Groups unite to save Green Mountain forest fire lookout

SNOHOMISH — More people are joining the fight to keep the Green Mountain forest fire lookout standing in the Glacier Peak Wilderness east of Darrington.

A lawsuit filed by a Montana-based environmental watchdog group seeks to tear down the lookout and cart it away, citing what it sees as violations of the federal Wilderness Act.

Now on board in the effort to preserve the lookout are the Darrington Town Council, Darrington Historical Society, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, the national Forest Fire Lookout Association, the Everett Mountaineers Lookout and Trail Maintenance Committee, Snohomish County Sportsmen’s Association and the Snohomish Sportsman Club.

Some of these groups filed a brief earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Seattle in opposition to the Wilderness Watch lawsuit, which alleges that the Forest Service built a new lookout at Green Mountain — something that’s not allowed in the wilderness.

However, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest officials and local historical and outdoors groups maintain that Green Mountain is a simply a rehabilitation and restoration of the original historic lookout.

George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch, said the group will be responding to the brief, which was filed in support of the Forest Service. The historical groups involved are operating under the faulty premise, Nickas said, that the National Historic Preservation Act mandates preservation. In reality, it only requires that agencies consider the impacts to historic structures, he said.

“It’s a good idea to preserve historic things when we can, but if preservation was required, then this would essentially shut down any project — such as highways — anywhere in America,” Nickas said.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 as part of the forest fire detection system in the North Cascades, the lookout is on the national and state registers of historic places.

Between 1980 and 2010, a cooperative effort by volunteers and the Forest Service worked to save the lookout from sliding down the mountain, said Forrest Clark, the Western Washington director of the Forest Fire Lookout Association.

In the summer, the lookout is used by volunteers to spot forest fires, he said.

“We’re gaining quite a bit of support against the lawsuit and are trying to get enough money to pay the expenses of our pro bono attorney,” Clark said. “Now we are hoping that some of the hiking clubs join us in the fight.”

On Sunday afternoon, Clark plans two free showings in Snohomish of the Darrington Historical Society’s program on the dwindling number of forest fire lookouts of the region. When shown in Darrington in February, the program had standing-room-only crowds and some people who drove for hours to attend were turned away.

“Lightning and Loneliness,” a history of the Darrington Ranger District forest fire lookouts, the buildings and the people who staffed them, is a good program, Clark said.

“And after the show, if anyone wants to talk about Green Mountain, we can do that,” he said.

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

Lightning and Loneliness

The Lookouts of Darrington is set to be presented at noon and again at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Waltz Building, 116 B Ave., in Snohomish. The program is free, but donations will be accepted.

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