PAT NEAL: Lions and tigers and log cabins, oh my!

IT WAS A gratifying end to the old year and a hopeful beginning to the new to read about Judge Robert B. Leighton’s ruling (“Judge Rules In Cabin Repair, Court Dismissed Suit Against Park,” Dec. 25 PDN).

That swatted down the legal shenanigans of some hired-gun environmental lawyers working for some do-gooder tree-huggers that wanted to stop the National Park Service from maintaining a few of the remaining historic structures in Olympic National Park.

Suing the government for fun and profit usually works in these parts.

The Wild Fish Conservancy sued the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to stop planting hatchery steelhead and got $40,000 for its trouble.

This popular legal maneuver did not fly in Judge Leighton’s court.

The judge dismissed the lawsuit involving the cabins.

That means Olympic National Park can maintain five remaining historic structures.

They can even use power tools and helicopters to do the job.

The environmental lawyers don’t want helicopters or motorized tools used in the wilderness unless of course they or their client should be injured in the due-diligent course of suing the government and incur an injury or accident in the wilderness that might or might not involve misfeasance, malfeasance or implied liability and thereby could reasonably require a helicopter and/or motorized equipment to get them out.

That would involve a separate lawsuit.

Tragically, according to their attorney, the environmentalists were “adversely affected and irreparably injured,” enough as it was, accordng to the PDN article.

Just the sight of an “objectionable” historic log structure in a wilderness area was a “disruption of their wilderness experience.”

I agree 100 percent.

As a sensitive wilderness creature, I can tell you there is nothing worse than getting lost in the beauty of the wilderness and seeing signs of human habitation.

The presence of cabins, trails, rock cairns, signs or even worse, other people, all boils down to the same thing: The Olympic Peninsula wilderness has been ruined for a very long time.

Even the trail the poor, tragically affected and irreparably injured litigant was standing on was probably first blazed as a Native American trade route through the mountains.

The stone and charcoal remains of their camps are scattered through the wilderness in a haphazard manner that would be an additional affront for any wilderness enthusiast who stumbled upon one.

The Manis Mastodon site in Sequim contains the 15,000-year-old remains of a hunter’s camp that represents the oldest evidence of human activity in the Pacific Northwest.

The rest of the country has been hunted over ever since.

In 1885, Lieutenant Joseph P. O’Neil chopped his way from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge looking for the wilderness.

He was too late.

O’Neil discovered a log cabin deep in the heart of terra incognita.

With the Homestead Act of 1862, objectionable log cabins, barns and root cellars were built all over the Peninsula by people looking for the wilderness until it was not wilderness anymore.

The coming of the railroad in 1913 signaled the last nail in the wilderness coffin.

With the completion of the Olympic Loop Highway in the 1930s, the wilderness was over.

All we have left are a few old, worn out cabins that tell story of the pioneer days.

They tell a story about the people who came before us.

Studying the axe marks on a pioneer cabin tells us that we will probably have to use power tools to replicate the log dressing technique because no one can handle an axe anymore.

These valuable cultural resources don’t endanger the wilderness — people do.

What can people do to lessen their impact on our fragile wilderness?

Here’s a clue: Stay out of it.


Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwild [email protected]

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