primary consequences would be five percent across-the-board budget cuts.from the National Park Service demonstrate the broad and adverse impacts that these cuts would cause, including more than $1.6 million in cuts from Washington's three national parks. Only two options avoid sequestration -- agreement around a solution to the problem or passage of a continuing resolution that maintains funding levels at current (or perhaps slightly lower) rates.
In a memo dated January 25, 2013, NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis directed each park unit to make a sequestration plan that reduces its budget by five percent by February 11. New details from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees emerged today about what that would mean at some of the largest national parks, including Mount Rainier National Park.
In the meantime, the Park Service has instituted a hiring freeze. This comes at a time when hiring decisions are usually being made for seasonal staff who handle the massive influx of summer crowds. At some parks, it is possible that no seasonal staff would be hired should these cuts become mandatory.
What would a five percent mean for Washington’s three national parks?
- Mount Rainier National Park, would need to carve $604,000 from a $12.1 million budget. At minimum, this could include the closure of the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center this year.
- Olympic National Park would have to cut $639,000 from a $12.8 million budget.
- North Cascades National Park would face a $365,000 reduction from a 7.3 million budget.
Each of these parks rely heavily on seasonal personnel during the busy summer months. Eliminating these positions would have a serious effect on hours of operation, wilderness rangers, preservation, maintenance and much, much more. These cuts could also have a chilling effect on local economies.
The National Park Service also operates six other sites in Washington that would face five percent cuts: San Juan National Historic Preserve, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, Fort Vancouver and the Whitman Mission National Historic Sites and the Klondike Gold Rush Museum.
And, of course, these are examples from just one agency. Sequestration would impact the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies in similar ways, and we can assume that they are having similar discussions that have not been made public. Let’s hope that our elected officials come to their senses and come to a budget agreement before March 1.
Today, WTA is releasing its first ever State Of Access Report. Hikers have had roads on their radar since 2003, when major storms wiped out access to the Glacier Peak Wilderness and many other beloved places. But our public lands road system has been facing a slow-motion crisis since the decline of the timber industry. National Forests paid to build a huge system of roads, many of which are still used to access trailheads, with timber receipts. Those roads were frequently not built to the most sustainable standard, and have begun to crumble in the intervening years.
That's where the State Of Access Report enters the picture. WTA has created a framework for analyzing forest roads based on the importance of roads to hikers, the cost of repairing or rerouting and the environmental consequences of both repairing the road and its use by vehicles. We used those criteria to analyze eight roads:
- Suiattle River Road: Critical access to the heart of the Glacier Peak Wilderness that has been thoroughly studied and is ready for repair.
- Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road: A successful collaboration of land management agencies and the public to rehabilitate an important recreation area. A paving project should be completed by 2015.
- Carbon River Road: A dynamic landscape rendered road realignment unfeasible, making this road an ideal conversion to a hiker/biker trail to a wilderness campground.
- Dosewallips River Road: An important access road that should be reopened as new repair standards can offer access to the west side of the Olympics.
- Stehekin Road: A little-used mountain road that should not be repaired. Relocation would require realignment of the wilderness boundary, as well as the Pacific Crest Trail.
- Illabot River Road: A well-built road threatened by a lack of funding for maintenance that nevertheless should remain open.
- Mountain Loop Highway: A critical recreation access road requiring major repairs on a regular basis necessitates continued investment.
- Mitchell Peak Road: DNR should seek to take all reasonable steps to secure an easement for recreational travel.
Each of these roads exemplifies an issue or course of action that drives decision-making around recreation routes. For instance, Illabot illustrates the decisions that land managers are forced to make when they have too little money to manage their road systems. The Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road is an example of a successful collaborative approach between agencies and the public that has resulted in a more sustainable road and a safer backcountry experience.
A surprising road was the Dosewallips. When the criteria was applied to this route, we realized that agency planning processes since the 2008 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) had solved many of the problems that WTA had anticipated for the rerouted section of road. WTA decided that, in light of new information, to change its view on this road, and now believe that it should be reopened. At the time, we made the best determination we could with the information available to us. But we felt it was important to revisit the project and change our minds as new information became available.
