FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2011
Illegal Trail Building Occurring in National Scenic Area
HOOD RIVER – The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have discovered a series of trails illegally built in the National Scenic Area near Prindle Mountain. Built without the consent of either agency, these trails are not up to agency trail standards, and are located where they harm the ecology of the scenic area. Both agencies will work together to close the trails, restore the sites and monitor the area.
Illegal trail building causes natural and cultural resource damage and sets precedence for future illegal trail building and use. Illegal trails often are built poorly and in unsuitable locations, which cause erosion and resource damage.
For example, in the past several years, the Forest Service has undergone two complex planning processes for the Cape Horn and Catherine Creek areas. Both had illegal user-created trails across the landscape. The Environmental Assessments for both areas required significant changes to the trails including reroutes, closures and reconstruction in order to restore and protect the natural resources. Implementation of both of these projects will take years to get the trails up to Forest Service Standards.
From lands managed by the USDA Forest Service, illegal trails cross onto DNR-managed Table Mountain Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA). NRCAs protect lands having high conservation values for ecological systems, scenic qualities, wildlife habitat and low-impact recreational opportunities. Table Mountain also offers opportunities for hiking on the carefully managed trail system that protects sensitive features. Environmental education site visits have been hosted by DNR staff or site stewards.
The Forest Service and other agencies that manage land in the Gorge will initiate a collaborative public process to engage stakeholders and interest groups in a discussion about the importance of building a gorge-wide sustainable recreation strategy. Most agencies in the National Scenic Area are concerned about their ability to manage the increasing recreational demand within the Gorge—organizationally, fiscally, and ecologically. Through the collaborative process, the agencies, public and stakeholders will work to find common ground on recreation development in the Gorge.
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