Effort begins to determine forest road status

Staff reportJune 23, 2013 

Road access to places such as these falls on the Whitechuck River in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest could change as the forest begins a road status assessment.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE

Meetings in Enumclaw, Seattle and Issaquah are part of a series to gather public input on which roads in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest should remain open.

The meetings begin Saturday in Seattle and run through October.

Under mandates contained in the U.S. Forest Service’s 2005 Travel Management Rule, each national forest must identify a road system that can be maintained for safe travel, use, administration and resource protection. Working within projected budgets, the plan must be completed by 2015.

Each year, an estimated 5 million people visit the national forest, often driving on forest roads, according to a forest news release. They travel forest roads to reach destinations such as Big Four Ice Caves, Mount Baker, Heather Meadows, the Skagit Wild and Scenic River, and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

Forest officials estimate that nearly 2,500 miles of roads crisscross the forest, which stretches from the Canadian border to the northern edge of Mount Rainier National Park.

Under current budget constraints, however, forest officials said they can afford to maintain only about a quarter of those roads.

A Sustainable Roads Cadre, composed of groups including environmental, timber and off-road vehicle interests, has been created to engage the public in the process, said the news release.

To better understand how people use and value the forest’s landscapes and resources, a science-driven approach developed by the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station and Portland State University will be used. Social scientists from the lab will guide meeting participants in using maps to identify places of significance and assign values or activities associated with them, according to the release.

The public’s input, via the meetings and online comments, will be used to develop maps that can display visitor destinations, routes and show places with special meaning or value to forest users.

Forest supervisor Jennifer Eberlien said in the release that she expects the initial report to be compiled by the fall. The report, however, will not include any final decisions.

MEETING SCHEDULE

Because capacity is limited, attendance is on a first-come basis. Participants are asked to send an email to sustainableroads@gmail.com to register.

Saturday: 10 a.m.-12:30 noon, REI, 222 Yale Ave. N., Seattle

July 9: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Mount Baker District office, Sedro-Woolley

July 23: 5:30-8 p.m., Issaquah main fire station office.

Aug. 6: 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Enumclaw Public Library

Aug. 21: 4:30-7 p.m., Darrington Public Library

Sept. 10: 5:30-8 p.m., Bellingham Public Library

Sept. 24: 1-3:30 p.m., Monroe Public Library

Oct. 9: 5:30-8 p.m., Everett Public Library downtown branch

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