Thursday, March 21, 2013

Olympic Wilderness Plan in Development

By Lisa Miller, Public Lands Programs Intern

The Olympic Wilderness of Olympic National Park consists of rugged and remote mountains, lush rainforest valleys, and wild, roadless coastline. Olympic is also one of the most popular wilderness destinations in North America, with nearly 40,000 overnight wilderness visitors each year. Olympic National Park is beginning the initial scoping to develop a Olympic National Park Wilderness Stewardship Plan.

Park staff have been travelling around Western Washington holding public meetings to answer questions and accept  comments from the public. All those interested in the management, conservation and protection of one of the most popular wilderness areas in America are highly encouraged to participate. By stopping in at a public meeting or open house to ask questions or to fill out the questionnaire about what is important to you truly emphasizes how we all play a role in the future of the many resources within the Olympic National Park (ONP).

The meeting I went to in downtown Seattle was held in a small conference room at the flagship REI store, how appropriate. I almost picked up a guide book for my next visit to the Olympic Peninsula. This meeting was set up in an open-house format; newly appointed ONP Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum greeted us at the door with a warm smile and a handshake. New to the Pacific Northwest, but not the Park Service, Creachbaum is happy to hear about personal values, and ideas of the park. She even enjoyed a few photos of the Elwha River from a fellow kayaker.

A small television played a 4-minute loop about the Wilderness Act and the goals of the Wilderness Stewardship Plan. Around the edges of the room were a dozen or so displays highlighting goals and steps of the planning process, goals of the plan, and prompting questions one should ask themselves about why ONP is important to them, including:
1. What makes the Olympic National Park wilderness area special to you and why?
2. When you visit the Olympic National Park wilderness area, what activities and experiences are most important to you?
3. What do you think the issues are in the Olympic National Park wilderness area?
4. Imagine you are visiting the Olympic National Park wilderness area 20 years from now. What conditions, experiences, visitor services, and facilities would you like to see?

Available to answer questions or just talk about your love of the park were two more staff members, having the opportunity to chat with each of them helps bring the process to a truly public setting.  As I am also learning more about the policies and planning processes that take place to manage public lands I found this setting to be very relaxed, comfortable and informative. Taking an active role is the only way to have a voice and be a part of the final decision. In the end if I have not done my part then I will not have a fair reason to critique the final Wilderness Stewardship Plan. Share your thoughts and protect what is important to you in the wilderness of Olympic National Par during the Wilderness Stewardship Plan Update.

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