Saturday’s article, “Planning resumes for Suiattle River Road work,” omitted important information about the lawsuit that triggered the release of this new environmental assessment. It is true that the suit raised concerns about destruction of old growth trees and wildlife habitat, as well as the use of ERFO (“emergency”) funds to repair a road that had been washed out for eight years. (It must not be too much of an emergency to repair it, if we’ve gotten along without it for that long.)
But the primary reason for the lawsuit was the flaunting by the U.S. Forest Service and Federal Highway Administration of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to undertake environmental study before completing repairs. The suit was dismissed because the agencies recognized that the project did indeed require an EA and agreed to do one, rendering the suit moot — not because it lacked merit.
It is also important to note that closure of the Suiattle Road has not prevented anyone from accessing the trails into the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Any person who can hike those trails, some of which are quite rugged and strenuous, can hike the relatively level, pleasant roadway along this beautiful river.
And many who cannot manage the more difficult upland trails would enjoy walking — or rolling — the Suiattle Road, without the intrusion of cars. The closure of this road presents a golden opportunity for expanding the hiking opportunities in the Darrington District for less athletic individuals.
Forest Practices Chair
Pilchuck Audubon Society