After a more than a year of input from local conservation and recreation groups, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest released a final decision notice on efforts to maintain and right size the road system on the Greenwater watershed adjacent to Mt. Rainier National Park.
Washington Wild coordinated three different joint comment letters signed by 13 conservation and recreation organizations calling for additional watershed restoration efforts while prioritizing maintenance for road accessing recreational infrastructure like campgrounds, trails and snow parks.
The organizations, including The Wilderness Society, WA Climbers Coalition, Wild Steelhead Coalition, WildEarth Guardians and Washington Trails Association, believe addressing an oversized and under-maintained road system is a critical need. Dealing with old decaying roads that cause high aquatic risk to our watersheds and fish while balancing important recreation opportunities is best achieved by reducing overall road density by decommissioning deteriorating and unneeded roads, those that are high risk and unused, while also prioritizing maintenance for roads that are used to access our public lands.
In response to this letter, the Forest Service made several positive additions to the ATM including maintaining passenger car access to the popular Noble Knob Trail, avoid adding any non-system or unauthorized roads, clarified protections for endangered species, reaffirmed support for road-to-trail conversions as a management tool and added additional miles of decommissioning for unneeded roads on the watershed, a majority of which pose a high aquatic risk. Read the final decision here.
In November of 2015 and May of 2016, Washington Wild coordinated joint comment letters signed by more than a dozen conservation and recreation organizations to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The letters called for maintaining key forest service roads that provide recreational access while identifying old decaying logging roads for decommissioning and watershed restoration in the Greenwater watershed.
When the draft decision for the Greenwater Access Travel Management (ATM) plan was released, WA Wild and three other organizations filed an objection, suggesting that the final ATM include access to key recreation opportunities and focus more heavily on decommissioning roads that pose threats to the watershed and no longer are important access roads.
The national forest road system has 374,000 miles of roads – which amounts to 8 times the size of the national highway system. The pure number of roads is unsustainable, especially as funding and agency maintenance budgets have continually declined over the past decade.
Washington Wild works to bring together a broad coalition of conservation and recreation stakeholders to prioritize maintenance of Forest Service roads that provide access to trails, campgrounds and other recreational infrastructure so that current and future generations can explore the wild places we work so hard to protect. Simultaneously, we advocate for reducing the size of the overall road system by decommissioning old and decaying logging roads that no longer or never have provided recreational access and pose aquatic risks to our watersheds.