OLYMPIA, Washington - August 29 - The proposed plan for guiding Olympic National Park over the next generation will undermine wilderness, according to a complaint filed today by Olympic Park Associates, Wilderness Watch and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) with the National Park Service’s National Wilderness Steering Committee.
In June, Olympic National Park released its draft general management plan (GMP), the first comprehensive planning effort undertaken by the park since 1976. This plan, when finalized, will determine park priorities for the next 15 to 20 years.
In 1988, 95% of the park lands were designated wilderness, yet the park never produced the required wilderness management plan. The groups charge that the GMP, opened to public comment through September 30, will slice and dice wilderness and guarantee the preservation of structures over the preservation of wilderness.
“Without a comprehensive wilderness plan, the GMP can’t provide the true management guidance required by the park’s enabling legislation and the Wilderness Act,” stated Donna Osseward, President of Olympic Park Associates, a group formed in 1947 to provide citizen oversight of park management. “The preferred alternative doesn’t guarantee good wilderness management. It places too much emphasis on preservation, repair and rehab of literally dozens of structures that are not needed for visitor use or park administration of the wilderness.”
Although the preferred alternative backed by park management does propose establishing marine reserves along sensitive areas of the coast, expanding the park's boundaries in the Ozette basin, Lake Crescent area, and the Queets River corridor, and recommends a wilderness study for Ozette Lake, it departs from several key environmental recommendations by:
- Rivers. Blocking Wild and Scenic River eligibility study for 12 rivers that qualify for designation. Park management recommends this designation only for the Elwha River. At the same time, the Olympic preferred plan denies “river protection zone” status to the park's rivers and permits rock armoring and other road reconstruction that can harm spawning areas for federally threatened Puget Sound Chinook and degrade critical habitat for other federally listed species.
- Structures. Blatantly making wilderness subservient to physical structures by mandating the protection of all historical and cultural properties in wilderness without evaluating the impact on wilderness character.
- Zones. Arbitrarily dividing wilderness into three zones without justification. Such a major change in the status of wilderness should be determined in a comprehensive wilderness management plan that examines the proposed actions in light of the impacts on wilderness.
“Olympic is one of the park system’s crown jewels, encompassing a nearly complete ecosystem with essentially intact forest and wildlife communities,” said George Nickas, executive director of Missoula-based Wilderness Watch. “The Olympic plan is inconsistent with several recent court rulings that clearly stated the specific protections in the Wilderness Act take superiority over the more general National Historic Preservation Act.”
“To say that this draft plan is a disappointment would be an understatement,” added Sue Gunn, Director of the Washington chapter of PEER, who had previously called for formal discipline of Olympic superintendent William Laitner for wilderness violations that were confirmed in a recent federal court decision. “There appears to be a conspiracy against wilderness on the part of management in this incredibly wild park.”
Before the September 30th deadline, public comments on the plan may be faxed to (303) 969-2736, emailed to email@example.com or mailed to:
Olympic National Park Draft General Management Plan
National Park Service
Denver Service Center
P.O. Box 25287
Denver, Colorado 80225