Please take a moment to download a pdf of the State Of Access Report. It will give you a window into the often-difficult decision making process that we enter when we consider roads that are failing or washed out. It's our conviction that this document can help hikers make their own decisions and give them the tools to influence land managers and elected officials.
A long weekend in winter is the perfect time to get outside and stretch your legs. Wildflowers are still a month or two away, but stunning views, wildlife and your first camping adventures of the year can be found across the state this Presidents Day weekend. Check out our ideas below, or comb through recent Trip Reports for more inspiration.
Eastern Washington hiking
Umtanum Creek Canyon - 6-mile roundtrip
South of Ellensburg, this trail starts with a suspension bridge over the Yakima River and winds up a canyon. The creek is a big draw for wildlife, including a resident herd of big horn sheep. Keep your eyes on Umtanum Creek for beavers sign. The trail is pretty well-maintained for the first few miles but becomes brushy thereafter. It also crisscrosses the creek several times, so you may opt to turn back at this point plan your winter overnight here.
>>Hike Umtanum Creek Canyon
Northrup Canyon - 3-mile roundtrip Northrup Canyon is an excellent winter choice for a long weekend. Located in the Grand Coulee, you will delight in the silvery sagebrush, golden grasses and scarlet red osier. It's also a winter oasis for some 200 bald eagles. Throw in a picturesque canyon and a cool old cabin and you have a great little hike.
>>Hike Northrup Canyon
- Nearby camping and hikes: Steamboat Rock State Park isn't far from Northrup Canyon and features several great bonus hikes where you can explore the incredible geology of Ice Age floods. In the park, the Dune and Bay campgrounds are open on a first-come first-served basis during winter. Water at individual campsites is shut off in winter.
White Bluffs - North Slope - 4 mile roundtrip
It's too early to hope for wildflowers, but if the sun is shining, this Tri-Cities-area hike is the perfect place to find some solitude and birds. As you hike among the dunes and enjoy the beauty of big open skies, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife tracks in the sand.
>> Hike White Bluffs North Slope
Coastal and island-hopping hikes
Shi-Shi Beach and Point of the Arches - 8 mile roundtrip
There is something special about this hike down to Shi-Shi Beach and then on to the sea stacks in winter. Seasonal tides add a sense of adventure (and require a bit more caution). If you plan to overnight, there are some well-established campsites at Petroleum Creek, but be sure to camp well back from the beach itself; the tides often come all the way up to the bluff. All hikers and campers should carry tide tables to avoid untimely scrambles up the bluff and into the brush.
>> Hike Shi-Shi
- Nearby camping in Olympic National Park - If you want to spend more than a day exploring the Olympic coast, you can try for a spot at Kalaloch, Hoh and Mora campgrounds. Most campsites are first-come, first-served. (Note: leashed pets are permitted in campgrounds, picnic areas and parking lots, but are not allowed on National Park trails.)
Fidalgo Head Loop - 4 miles roundtrip
Before or after you catch a ferry to the San Juan Islands from Anacordes, explore Fidalgo Head Loop, an easy hike in the city's Washington Park that can be done year-round, with spectacular wildlife viewing as well as panoramas of the San Juan Islands.
>>Hike Fidalgo Head Loop
Two classic snowshoes in national parks
Mazama Ridge in Mount Rainier National Park - 6 mile roundtrip
A favorite with snowshoers, and for good reason. This trail starts at the Paradise visitor center, following the Stevens Canyon Road - and if you're lucky enough to have a clear day, views of the mountain are stupendous. Depending on conditions, avalanche danger is moderate on the climb to the ridge, but otherwise low. Check out recent Trip Reports for an idea of what to expect.
>> Snowshoe Mazama Ridge
Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park - 6 mile roundtrip
If the weather cooperates, this snowshoe will show you the beauty of Olympic National Park in an entirely new light. This snowshoe can be a true wonderland with panoramic views, but depending on conditions, can have also feature moderate avalanche danger in places.
