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To Be or Not to Be a National Park?

Posted by Ryan Ojerio at Mar 30, 2009 12:35 PM |


After a year of public meetings and deliberations, the Mount St. Helens Advisory Committee (SHAC) released its list of draft recommendations intended to guide future management of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. On the most controversial topic, the committee recommended that the mountain remain under Forest Service management rather than turning it into Washington's fourth major national park.

According to an article in The Columbian, committee co-chair and Skamania County Commissioner Paul Pearce said, "What we heard from the public was pretty loud and clear in those seven meetings was to keep it with the Forest Service, but with more money and better management." This has been WTA's stance: the issue is funding, not who's managing the monument.

Opponents of national park status feared that hunting, fishing and snowmobiling opportunities would be curtailed. The National Parks Conservation Association, which supports national park status,  issued a report arguing that park status would draw more visitors and boost local economies. The report also argued that park status would bring much needed funding. In recent years, the monument has been challenged by a growing list of deferred maintenance projects, deteriorating roads, and a declining budget. In 2007, financial limitations forced the closure of the Coldwater Visitor’s Center. Sections of the Loowit Trail damaged in storms of 2006 still have not been repaired.

To improve future funding, the committee recommended elevating the importance of the Monument in the federal budget by establishing it as a separate line item similar to the Columbia River Gorge National ScenicArea, which is separate from the general Forest Service budget. Other recommendations include a list of future projects such as improved road access to the visitor centers, overnight accommodations at Coldwater Visitor Center, improved camping facilities and access to a broader range of recreation activities.

Given the economy and the push to fund “shovel ready” projects, it is unlikely that the committee’s recommendations will have an impact on the ground in the near future. Yet WTA remains hopeful that these recommendations will set the stage to secure an adequate budget for the monument in the future. In the meantime, WTA volunteers are always “shovel ready." The first work party of the season at Mount St. Helens kicks off on the Hummocks Trail on May 2nd!

Two public meetings are scheduled to gather input on the draft recommendations. Each will be held from 6-9 p.m.

  • March 30, Cowlitz County Administration Building, 207 Fourth Ave. N., Kelso.
  • April 13, Camas Police Department, 2100 N.E. Third St., Camas.

Comments can also be e-mailed here.



Support Conservation as well as Trails

I agree that the more important issue is properly funded management than which agency actually manages the monument. The Forest Service has been doing the best it can during an era of declining budgets for all federal land management agencies.

I urge WTA to also support the conservation and science recommendations. The public has a huge investment (via National Science Foundation grants and public university funding) in unprecedented long term scientific research in understanding the complex process of biological recovery. Although it is not pristine, the 30,000-acre research area is the only place where relatively natural ecological processes have been protected and allowed to evolve. We're still at the beginning of a recovery process that will take hundreds of years to complete.

The Loowit (#216), Truman (#207) and Willow Springs (#207A) trails provide opportunities to hike through the research area and observe ecological and geological changes from the trails. On my hikes, I have encountered scientists working in their research plots and I've had the chance to talk with them about their studies and findings. Continuous research for 28+ years has created enormous research value of long term data and each additional year of research increases the value of the data.

Posted by:

Sunrise Creek on Mar 30, 2009 02:47 PM

To be a National Park would be grand

Even though I do agree with Sunrise Creek's and the WTA's comment that funding and management is important I think the ability to restrict snowmobiles (and to a lesser extent hunting and fishing) would be a positive to the area. The National Park status and name would bring in people that might pass up a monument even if the change is only administrative and by name. Also, if restrictions cannot be make without making Mount St. Helens a National Park than I am not in favor of the alternative.

Posted by:

pugethiker on Mar 30, 2009 08:57 PM

Kelso Meeting Update

I just got back from the public meeting in Kelso. Most of the participants that spoke voiced opposition to National Park status because of their concerns over restrictions on hunting, fishing, and snowmobile riding as well as objecting to increases in fees, development and crowding that park status might bring.

A few, including myself, spoke in support of science, conservation and hiking as the highest priorities for future management regardless of who manages the area.

I can't attend the next meeting in Camas and hope that we can rally hikers to go and support the values and experiences that they would like to preserve for future generations.

-Ryan Ojerio
WTA SW Washington Regional Coordinator

Posted by:

Ryan Ojerio on Mar 30, 2009 09:50 PM

Hard choice

This one's a tricky one. Part of me thinks it would be great to have a Mount St. Helens National Park, and the great facilities and increased budgets of the park service.
But WTA has a long and productive relationship with the Forest Service, and in general, they've managed the monument well--even if funding has been short of what's needed. The recent new rules restricting snowmobiles on the volcano is a good example of the monument's management approach:[…]/new-snowmobile-limits-on-st.-helens
In other news, scientists are fighting attempts to open Spirit Lake to fishing:[…]/mount_st_helens_researchers_fi.html

Posted by:

Andrew Engelson on Mar 31, 2009 02:59 PM