State agencies finalize recreation plan for area from Naneum Ridge to Columbia River

A new plan will guide recreation management decisions by two state agencies on 230,000 acres that stretch from the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range to the Columbia River.

The state departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife announced Monday the release of the Naneum Ridge to Columbia River Recreation and Access Plan.

The plan addresses recreation in the Naneum Ridge State Forest, managed by Natural Resources, as well as the Colockum Wildlife Area, and Quilomene and Whiskey Dick units of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, which are managed by Fish and Wildlife.

The plan will guide the two agencies in sustainable management of recreation planning for the next 10-15 years.

The plan identifies about 50 recreation and public access objectives and 20 high-priority projects. Development will depend on the availability of funding for construction, maintenance, operation and enforcement.

The release of the plan culminates a three-year planning process and collaborative effort between the agencies, local user and community groups, and a volunteer advisory committee. Committee members donated more than 1,200 hours of volunteer time over 20 public meetings.

“The public played an integral role,” Brock Milliern, statewide recreation manager for the agencies, said in a prepared statement. “By planning proactively we can ensure that recreation develops here in a way respects the local desire to maintain rural and agricultural activities, meets the agencies’ needs, and expands sustainable recreation and economic opportunities for the public and surrounding communities.”

“This was a huge effort by the committee members, the public and the agencies to find balance among competing interests for fish, wildlife, land management and compatible recreation,” said Mike Livingston, regional director for Fish and Wildlife. “This plan sets us up to achieve that balance.”

Right now, there are 270 miles of roads, called Green Dot roads, that provide public access to camping, hunting, wildlife viewing, and other recreational activities in the planning area. The only developed recreation facilities are 90 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the northern portion of the planning area and the Yo Yo Rock boat launch on the Columbia River.

As the plan is implemented, staffers from the two departments will continue to consult with local groups to expand recreation opportunities. Plans include:

• Maintenance of the Green Dot road network. Fish and Wildlife will offer more Green Dot roads on its lands in Kittitas County.

•  Trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking in the forested portions of the Naneum Ridge State Forest and the Colockum Wildlife Area, including a north-south trail in the northern and western sections of the planning area.

•  Off-road trails for motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and 4x4s.

• A non-motorized winter trail system and a new non-motorized parking area in the Stemilt Basin area.

• Continued snowmobile access within the planning area.

• Improved road and trail linkages to public land west of the planning area, including the Wenatchee National Forest.

• Fish and Wildlife partnerships with local governments and non-profit organizations to design, develop, manage and maintain a shooting range in the Green Gate area of the Quilomene wildlife unit.