Speak Up For Trails on the Colville National Forest
The Forest Service is seeking public comments on the Draft Revised Forest Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Colville National Forest released earlier this year.
The Colville National Forest is finishing a multi-year project to revise its forest plan, which provides the forest with a road map for managing everything from trail and road access to making recommendation for new wilderness areas within the 1.1 million acre area in Northeast Washington. The Forest Service is seeking public comments on the Draft Revised Forest Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Colville National Forest released earlier this year.
As demand increases for outdoor recreation, forest must adapt
The Forest Service writes that the Colville, "disproves the widely held notion that Washington state lies flat east of the Cascade Mountains." And they're right. The forest is home to the Okanogan, Kettle River and Selkirk ranges, which are considered the foothills of the Rockies. The region is home to a stunning array of wildlife from lynx and caribou to grizzly bears and many others. Hikers have long enjoyed the iconic Salmo-Priest loop in this region and now have the opportunity to increase access to more trails within the forest.
In the 26 years since the most recent plan was developed, demand for recreation access to the Colville National Forest has steadily increased.
The plan proposes several alternatives that could change how trails and roads within the forest are managed and makes recommendations for additional wilderness areas on the forest. The full plan can be read here.
In general, WTA supports many aspects of the Forest's Preferred Alternative proposal, listed in the plan as Alternative P, because of its goals to protect the area's ecological health while balancing recreation needs. However, we believe it falls short in providing enough recreation resources in some areas. WTA hopes that after the comment period ends, the Forest Service will acknowledge that recreation needs increased support within the plan.
Forest Plan should identify more areas for hiking, increase commitment to maintaining trails
A 2009 recreation report found that "viewing natural features," hiking/walking," and "relaxing" are the top three recreational activities in the forest. However, the plan does not suggest a change in the number of trail miles or acreage available for nonmotorized recreation. Alternative P would increase the number of acres open to summer motorized recreation by 400 percent. Currently only 20 percent of the forest's lands offer an opportunity for trails to exist in a non-motorized setting. Given the popularity of hiking, biking, horseback riding and other nonmotorized activities, WTA hopes to see more equitable acreage for these activities.
WTA appreciates that the draft Forest Plan states a goal of maintaining 20 percent of the forest's trail system, though we would like to see the number increased to 50 percent, given the popularity of trails and recreation within the forest.
Wilderness recommendations fall short
Currently there is only one wilderness area, the Salmo Priest Wilderness, within the Colville National Forest. The Forest Service's own analysis found that the greater Spokane area is underserved for wilderness recreation due to not having any designated wilderness within a drive of under two hours. WTA supports wilderness recommendations for Bald Snow, Abercrombie Hooknose and the Salmo Priest Adjacent Inventoried Roadless Areas. We would also like to see Thirteenmile & Cougar Mountain, Grassy Top, Hall Mountain and Quartzite Inventoried Roadless Areas considered for wilderness protection.
Hiker input needed by July 5 to ensure strong recreation access
Your voice is needed to make sure the final Forest Plan reflects the needs of hikers like you.
It is important that you personalize your comments, otherwise the Forest Service will not count them as an individual comment. Here are some talking points to get you started:
- Hikers would like to see increased nonmotorized trail mileage and trail maintenance efforts to help the forest adapt to increased demand, especially given that Washington expects 2 million more new residents by 2020.
- The forest is in need of additional wilderness areas to meet growing demand to protect wildlife habitats and ecosystems in addition to providing wilderness recreation experiences.
- In order to keep the forest accessible for everyone, we hope to see roads leading to recreation areas maintained for passenger car use.
Please submit your comments by July 5. Comments can be submitted directly through our action form.
Our full comments can be read here. (PDF)
Links in last paragraphs are broken -- here's how to help
Great article, Frances. It motivated me to comment...but all the links in that last section go to a page that has no form. The form coding is buggy! I've emailed you a screencap so you can see the error and get it righted quickly.
