Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The North Cascades Get Wilder

The new Thunder Creek Wilderness Area.
Image courtesy of National Park Service
Posted by Sarah Krueger, Public Lands Programs Manager

The North Cascades just got a little wilder.  On September 14, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar administratively added 3,559 acres of Wilderness to the Stephen Mather Wilderness area, which includes parts of North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas.  The newly protected area encompasses the Thunder Creek valley follows Thunder Arm of Diablo Lake, harbors lush low-elevation old-growth forest, and provides shoulder-season hiking opportunities out of the Colonial Creek Campground.
The Washington Parks Wilderness Act of 1988 originally identified the Thunder Creek Valley as potential wilderness, but the area was not federally protected due to plans by the City of Seattle to harness Thunder Creek’s aquamarine glacial waters for hydropower development.  However, the 1988 act that created a swath of protected wilderness areas within Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park Service Complex, also included a provision that the Thunder Creek Potential Wilderness Area could be could be administratively designated at the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, if and when non-conforming uses are terminated.  Since the City of Seattle abandoned plans to develop hydropower on Thunder Creek, and with no other uses planned for the area, the Secretary was able to designate this area as Wilderness, as directed by the 1988 Washington Parks Wilderness Act.   

The Mountaineers, along with 12 other conservation and recreation groups representing Washington State, sent a letter to Secretary Salazar, supporting an administrative decision to designate Thunder Creek as Wilderness. The wilderness addition marks the first lands managed by the National Park Service that have been added to the National Wilderness System in 14 years in Washington State.

1 comment:

Susan Russo said...

That is great news. It looks like a really special place.