Today, Washington Wild coordinated a joint comment letter signed by 10 conservation and recreation organizations concerning Pack and Saddle permits on Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The joint comment letter expressed their support for a balanced approach that supports horse related outfitting and guiding opportunities on Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest while mitigating ecological impacts and preserving Wilderness quality.
Wilderness is the strongest and most lasting protection for our public lands. In Washington State our 32 Wilderness areas, totaling more than 4 million acres, are a key contributor to the high quality of life we all enjoy. In fact, access to places like the Pasayten Wilderness on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and other public lands statewide is a major reason why many of us choose to live, work and play here in Washington State.
Providing recreational opportunities as appropriate both inside and outside designated Wilderness is an important function of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Facilitated access through outfitting and guiding is a critical part of that recreational mix. The past two decades have seen a winnowing of opportunities and management of outfitting and guiding on the Forest due to the absence of a permit renewal and issuance policy.
Read the Joint Comment Letter here..
The USDA Forest Service is proposing to issue 10-year term special use permits to pack and saddle stock outfitter-guides. The permits would be issued to the existing holders who are in good standing at the time of the decision, or replacements who meet term permit requirements. The project area is located in Okanogan, Skagit, Whatcom, and Chelan Counties, Washington, on the Tonasket, Methow Valley, and Chelan Ranger Districts. Four alternatives, including a No Action alternative, are analyzed in this FEIS.
This Draft Supplemental EIS incorporates new information based on a revised Needs Assessment and extent necessary determination for commercial services in the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness, and information about other changed conditions. It is to be used in conjunction with the 2013 FEIS.
The project is being developed to address the following purpose and needs:
- Respond to special use permit applications from current pack and saddle stock outfitter guides,
- Meet the high public need for pack and saddle stock outfitter-guides
- Protect wilderness character in the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Areas while providing necessary pack and saddle stock outfitter-guide commercial services to the extent necessary,
- Reconcile inconsistencies between forest plan standards and guidelines for barren core
- Provide for enough pack and saddle stock outfitter guide days outside of wilderness to help maintain business viability, when considered with service days inside wilderness to meet the extent necessary.