>> Snowshoe Hurricane Hill
Looking for some beginning snowshoe adventures? Try Artist Point, Gold Creek or one of these other great snowshoe trails.
Cross-country ski statewide
Methow Valley - The Methow Valley is a Mecca for Nordic skiers. The trail system is divided into four areas: the Methow Valley Community Trail system (30K), the Sun Mountain trail system (54K), the Mazama Trails (33K) and the Rendezvous Trails (48K). Catch the Tour of the Methow on February 16.
>> Visit mvsta.com for more information
Chelan-Leavenworth - The Echo Ridge Nordic area boasts more than 25 miles of groomed trails. The trail system is operated by the Chelan Ranger District with the Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club; Sno-Park permits and NW Forest Passes are not honored here. Stop by the ski yurt on Saturdays in February for complimentary soup, thanks to the ski club.
>> Visit lakechelannordic.org for more information
Spokane - This trail system offers 23 miles of doubletrack with a skating deck. The ski club is offering a new series of Nordic ski lessons (both classic and skate), and will continue to host the popular Nordic Kids program.
>> Visit spokanenordic.org for more information
More ideas for the long weekend
- If you didn't see the hike for you above, check out these eleven great winter hikes featuring waterfalls, beach views, birds and more. >> Eleven great winter hikes
- Spend one, two or three days this weekend on trail. >> Join one of the work upcoming trail work parties.
Early season hikers at Coyote Wall noticed red and orange survey flags blooming along the Labyrinth Trail like wildflowers out of sync with the seasons. These markers indicate plans to reroute the trail to put it in a more sustainable location. Volunteer crews are due to begin work in March.
Last year WTA embarked on an ambitious project to restore and reconstruct many of the user created paths at Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek. A popular hiking and mountain biking destination, the area has seen a proliferation of unmanaged recreation as people seek trails that are free of snow during the winter and early spring. A unique and prolific wildflower display is also a major attraction, particularly at Catherine Creek.
The project is funded through a grant from the National Forest Foundation to implement the Forest Service Recreation Plan. The grant fund comes from money donated by Skamania Lodge that is dedicated to projects to enhance conservation and recreation in the Gorge.
In addition to improving the sustainability of the trail system, the grant was awarded to WTA to train volunteers in trail maintenance techniques and develop partnerships with the local mountain bike community and other trail user groups. Throughout the project WTA’s SW Washington Regional Manager worked closely with the Columbia Area Mountain Bike Advocates (CAMBA) on project designs and outreach.
Last spring WTA partnered with the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) to host classes in trail construction and design using the Maui Falls Trail at Coyote Wall as a classroom. Then WTA joined with Friends of the Gorge to construct the first phase of the reroute and CAMBA volunteers completed the second phase of construction.
This spring WTA and CAMBA will focus on redeveloping the Labyrinth Trail to fix sections that suffer from serious erosion. Other mountain bike clubs are joining the effort as well, including the Hood River Area Trail Stewards (HRATS) and the Portland based Northwest Trail Alliance (NWTA).
Volunteers are needed for March weekend work parties. Come for one or two days. Saturday features an optional campout and potluck at a campsite on the Klickitat River. Sign up online by clicking the weekend that interests you, or go through our regular work party schedule.
- March 2 and 3 at Coyote Wall
- March 16 and 17 at Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek
- March 23 and 24 - Coyote Wall Trails
Hey, teens and parents of teens! Have you noticed that the days are getting longer and spring is a mere six weeks away? It's time to dust yourself off from hibernation and get on trail! There may be snow up high, but there are plenty of opportunities to hike and maintain trails at lower elevations closer to home.
Earn community service hours AND have a good time doing it
WTA is offering Saturday Teen Work Parties one Saturday each month from February through June. The upcoming dates are:
Volunteering on trail is a great way to earn your community service hours, all while enjoying the outdoors and spending time with friends. You heard us correctly, bring your friends! You can earn up to eight hours of community service in one day. If you can’t make one of our youth-specific opportunities, sign up for a work party on our regular schedule. We hold these work parties six out of seven days all year long. Some incredible young people helped maintain trails on 140 regular work parties in 2012, so chances are you won't be alone.
