New Developments For The Green Mountain Lookout
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.