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Park Begins Mountain Goat Management Plan

After a 20-year hiatus, Olympic National Park has begun work on a Mountain Goat Management Plan/EIS. When complete, the plan will determine the fate of exotic goats throughout the park. Park planners are accepting comments on the scope of the plan until September 19, 2014. You can share your thoughts on the park's planning website.

Mountain goats are not native to the Olympics; they were introduced by hunting interests in the 1920s before the park was created. With the absence of natural predators and in the mild coastal climate of the Olympics, their numbers soared. By the 1980s the population reached more than 1,100 animals. Destructive impacts by goats on sensitive alpine and subalpine environments from feeding, trampling and wallowing became both visible and profound.

A live-capture and translocation program, begun in the 1980s, reduced the population significantly. A 1990s planning effort, which proposed to remove remaining goats by aerial shooting, was placed on hold. More recently, with goat numbers and impacts once again increasing, and the tragic death of Bob Boardman by goat attack in 2010, park managers have once more focused on this serious problem.

The current planning effort will consider a range of alternatives including: no-action, live-capture and translocation, lethal removal, increased nuisance control, and combinations of the above. OPA and a number of conservation organizations supported the park's proposed action of lethal removal of remaining goats during the earlier planning process. We remain committed to finding a workable solution through the current plan that will result in removal all non-native goats from the park. A draft plan is due next summer and a final plan in 2016.

Let's help preserve the Olympics' stunning alpine habitats for the native plants and animals that have made it their home for millennia. Please log on to the planning website and express your concerns to park planners. Urge them to develop a workable scientific approach that will remove non-native goats from the national park.

Remember, the deadline for initial comments is September 19. To review OPA's 1995 detailed analysis of non-native mountain goats in the Olympics, click here.



Olympic National Park Plans to Move
Enchanted Valley Chalet


UPDATE: In July Olympic National Park released a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Emergency Action to Temporarily Relocate the Enchanted Valley Chalet. Monroe House Moving of Sequim, Wash., a principle advocate for the action, was selected as the contractor in a non-competitive award. The work is scheduled to be completed before the fall rains.

No cost for the project was specified, but it was stated that funds would come from the park's (already-strapped) operating budget. Visitors should prepare for fewer visitor services, reduced trail, road and campground maintenance—and a boarded-up chalet on blocks in lovely Enchanted Valley.


photo credit National Park Service

ONP has released an expedited environmental assessment (EA) to move the Enchanted Valley Chalet away from the brink of the East Fork Quinault River. Last winter braiding along the East Fork undercut the old chalet in scenic Enchanted Valley by eight feet. Next fall and winter's storms will likely finish the job. Park managers fear the three-story log structure would cause unmitigated environmental damage to the river and surrounding habitats. OPA agrees.

We disagree on the park's proposed solution.

To keep the building from collapsing into the river, the park service proposes to "temporarily" move the 90-ton structure intact up to 100 feet from the river. This will be a massive (and expensive) undertaking involving gas-driven generator, hydraulic pumps, and up to a week of helicopter flights. The chalet is located 13 miles up the E. Fork Quinault trail in the heart of the Olympic Wilderness. Once the chalet is moved to its new location, the park service will develop a second EA to decide what to do with it.

OPA considers this emergency action unnecessary, costly and inappropriate in a designated wilderness. If protecting the river is the goal, as the EA states, the building could more easily and cheaply be disassembled or razed. The wilderness character of the valley would be restored, and funds could be spent on more pressing needs, such as fully staffing visitor centers, restoring interpretive programs, and maintaining park trails, picnic areas and campgrounds–all of which have been drastically reduced due to budget cuts in recent years.

OPA's May 28, 2014, comment letter can be viewed here.

Tim McNulty's op-ed on the chalet in the March 26, 2014, Peninsula Daily News can be seen
here.



Olympic National Park Releases Preliminary Alternatives for Its Wilderness Stewardship Plan


Your Comments Are Needed.



Park planners are making excellent progress on ONP's wilderness stewardship plan and have offered a range of preliminary alternatives for public review. The plan will shape management of the Olympic Wilderness for the next 20 to 30 years.

The preliminary alternatives introduce some far-reaching measures for protecting this popular wilderness—and its outstanding ecosystems—for the coming decades. Your comments will help ensure that the final plan gives strong protection to the Olympic Wilderness and ensures a quality wilderness experience for future visitors to the park.

Deadline for comments on Preliminary Draft Alternatives is May 17, 2014.
Please send a comment in today.
To comment on the web, go here.

