Olympic National Park develops four wilderness plan alternatives

Staff writerMarch 16, 2014 

The public has until May 17 to comment on the four draft alternatives released Wednesday as Olympic National Park staffers develop a wilderness management plan for the park.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK

Four draft alternatives have been developed to manage wilderness areas within Olympic National Park.

The proposals were released Wednesday.

The alternatives range from following current management practices to one that would put an emphasis on reducing the modern human footprint in the park’s wilderness areas.

Since February 2013, park staffers have been gathering public comments and talking with partners, leading to the development of the draft alternatives. The schedule calls for a final plan being approved by the fall or winter of 2015.

The goal of the plan is to spell out how the park should best manage the designated wilderness areas within its boundaries and prioritize which activities will be allowed, said Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.

“It’s not every use on every acre, but what’s the best use of that acre,” Creachbaum has said.

Ninety-five percent of the park’s 922,651 acres was designated as wilderness in 1988 and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the wilderness system and a policy for the protection of wilderness resources for public use and enjoyment.

In developing the alternatives, park staffers also defined six zones. They describe how the different areas could be managed to achieve resource preservation, provide for recreational use and serve operational purposes. These management zones were then applied to the wilderness area for each alternative management concept.

The zones identify, for example, what types of trails would be allowed in specific areas and what kind of camping would be permitted.

As required by law, one of the draft alternatives calls for no action, but would be a continuation of existing management practices. It sets a baseline of existing impacts continued into the future against which to compare impacts of the other alternatives, according to the park news release.

The other three draft alternatives vary in how much use would be allowed, including possible limits on overnight and day use, how many new facilities such as bridges and trails would be allowed and changes in permitting.

The plan schedule calls for writing a draft environmental impact statement this summer or fall. The draft statement, including a preferred alternative, would be released for public comment this winter or in the spring of 2015.

“The public’s review and comment at this key stage of the planning process will ensure that we are developing the best possible future for the Olympic Wilderness,” Creachbaum said in the release. “Moreover, we want to ensure that we have accurately heard and addressed the public’s comments as we move forward in developing the plan.”

GET INVOLVED

READ THE DRAFT

The preliminary draft alternatives and maps, along with background information, can be reviewed online at parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild.

Workshops

Six public meetings, running from 5-7 p.m., have been scheduled:

  • Tuesday: Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St., Port Angeles.
  • Wednesday: State Department of Natural Resources office, 411 Tillicum Lane, Forks.
  • March 24: Cotton Building, 607 Water St., Port Townsend.
  • March 26: Quinault Lake School, Amanda Park.
  • April 1: Civic Center, Meeting Room 1, 525 W. Cota St., Shelton.
  • April 3: Seattle Public Library, Wright/Ketcham Room, Level 4, Room 2, 1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle.

To comment

The public comment period ends May 17. Comments may be mailed or delivered to Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum, Attn: Wilderness Stewardship Plan, Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362. Comments may also be submitted online at parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild.

Future info

For more information or to be added to the Olympic National Park Wilderness Stewardship Plan, go to parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild or call the park at 360-565-3004.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.comthenewstribune.com/outdoors

THE DRAFT ALTERNATIVES

Here is a recap of the four draft alternatives being considered by Olympic National Park.

Alternative A: No Action

The park would respond to future needs and conditions of wilderness management without major changes in current action, programs and plans. Natural resources, cultural resources, visitor use and experience, operations and partnerships would continue without a comprehensive approach to wilderness, and wilderness character would be maintained in current conditions. Wilderness management would continue to be conducted in compliance with various federal and state laws, NPS Management Policies 2006, and the existing general management plan (2008) and backcountry management plan (1980).

Alternative B

Emphasis would be placed on the reduction of the human imprint.

Natural resources would be protected, and those disturbed may be restored in a manner that reduces the presence of nonrecreational structures and developments and the use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or mechanical transport.

A determination would be made as to which historic structures and cultural landscapes would be protected. Cultural resources would remain largely undisturbed, and where they are threatened by natural processes, natural processes would prevail.

This alternative would reduce the number and extent of developments provided within wilderness. There would be very few new facilities (such as bridges, trails, footlogs), installations or developments with the intent to reduce the overall human imprint. Bear cans would be required for all wilderness users. Human waste bags would be encouraged for all wilderness users and required in areas above 3,500 feet. With less infrastructure, visitors could have a more primitive wilderness experience. The majority of the wilderness would be managed for self-directed exploration and self-reliant travel and camping. This alternative would consider an in-person-only overnight use permitting process, with an educational component. Use limits would be established for overnight use throughout the wilderness, as well as for day use in high-use areas.

All management activities would be conducted in a manner that minimizes the imprint of humans within wilderness. Park operations would be more greatly reliant on non-mechanized equipment and transport with the goal to reduce the number of administrative structures, installations and the use of mechanized equipment and transport than in the other alternatives.

Alternative C

Emphasis would be placed on the protection of natural resources.

Healthy ecosystems would be restored and maintained through management actions (such as the removal of non-native species, reintroduction of extirpated species, restoration of natural fire regimens and natural channel migration). Under this alternative, park management would seek to remove non-native fish species in wilderness rivers and lakes.

Like Alternative B, a determination would be made as to which historic structures and cultural landscapes would be protected.

This option would provide more opportunities for solitude due to the implementation of visitor use management strategies for resource protection. Bear cans would be required for all wilderness users. Facilities (such as bridges, trails, footlogs) may be provided mainly for the protection of, or mitigation of damage to, natural resources. Human waste bags would be required in the subalpine and above. This alternative would consider an in-person-only overnight use permitting process, with an educational component. Use limits could be established for overnight and day use throughout the wilderness.

Park operations would be more reliant on nonmechanized equipment and transport with the goal to reduce the number of administrative structures, installations and the use of mechanized equipment and transport than in alternative D.

Alternative D

Emphasis would be placed on managing visitor use and recreation to provide visitors with greater range of wilderness experiences.

Natural resources would be protected through appropriate visitor-use management tools such as reducing visitor numbers in heavily impacted areas, seasonally or temporally redistributing use, or area closures, as well as through the development of appropriate facilities and structures such as designated trails and camping areas, foot logs and small bridges and signs. Park management would continue to promote sport-fishing consistent with other wilderness values of the high mountain lakes.

All cultural resources, including historic structures and cultural landscapes, would remain protected to the extent practicable and feasible.

Visitor use and recreation activities would be managed to provide for a greater variety of wilderness experiences than in alternatives B and C, while also providing for resource protection. As in alternatives B and C, bear cans would be required for all wilderness users. Human waste bags would not be required. Current facilities such as designated campsites and camping areas, bridges, trails and privies would continue to be provided. Very few new facilities would be provided, however, current facilities could be replaced if necessary. This alternative would consider an online-only permitting process with an educational component for overnight use. This alternative would also consider the use of pack goats. Use limits would be established for overnight and day use throughout the wilderness.

Park operations would continue to utilize non-mechanized equipment and transport to the extent practicable and allowable under the Wilderness Act.

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