By Kim Brown, Public Lands Intern
|The turquoise of Ross Lake & green mosses and trees|
Here’s more information to impress your friends with: North Cascades National Park (NCNP) and Ross Lake National Recreation Area (Ross Lake NRA) are both managed by the National Parks Service (NPS), but the Park and the NRA are managed for different objectives.
The primary purpose of a NRA is to provide for outdoor recreation, rather than the focus of the National Park System on conservation and historic preservation. The management plan of an NRA is consistent with the management plan of its land manager, in this case, Ross Lake NRA is managed by North Cascades National Park.
OK now for the business at hand: It's time to update the management guidance for Ross Lake NRA, which historically has been a part of the North Cascades National Park General Management Plan (GMP). The separate Ross Lake GMP will guide management of the Ross Lake NRA for the next 15-20 years.
NPS has completed the Environmental Impact Statement detailing the various Alternative management plans for Ross Lake NRA, the Preferred plan being Alternative B (see Chapter 4, Alternatives, at bottom of the page of this link ). The public comment period ends January 17.
Since the last GMP was implemented in 1988, campgrounds have been severely damaged by storms and visitation has increased, so a facelift is needed for Ross NRA.
Alternative B allows for the management of future storm damage with as little interruption to recreation as possible. Visitors may have more front-country and better backcountry trails, more front- and backcountry campsites, better campground amenities, more educational opportunities and new viewpoints. Sport climbing in the gorge between Newhalem and Diablo will be better managed through four Climbing Management Areas.
Wild places will be kept wild, continued efforts for the preservation of grizzly bear habitat, and nearly 5,000 acres of previously proposed Wilderness at Big Beaver Natural Preservation Area and Thunder Creek will be officially added to the Stephen Mather Wilderness Area. Goodell and Newhalem Creeks and a portion of the Skagit will be recommended for Wild & Scenic River status.
With the new GMP, we may see an on-line reservation system for backpacking permits, which will benefit National Park visitors as well. You’ll still have to pick up the permits in person, however. The last mile of the road to Thornton Lakes (within the Wilderness boundary), will be officially decommissioned and a better trailhead built.
A second water taxi for Ross Lake Resort will better serve backpackers and resort visitors, its footprint on the lake being tempered by more restrictions on types of motors allowed on the lake.
Currently a National Forest Byway and a Washington State Scenic Highway, the North Cascades Highway will be nominated as a designated National Scenic Byway.
An immediate change will be the name -- to better associate the Ross Lake NRA with North Cascades National Park, it will be re-named “North Cascades National Recreation Area.”
Ross Lake, the Skagit River, the Seattle City Light dams and the North Cascades Highway corridor compose a special destination for recreationists, and the proposed Alternative B for the GMP will continue to provide a range of opportunities at the re-named North Cascades NRA, while providing an appropriate gateway to the grandeur of North Cascades National Park.