Preliminary Alternatives and Recommendations:
OPA Supports a Combination of Alternatives B and C


The draft wilderness trail zones reflect a sound foundation for managing appropriate levels of trail development and visitor use. And excellent options for protecting the Olympic Wilderness can be found in Alternatives B and C.

In addition, a number of farsighted recommendations are common to all action alternatives. OPA supports all of these recommended actions, with slight modifications for a few. Among the actions are:

  • Carrying capacities and quotas will be set for high-use areas.
  • No new trails will be constructed.
  • Visitor use will be managed to reduce impacts on native species.
  • Exotic plants and animals will be eliminated or controlled.
  • A restoration plan/EIS for the gray wolf will be developed.
  • Stock use will be regulated and confined to designated trails.
  • No new radio or transmission towers will be installed.
  • Wilderness education will accompany all permits.
OPA Recommendations

OPA supports an approach that would best protect natural resources and ecological process as displayed in Alternative C with some refinements. Our recommendations incorporate significant elements from Alternative B as well as a few from D.

Alternative B emphasizes reduction of the human footprint and contains the soundest recommendations regarding management of historic structures in wilderness, quotas and use limits, limits on administrative use of aircraft, and administrative tool use.

Alternative C emphasizes protection of natural resources and ecological processes. It contains the best recommendations for wilderness trail and campsite zoning (refined with some elements from other alternatives), trail and bridge management, stock use, and campfire restrictions.

Alternative D emphasizes a greater range of wilderness experiences for visitors. OPA finds some elements of this alternative worthy of support. Ranger-led interpretive hikes could be increased, tribal access to ethnographic resources would be permitted within the limits of the Wilderness Act, and some trail zone elements could be adopted.

It is important to let planners know what is important to you about the Olympic Wilderness—and the reasons why.

Remember, even a short comment will help shape a strong and effective wilderness stewardship plan.
Deadline for comment is May 17, 2014.
For a more detailed analysis of the plan and OPA's recommendations, read on.

A Detailed Look at Alternatives and Issues

Alternative C presents an excellent strategy for preserving the stunning diversity of natural species and environments that make Olympic National Park what it is. Identifying heavily used nature trails (zone 1) and maintaining popular access trials up river valleys and major passes (zones 2 and 3) will allow for maximum enjoyment of the wilderness while protecting important resources. The careful delineation of primitive trails (zone 4) and way trails (zone 5), and regulating camping in fragile, alpine, and less heavily used environments provide sensible limitations on the use of these areas.

OPA particularly supports zone 4 prescriptions, with fewer maintained trails, and zone 5, with no maintained trails. As pressures on back country areas increase, places such as Skyline trail from 3 Lakes to Low Divide and Martin's Park trail should be zone 4, primitive, and the Bailey Range, Dodger Point high route, Lillian Ridge, upper Royal Basin, Lake Constance, and Lake of the Angels should certainly be placed in zone 5. Boot-worn way trails should suffice.

We also support specific trail zone elements from other alternatives that would increase resource protection yet allow more traditional use on some trails.

From Alternative B, we recommend:
Shi Shi Beach should be zoned 3, secondary, rather than 2, all-purpose. This area has experienced serious overuse. The current access trail descends a steep bluff (similar to overland trails on the south coast, which are zoned 3); the old overgrown military road should not be re-opened for trail access. The North Fork Sol Duc should be zoned 4 and 5, primitive and way trail; this reflects current use level and difficulty access (river ford). The South Fork Hoh trail should be zone 4, primitive, to preserve one Westside rain forest valley available for a more intimate trail experience free of stock use and developed sites. Similarly, the Rugged Ridge trail should be classed as zone 4, primitive, to reflect current use and comply with nearby Hoh-Bogachiel trail zoning. Aurora Ridge should be zoned 4 and 5 for similar reasons.

From Alternative D, we recommend:
In the following trail zones 2 and 3, we recommend traditional stock use be allowed on the Queets River trail, the Dosewallips/Hayden Pass/Hays River trails, and the Boulder Creek trail (to horse camp/former parking area at Olympic Hot Springs). These would be added to the stock trails already included in Alternative C: the Dosewallips/Anderson Pass/Quinault trails; Duckabush/First Divide/Skokomish trails; Elwha/Low Divide/North Fork Quinault trail; Long Ridge and (lower) Lillian trails; the Hoh River trail to Elk Lake; and the Bogachiel/Little Divide/Mink Lake trails. All are well constructed and maintained and could be accommodated with minimal impacts to fragile areas.

Other Elements of the Plan

OPA endorses other elements of the draft alternatives that are worthy of note. And there are a few items we addressed in our scoping letter that still need attention.

