To Be or Not to Be a National Park?
After a year of public meetings and deliberations, the Mount St. Helens Advisory Committee (SHAC) released its list of draft recommendations intended to guide future management of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. On the most controversial topic, the committee recommended that the mountain remain under Forest Service management rather than turning it into Washington's fourth major national park.
According to an article in The Columbian, committee co-chair and Skamania County Commissioner Paul Pearce said, "What we heard from the public was pretty loud and clear in those seven meetings was to keep it with the Forest Service, but with more money and better management." This has been WTA's stance: the issue is funding, not who's managing the monument.
Opponents of national park status feared that hunting, fishing and snowmobiling opportunities would be curtailed. The National Parks Conservation Association, which supports national park status, issued a report arguing that park status would draw more visitors and boost local economies. The report also argued that park status would bring much needed funding. In recent years, the monument has been challenged by a growing list of deferred maintenance projects, deteriorating roads, and a declining budget. In 2007, financial limitations forced the closure of the Coldwater Visitor’s Center. Sections of the Loowit Trail damaged in storms of 2006 still have not been repaired.
To improve future funding, the committee recommended elevating the importance of the Monument in the federal budget by establishing it as a separate line item similar to the Columbia River Gorge National ScenicArea, which is separate from the general Forest Service budget. Other recommendations include a list of future projects such as improved road access to the visitor centers, overnight accommodations at Coldwater Visitor Center, improved camping facilities and access to a broader range of recreation activities.
Given the economy and the push to fund “shovel ready” projects, it is unlikely that the committee’s recommendations will have an impact on the ground in the near future. Yet WTA remains hopeful that these recommendations will set the stage to secure an adequate budget for the monument in the future. In the meantime, WTA volunteers are always “shovel ready." The first work party of the season at Mount St. Helens kicks off on the Hummocks Trail on May 2nd!
Two public meetings are scheduled to gather input on the draft recommendations. Each will be held from 6-9 p.m.
- March 30, Cowlitz County Administration Building, 207 Fourth Ave. N., Kelso.
- April 13, Camas Police Department, 2100 N.E. Third St., Camas.
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