Olympic National Park seeks comments on wilderness stewardship plan options

By Arwyn Rice and Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — The public is invited to mix and match elements of four preliminary alternatives outlined for managing wilderness in Olympic National Park.

Park staff are seeking public input on preliminary alternatives for the park’s first Wilderness Stewardship Plan before it puts together its draft environmental impact statement.

The final plan, expected to be put into effect in late 2015, will guide management of most of the 922,650-acre park for the next 15 to 20 years.

Meetings slated

Comment can be made in person at meetings in Port Angeles and Forks this week and in Port Townsend next week. Comments also can be made in writing by mail or online by May 17.

One alternative for the plan is obligatory. Alternative A is to make no changes in current practices, a most unlikely choice for the park’s preferred option.

The public can focus on any part of the remaining three alternatives, according to Barb Maynes, park spokeswoman.

“All are alternatives. We have not selected any as preferred,” she said.

“The preferred alternative we end up with may include elements of each of B, C and D.”

None of the options have price tags as yet. Detailed descriptions of them are at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild.

To summarize the options:

■   Alternative B would emphasize minimizing the human footprint on wilderness areas by reducing infrastructure constructed in the park.

■   Alternative C would emphasize protecting natural resources through ecosystem restoration, including the removal of non-native species.

■   Alternative D would manage use and recreation to provide visitors with a greater range of wilderness experiences.

Park zoning

The alternatives outline how each zone in the park is managed.

The park’s General Management Plan — approved in 2008 as the foundation for other, more specific plans — has six zones defining areas of the park according to their use, from campgrounds to wilderness areas that have no trails at all.

Draft alternative zone maps are available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild.

Public meetings

To make comment in person, attend a public meeting. Each two-hour meeting will begin at 5 p.m.

The North Olympic Peninsula meetings are set in:

■   Port Angeles on Tuesday at the Port Angeles Public Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.

■   Forks on Wednesday at the state Department of Natural Resources office, 411 Tillicum Lane.

■   Port Townsend on March 24 at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St.

The Wilderness Stewardship Plan will replace the outdated Backcountry Management Plan completed in 1980, the park’s summary said.

It will be developed in accordance with the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Public comment is to be taken on the draft environmental impact statement at the end of this year or the start of next year. The final document is to be released in the spring or summer of 2015.

A record of decision is expected in fall 2015, with the plan implemented soon after.

The wilderness plan will guide management for most of the park, about 1,300 square miles of the 1,442-square-mile park.

Defining wilderness

When it comes to the park, it’s easier to define what isn’t wilderness than what is.

Non-wilderness includes road corridors, areas around visitor centers and drive-in campgrounds.

Wilderness begins 200 feet from the centerline of each paved road and 100 feet from the centerline of each gravel road, Maynes said.

Here are more details about the alternatives:

Alternative B

This option, to decrease the imprint of human beings, would reduce developments, protect natural resources and restore disturbed areas, allowing the natural process to prevail and offering a primitive wilderness experience to visitors.

Very few new facilities would be built. No new shelters would be built under this alternative or any other.

Camp sites and camping areas would not increase and the number might decrease, as might total trail mileage.

Fishing regulations would be reviewed annually. Hazard fuel reduction for fire prevention would not occur.

Collaring or capturing animals for scientific research would not be allowed.

Historic structures would be reviewed to determine which would be maintained, and which would be allowed to deteriorate naturally.

Horses, burros, mules and llamas would be restricted to designated stock camps, with some dispersed stock use in the Bogachiel drainage area.

Alternative C

This option focuses on protecting natural resources. Healthy ecosystems would be restored, non-native species removed, extirpated species reintroduced and historic structures and cultural landscapes would be protected.

Park operations would move to using non-mechanized equipment where possible. The number of administrative buildings would be cut.

Trails would be maintained to protect natural resources and reduce hiker and stock impact.

Officials would seek to remove non-native fish.

Hazard fuel reduction for fire prevention would be kept to a minimal level, as needed to protect historic structures.

Historic structures would be reviewed to determine degree of practical maintenance; structures threatened by natural processes would not be protected.

The number of campsites and camp areas would remain about the same as now but might shift to different areas.

Horses, burros, mules and llamas would be limited to designated stock camps and the number of trail miles might be reduced.

Alternative D

Alternative D would offer a greater range of wilderness experiences to visitors.

Facilities, including trails and camping areas, in heavy-impact areas would be reduced and redistributed to other areas of the park.

Sport fishing would be promoted to catch non-native fish.

Hazard fuel reduction for fire prevention would occur around historic and administrative structures. Historic structures would be maintained and protected as practical and reconstructed if necessary.

The number of campsites and camp areas would remain about the same but might shift to different areas.

Horses, burros, mules, llamas and pack goats would be limited to designated stock camps. The number of trail miles might increase slightly.

All alternatives include a goat management plan.

Natural fires within park boundaries would be allowed to burn without suppression unless the fire threatened properties adjacent to the park.

Comments can be made online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild.

They can be mailed to Sarah Creachbaum, Superintendent; ATTN: WSP Preliminary Draft Alternatives; Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave.; Port Angeles, WA 98362.

________

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at leah.leach@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 16. 2014 7:42PM
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