Historic structures. We strongly endorse the decision not to consider historic structures to be contributing elements of wilderness character. This clarifies the issue and affirms the clear intent of the Wilderness Act. The prescriptions for historic management in Alternative B are most in keeping with wilderness principles: no reconstruction of historic buildings that have naturally deteriorated; allowing natural processes to take precedence; and developing a determination of which historic structures and landscapes would be maintained in wilderness. We request that this determination be included in the draft plan under NEPA with full public participation and review.

OPA sees an important distinction between Native-maintained coastal prairies, with their associated species diversity, and old homestead clearings, with their exotic grasses. We support careful management of the first, and recommend natural succession for the latter.

Scientific research. The flexibility provided to researchers within the permitting process in Alternative C offers the best approach to managing this important aspect of wilderness.

Park operations. OPA favors the moderate directions in Alternative C where park operations would be more reliant on non-mechanized and non-motorized equipment and transport, but with some flexibility in application.

Fire. Alternative B best recognizes the ecological role of fire in the landscape within the constrains of adjacent lands and public safely. We oppose hazard fuel reduction activities to protect nonessential buildings in wilderness.

Campsites and commercial services. We agree with the approach in Alternative C that would retain the number of campsites and the amount of commercial services at about the level same as present.

Wilderness District. To ensure that these and other measures in the plan receive full consideration in the day-to-day management of the park, OPA once again requests that the plan recommend a wilderness district be created for the Olympic Wilderness, and a wilderness district ranger appointed to oversee all park operations within wilderness.

OPA thanks park planners for the thorough and diligent job they have done thus far in identifying key issues and management prescriptions. We encourage them to continue in this positive direction to create a stewardship plan worthy of the magnificent Olympic Wilderness.

For More Information

To view the full text of OPA's comment letter, click here. To read OPA's wilderness plan scoping letter, click here. For NPS documents on the planning process, click here.

Thanks for helping to set a clear and ecologically sound direction for the future of Olympic National Park and its irreplaceable wilderness.


Wild Olympics Gets Starring Role
in National TV Program on PBS

"This American Land" Spotlights Area and Advocates,
Releases Video of Segment Online


QUILCENE, Wash. (June 24, 2014) – Washington's Wild Olympics and the local effort to safeguard its clean water and old growth forests are highlighted in an upcoming episode of the television series "This American Land," which airs nationwide on PBS stations. The segment features interviews with a number of Olympic Peninsula community members working to permanently protect ancient forests and salmon streams on Olympic National Forest as wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers.

"This American Land" has posted the entire Wild Olympics segment for viewing/sharing HERE.

In the piece, Port Townsend City Councilor Michelle Sandoval explains that people are drawn to the Peninsula for the recreational opportunities and stunning scenery, and stay because of the clean water and high quality of life. Bill Taylor of Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton describes the importance of this clean water to his Hood Canal oyster beds, calling it the "lifeblood" of his industry. John Lockwood, owner of Pygmy Boats in Port Townsend, says that small manufacturers like him depend on the area's incredible recreation opportunities to stay afloat. Port Townsend fish biologist and director of Northwest Watershed Institute, Dr. Peter Bahls, explains how Olympic Peninsula salmon runs are still recovering from a hundred years of overfishing and heavy timber harvesting on the national forest. And retired logger Fred Rakevich of Elma says though he's traveled all over, the ancient forests and free-flowing rivers of the Wild Olympics remain "something we need to protect and cherish."

Connie Gallant of Quilcene, chair of the Wild Olympics Campaign, who also appears in the program, says, "We are delighted that 'This American Land' has included our beautiful piece of the world in its series. The many local voices featured showcase the broad local support for safeguarding this stunning landscape. They come from different backgrounds and interests and use our public land in various ways, but they find common ground in the desire to permanently protect our ancient forests and salmon streams just as they are as a legacy to future generations."

"Our mission is to bring our viewers the kind of serious yet entertaining conservation journalism that broadens their knowledge of critical issues with stories that they won't see anywhere else," says "This American Land" executive producer Gary Strieker. "Each segment focuses on unique and little-known places that deserve protection."

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have introduced legislation to permanently protect more than 126,000 acres of ancient and mature forests on Olympic National Forest as wilderness, and 19 Olympic Peninsula rivers and major tributaries as Wild and Scenic. The bill is aimed at permanently safeguarding critical salmon habitat, outdoor recreation and sources of clean drinking water for local communities. Backed by over 450 sportsmen organizations, local elected officials, business owners, conservation & outdoor recreation groups, and members of the faith community, the measure was crafted with considerable local stakeholder involvement over several years.

The Wild Olympics segment will air as part of the fourth season of "This American Land," which will begin broadcasting in the Seattle area in August.



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