DNR Charts New Management Direction for Reiter Foothills
The Reiter Forest, a patch of State land managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that borders both the Wild Sky Wilderness and Wallace Falls State Park, has been for many years a lost landscape. Reiter has been unmanaged, and in the absence of planning and on-the-ground agency presence, renegade motorized use has taken hold.
As a consequence, it’s laced with a network of roads, damaged trails, and cross-country routes pioneered by so-called “tube buggies”—large, independent suspension jeeps that can ride nearly anywhere. On a recent trip to Reiter, I saw a second-growth forest that has the potential to be a lovely hiking destination. But bootleg routes have torn deep gouges in the forest floor, jeeps have damaged the trunks of trees while squeezing between them, and silt has run into streams, degrading fish habitat.
The eastern end of the Reiter Forest adjoins Forks of the Sky State Park and the top of the Index Town Wall, with sweeping views of the Wild Sky peaks, the Skykomish River valley and Mt. Index. In his Footsore guidebooks, Harvey Manning described the scenic “Vertigo Rim” hiking trail that winds along the top of the Town Wall.
Over the past two years, DNR has stepped up to the task of planning for recreation in the Reiter Forest. The process has had its peaks and valleys. The original Advisory Committee chosen to examine the planning process was heavily weighted toward the motorized community. After an outcry by non-motorized and conservation oriented people, the makeup of the Advisory Committee changed and was balanced by representatives from the conservation community and hiking enthusiasts.
On November 10, DNR released its draft Reiter Foothills Forest Recreation Plan. DNR is to be commended for taking a principled stand on behalf of the wildlife and non-motorized recreationists who value this area so highly. They propose shrinking the motorized-access footprint of Reiter from 4,000 acres to about 1,000 acres. The proposed motorized area runs through an aquifer recharge zone that supplies water to the town of Index. DNR proposes to minimize motorized trail development in the recharge area. Most importantly — provided that the agency can procure funding — DNR will restore heavily damaged areas both inside and outside the motorized use are, and will close user-built routes.
But one crucial detail needs to be completed. The area between Wild Sky Wilderness, May Creek and Wallace Falls has been proposed for addition to DNR’s Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA) inventory, as the Wild Wallace NRCA. This area is a critical recreation resource that should be protected. Adding it to the NRCA system would prevent DNR from logging it, or opening the area administratively to motorized recreation in the future. Please ask DNR to study the merits of the proposed Wild Wallace NRCA.
DNR is collecting public comment on the draft Reiter plan until December 4. You can comment at the above web link, or get your voice heard by attending a public meeting on November 18 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at The Commons at Monroe High School—17001 Tester Road, Monroe.