Spring Break is Coming!
Youth are invited to join WTA on an Alternative Spring Break work party, with two weeks of day work parties especially for teens. Sign-ups begin March 1. There will be volunteer options for single days or the whole week during the weeks of April 8-12 and April 15-19. They will be posted here.
Take a break from homework and HIKE
If you’re too busy with spring sports and homework to spend a whole day volunteering, try going on one of our suggested winter hikes. Let us know about your hike by filing a trip report at wta.org.
Whether volunteering or hiking, we look forward to seeing you out on trail this winter and spring.
* These two spring trips are not yet on the schedule, as we are awaiting final word on our destination.
It's not often that you find hikers in suits and heels, and it's even less often that they have the chance to talk face to face with the politicians who represent them, but in the face of potentially devastating funding cuts to state parks, hikers did just that yesterday.
Sixty hiking constituents from 26 different districts around the state descended on Olympia yesterday to make it known that they care about state lands. They were responding to a two-year budget proposal that leaves state parks $8 million short of what they need just to maintain the status quo to keep parks running.
The morning started off with the Director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, Kaleen Cottingham, talking to a rapt audience of WTA members, volunteers and supporters about the current state of recreation funding in Washington. Following this, WTA's advocacy director, Jonathan Guzzo, briefed the lobbyists on the issues surrounding funding for state parks and on how to talk about these issues with representatives.
Two years ago WTA helped instate the Discover Pass to increase revenue for state parks, but the pass hasn't raised as much money as was hoped. Currently, $19 million of the state's budget is designated for state parks, but that doesn't account for the lower-than-expected funds received from the Discover Pass. Given that 40 million people visit Washington's 120 parks every year, it is crucial that parks get the $27 million they need just to cover their day-to-day operating costs. With the threat of underfunded parks closing either seasonally or permanently burning on their minds, WTA's eager lobbyists set off on the three-block walk to the capitol to meet with their various representatives.
In the tradition of true democracy, small groups of WTA advocates filed into each of their representatives' offices in the capitol building to hash out the issues of state lands funding. Many representatives were receptive to hikers' concerns, being hikers themselves, but they also stressed that there just isn't much money to go around these days. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that representatives appreciate hearing directly from hikers' mouths that they value state lands and would be devastated to see parks close.
Hikers concluded the day by writing thank you notes to their representatives asking them to consider allocating more funding to state parks. It is this kind of personalized message from ordinary constituents that will be most effective in influencing politicians' decisions about public lands.
Want to help keep state parks open? Call the Washington legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to make your voice heard.
More than 200 forested acres adjacent to Cougar Mountain and the Cougar/Squak Corridor may be logged if the King County Department of Natural Resources does not succeed in acquiring the property. Previously owned by the now-bankrupt Issaquah Camping Club and American West Bank, the property was purchased by Erickson Logging, based in Eatonville. Residents around the parcels are concerned about more frequent flooding of May Creek due to increased siltation of the creekbed caused by logging. And hikers who love the Issaquah Alps worry about the lost opportunity for connecting Cougar Mountain to the Cougar/Squak Corridor.
King County DNR wants to purchase the property in an unlogged state. These lands are significantly more important from a recreation and ecosystem services perspective if the original forest is standing. But they do not currently have the funding to purchase the parcels in question. Erickson Logging is the definition of a willing seller, but King County has no control over their use of the land without a standing purchase agreement. And without funding, they can't enter into such an agreement.
The King County Conservation Futures Program could be the answer here. Created in 1982, Conservation Futures was envisioned as a tool to ensure that the rush to develop the region did not happen at the expense of green space. Funded by a nickel on each $1000.00 of a property's valuation, the program allows for the outright acquisition of green space or the purchase of conservation easements.
King County is seriously considering including purchase of this property in their request to the Conservation Futures Oversight Committee. We urge members of the Committee to support this proposal when it is considered in March, and we hope you'll do the same. For more information on these parcels and King County's work, contact Ingrid Lundin at King County Parks. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today President Barack Obama nominated Sally Jewell to be the new Secretary of the Interior. Jewell is a longtime resident of Washington, a hiker, conservationist and businesswoman. She has been CEO of outdoor retailer REI since 2005 and spent 20 years in the banking industry. During her tenure at REI, she’s been a strong advocate for hiking and youth in the outdoors, and if confirmed, will give our state a strong presence in Washington, DC.