For anyone else who runs into this problem before WTA can fix it, here's some info from the Forest Service on how to comment:
Electronic comments on the draft plan and DEIS should be submitted to:
To assist in the tracking and analyzing comments we are asking people to submit electronic comments to the web database system noted above, which is the preferred method for comment submission. Electronic comments will also be accepted to the project inbox: email@example.com. If needed, written comments will be allowed if you are unable to submit electronically. Submit written comments to: Colville National Forest, Forest Plan Revision, 765 South Main St., Colville, WA 99114
Please note: any contact information provided by the sender are considered a part of the public record and will become available for public inspection.
[And if you wonder, that was found at that plan link in the post above: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/colville/landmanagement/planning/?cid=stelprd3824594 ]
littlestcabbage on Jun 24, 2016 07:20 PM
Links in paragraphs working
Hi Heather, Thanks for providing direct links to the Forest Service's comment page on Colville. I'm not sure why they were not working earlier, but I checked them and they are both working now. You have to fill in your zip code to advance to the letter form -- it's a system quirk. As long as you enter in a zip code, it will advance to the comment letter form.
Hope this helps and thanks for taking action!
Andrea Imler, WTA Advocacy Director
Andrea Imler on Jun 25, 2016 11:53 AM
Hooray for links working properly now!
Hi Andrea, Thanks for responding. I sent a screencap of the problem to Frances last night, which showed the empty page (only the tiny blurb at the top and then vast expanses of empty whiteness). It wasn't working on my phone either, so I thought it important to call attention to it lest anyone else was encountering the problem. I'm glad to see it's functional today!
littlestcabbage on Jun 25, 2016 12:28 PM
Why is Alternative P WTA's top choice?
Wondering why Alternative P is WTA's recommended choice of all the proposals. It seems it has one of the lowest levels of added wilderness areas and according to this article, it will increase the summer motorized acreage by 400%! That seems to be the opposite of what WTA would be striving for. Can you help me understand this apparent conflict?
outofdoors16 on Jun 26, 2016 11:06 PM
RE: Why is Alternative P WTA's top choice?
Hi outofdoor16 -- Alternative P is the Preferred Alternative for the Forest Service. We decided to respond to Alt. P as we can specifically address where we see the Forest Service falling short in what they would like to see for the future of the Colville National Forest.
Andrea Imler, WTA Advocacy Director
Andrea Imler on Jun 27, 2016 09:35 AM
Address not being submitted as part of comment
Hi Andrea -
I've checked out a few comments in the reading room, and none include the commenter's address. I then checked the WTA action form, and it does not ask for address, just name and email.
I suspect that without an actual physical address the comment may be disregarded or given a lesser status. Is there a way that this could be resolved?
Luke Bakken on Jun 29, 2016 09:28 AM
RE: Address not being submitted as part of comment
If you scroll down past the letter in WTA's comment form, you will see lines to include a physical address.
Please let me know if I can help with anything else!
Frances Chiem, Advocacy & Outreach Associate
Francakes on Jun 29, 2016 09:41 AM
Address is required on comment form
Hey Luke, from what I can see the comment submission form does require an address, it's underneath the section where you actually write your comments. I would expect they would keep the addresses private and not post them in the "reading room."
outofdoors16 on Jun 29, 2016 09:44 AM
Address not being submitted as part of comment
You can see the comments I made here via the "official" comment submission form:
The contents of "LetterText.pdf" are what I entered via the official comment form. Note that my address *is* displayed in the header of the document, as you would expect for comments that are on the public record.
Letters that use WTA's form letter do not contain any address information in the *headers* of the document, *but* it appears that the address is being copied in the signature area of the document (I missed that part last time).
I apologize for harping on this but I would hate for the USFS to throw out comments that are missing address data in the "expected" location, even if the address is part of the message body. I may just be over-thinking all this, too.
Luke Bakken on Jun 29, 2016 11:26 AM