January 29, 2010
DNR FIELD NOTES: A COMMENTARY ON RECREATION ON STATE TRUST LAND—WHY PLANNING MATTERS
OLYMPIA – The following commentary from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is provided for you to use in your publication or on your website.
RECREATION ON STATE TRUST LAND: WHY PLANNING MATTERS
By Mark Mauren,
Washington State Department of Natural Resources Recreation Program Manager
What if you were responsible for nearly six million acres of forest, agriculture, and aquatic lands in Washington State?
What if, by law, you must manage these lands sustainably for revenue to public schools and other trust beneficiaries?
What if, at the same time, you had competing recreational uses and not enough capacity to address demand for all types of recreational trails and facilities?
Where would you start?
As the state’s largest land manager, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) takes recreation and the long-term sustainability of the land and its natural resources seriously. DNR is striving to provide sustainable public access in the face of a growing population seeking more diverse types of recreation. We rely on comprehensive planning. Our focus is on the most popular landscapes under the strain of overuse. We want to keep recreationists safe and preserve their choices for outdoor fun, while protecting the land from serious environmental damage.
Recreation plans with public input are among the tools DNR uses to balance recreation with the long-term environmental health of state trust lands.
To develop—and implement—recreation plans, DNR relies on:
- Sound science to determine the most suitable areas for trails and facilities.
- Sustainable stewardship to ensure viable resources and long-term, enjoyable recreation opportunities.
- Public involvement to bring local communities, user groups, conservation interests, and state and local agencies together.
Recreation planning is a success in Capitol State Forest, a popular area south of Olympia. DNR and a citizen advisory group completed a recreation plan for the area in 2005. The plan is a clear roadmap that allows many forms of recreation to safely co-exist. There are separate trail systems for motorized recreation, such as single- and quad-tracks, and for non-motorized recreation, including equestrian, mountain biking, and hiking. User groups with a history of antagonism have found common ground and volunteer together to help clean up and maintain the forest’s trails and facilities.
DNR recently completed a recreation plan for the Ahtanum State Forest. Located 20 miles west of Yakima, it is a popular and, thanks to careful planning, safer destination for all-season recreation—from hiking and ORV riding to elk hunting and snowmobiling. In the coming months and years, DNR will mobilize volunteers to help put the plan to work through many hands-on projects.
On the flip side, many state lands suffer serious environmental damage from unauthorized trails built in areas that can’t sustain that kind of activity. DNR is focusing planning efforts in two such areas: Reiter Foothills Forest in eastern Snohomish County and the western half of the Yacolt Burn State Forest, north of Washougal.
The Reiter plan is nearly complete, and volunteers are already working hard to restore damaged areas and helping to design trails that are safe for each other as well as the environment. The Yacolt plan will be ready for public review in the coming weeks.
At DNR, we view providing recreational access to the public as an integral part of our stewardship of state trust lands. It is especially important in today’s economic climate that people can get outside, have fun, and be safe, and at the same time, preserve the resources for future generations.
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Media Contact: Toni Droscher, Communications Manager, 360-902-1523, email@example.com