Audubon ends river road challenge; focus shifts to other forest roads

DARRINGTON — The Pilchuck Audubon Society plans no more litigation to oppose repairs to the flood-damaged Suiattle River Road. However, the environmental group hopes to influence which other logging roads continue to stay open in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Repairs to the once-popular Suiattle River Road were under way in 2011 when a lawsuit by Pilchuck Audubon and other parties prompted the federal government to defer plans to fix the 23-mile-long road and to begin another environmental assessment of slated repairs. In the lawsuit, Pilchuck Audubon expressed concern about wildlife habitat and old trees that would be removed for the repair project.

In November, the Western Federal Lands Division of the Federal Highway Administration decided that the repairs to the road, including reroutes through stands of old trees, posed no significant impacts to the environment. Repairs are likely to begin in summer, Forest Service officials said.

“We are pleased that the size of the road footprint has been reduced” under the new repair plan, said Kathleen Snyder, president of Pilchuck Audubon Society. “Old-growth trees will still be cut, but now fewer of them in the critical habitat.”

Instead of continuing to challenge the Suiattle River Road repair, the organization will examine the entire road system.

“Hundreds of miles of a road system built years ago, to feed the nation’s appetite for wood products, are now sliding off the mountainsides in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest watersheds, degrading fish habitat and high-quality water for drinking and industrial purposes,” Snyder said.

Many of the old roads need to be closed, she said.

“Congress has asked the Forest Service to come up with a plan by 2016 for these old logging roads. They need to identify a minimum-size road system needed locally for safe, efficient travel, for the protection and management of national forest lands,” Snyder said. “They need to be looked at for closure because culverts are crumbling away and other problems are occurring that would cost the federal government too much money to repair. This is not just Pilchuck Audubon’s opinion, but we would like to help move that process along.”

Snyder said her organization hopes to organize a summit next summer regarding the future of roads in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

“We anticipate they will work with area stakeholders to include conservation and outdoor recreation groups, commercial natural resource interests, tribes, local businesses and other resource agencies,” Snyder said.

Darrington District Ranger Peter Forbes could not be reached to comment on Snyder’s statement.

Martha Rasmussen, who heads the Darrington Area Friends for Public Use, said her group is taking care of roads in the Darrington District of the forest. Her group had advocated keeping the Suiattle River Road open.

“There have been no reports of forest road damage this year because we are out there, on our own dime, patrolling the roads on a regular basis,” Rasmussen said. “We have reopened ditches, made sure that water is going through culverts and we have removed decades worth of garbage.”

The Forest Stewardship Club at Darrington High School also has worked to keeping forest roads clean and accessible, Rasmussen said.

“We have saved Congress a ton of money already. That’s how passionate we are about access to the forest,” Rasmussen said. “We invite the Audubon Society to join us. We want the roads to stay open not just for recreation but for tribal members so they can gather berries, bark and herbs. We all need access.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

Pilchuck Audubon Society: pilchuckaudubon.org

Darrington Area Friends for Public Use: ffpu.org

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest: www.fs.usda.gov/mbs

More in Local News

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

New leaders coming to county, state political parties

Hillary Moralez of Bothell takes over as chair for the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Lake Stevens man missing since beginning of January

Jason Michael Knox White hasn’t used his credit card or withdrawn money from his bank since then.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders apprentice Janette Alhanati (left) and journeyman Kurt Warwick construct wall panels for an upcoming boat project with Linblad Expedition Holdings. A federal grant from the Northwest Workforce Council will allow Nichols Brothers to add more apprentices to its workforce starting in January 2018.
Whidbey Island boatbuilder gets hiring boost

The grant from the Northwest Workforce Council will help expand the company’s apprenticeship program.

Most Read