“Sally Jewell is a Pacific Northwest treasure. She's a savvy, visionary leader and committed conservationist,” commented WTA Executive Director Karen Daubert who went hiking with her last summer. “We commend the Obama administration for making such an excellent choice, and look forward to working with an Interior Secretary of such caliber who hails from Washington.”
Jewell brings a strong business background to the agency. In addition to her eight years at the helm of REI, where she oversees 11,000 employees, more than 120 retail stores, and almost $2 billion in annual revenue, Jewell had a 20 year career in the banking industry and a few early years as a petroleum engineer. She’s a strong conservationist as well. She is currently a vice chair of the National Parks and Conservation Association and a board member and longtime leader of Mountains to Sound Greenway.
Jewell is the first woman appointed by President Obama to a top post since his election. She represents an unconventional choice for Interior, traditionally led by male politicians from Rocky Mountain states.
The Department of Interior has broad jurisdiction over the country's federal land and natural resources. The National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geologic Survey and Bureau of Reclamation are just some of the agencies that will be under Jewell’s direction. The U.S. Forest Service is managed by the Department of Agriculture.
If confirmed, Jewell will be stepping into a big job with many challenges. From fiscal cliff scenarios at every agency to climate change, energy policy and the call for the Obama administration to leave a legacy on public lands, it will be interesting to see one of our own tackle the issues and leave her mark at the agency.With current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stepping down in March, it is likely that the Senate will take up her nomination within the next few weeks.
All of us at Washington Trails Association wishes her the best of luck!
Take a look at a map of Olympic National Park sometime (soon, I hope) and you'll notice that the very few roads that penetrate the Park boundary don't do so very deeply. That's because the vast majority of the Park is designated wilderness.
Like every wilderness statewide, Olympic National Park's wilderness acres are designated under the Wilderness Act, which defines wilderness as ". . . a tract of undeveloped federal land of primeval character without permanent improvements or human habitation; an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain . . .". And like nearly every other wilderness, it has a management plan that, you guessed it, plans its management. But this crucial document has not been updated since 1980. This year, Olympic National Park will take up a new Wilderness Stewardship Plan.
The first step is known as scoping. Think of scoping as drawing the boundaries of the plan. The public and agency staff work together to come up with the issues that the Park will cover. From there, Park staff will release a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), consider public comments, and release a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
Now is a great time for you to put your stamp on the Plan. Please take a few moments to read the scoping newsletter. Even better, go to one of the public scoping meetings that the Park is holding across the Puget Sound region. Meetings will be held in the evenings in the following locations. You can read the details about where and when here:
- 2/5: Port Angeles
- 2/7: Sequim
- 2/19: Sekiu
- 2/20: Forks
- 2/21: Amanda Park
- 3/4: Seattle
- 3/5: Silverdale
- 3/6: Shelton
Getting involved in the management of the lands you love is very rewarding. You'll be glad you made the effort.
If you want to climb Mount St. Helens this year, get ready to apply for a permit on February 1st!
Permits will be sold only online. Weekends and holidays go the fastest, so check your calendars (and the Farmer's Almanac for weather predictions). The cost is $22 per permit and you are able to purchase up to twelve permits for each day.
Permits are required for climbing above 4,800 feet on the volcano. From May 15 through October 31, climbing is limited to 100 people per day. It may seem like a lot of permits, but they go quickly, especially with guides and outfitters snapping up a dozen at a time.
From November 1 - March 31, permits are free and available in person at the Lone Fir Resort on SR 503 in Cougar, WA.
Climbing Mount St. Helens is a challenging, but not technical, climb. It boasts a relentless elevation gain, constant exposure to the elements and unstable footing, but the view from the crater rim is unrivaled and breathtaking. Everyone remembers their first climb to the rim.