Let your voice be heard in deciding future of Olympic National Park

Seabury Blair Jr. Mr. Outdoors

Circle Sept. 12 on your calendar. If you care about the great outdoors close to home, that's a date you'll want to remember.

On Sept. 12, you'll get the opportunity to help plan the future of Olympic National Park. Be at the West Coast Silverdale Hotel from 7 to 9 p.m. and give your vision to the managers of that splendid piece of wilderness at our back door.

The meeting is one of five scheduled that week in various communities where park officials hope to gather ideas from the public on how to manage the park for the next 15 to 20 years. The General Management Plan is the document that will set rules on everything from removing non-native trout from park lakes to quotas for hikers on backcountry trails.

In addition to the proposed plan, park officials are scheduled to present an environmental impact statement that analyzes the potential impacts of the plan. From the rumblings I've heard, there's sure to be something about the plan to interest anyone who visits the park.

The issue of non-native fish, plants and wildlife is a good example. Mountain goats, which the park regards as non-native, have all but disappeared from the park's interior following an intensive trapping program.

Ideas from the public on other non-native species will almost certainly be sought in drafting the new plan. Perhaps one of the most controversial will be what the park plans to do about non-native fish.

Long before Olympic National Park was created in 1938, anglers, Scouts and horse packers carried trout to the high lakes of the Olympic Mountains. In some cases, trout were planted in the lakes by state and federal officials.

It was a time when far less was known about the effects of introducing non- native species. Eastern Brook trout actually char were planted in a number of lakes because they can spawn in the lake and do not require streams for spawning grounds.

The brookies did exceedingly well in lakes where there was an abundance of food. In fact, they did so well that they became overpopulated in places like Mink, PJ, Happy and Deer lakes. You'd toss a fly over the water and catch fish after fish. Every one had a 2- pound head attached to a 6-ounce body. There simply wasn't enough food to sustain the high population of fish, and the trout were stunted.

Expect to see some proposals for managing the fish in park lakes and figure that at least one plan will call for the removal of all non-native fish. That will essentially mean no more fishing in Olympic National Park lakes, because as near as anyone can figure, most were originally barren. Another proposal likely to provoke a lively discussion is establishing a quota system for backcountry hikers similar to that in current use in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Park officials are required by Congress to preserve the park for future generations, and too many hikers on the trails could threaten that preservation.

Olympic National Park Superintendent David Morris also is required to balance that preservation to allow today's visitors to enjoy their park. Too often these days, present-day enjoyment must be sacrificed for future generations.

How many hikers and horseback riders can visit the splendid alpine country around Seven Lakes Basin before their feet trample the splendor?

Conservationists argue too many people already visit the area every summer. But beyond that, the plan may suggest there are some areas of the park where NOBODY should be allowed. One or more of the park's unique plants might deserve such protection, some conservationists might propose.

Another issue that may come up is the future of commercial ventures within the park: how Kalaloch, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Hurricane Ridge ski area or Lake Quinault Lodge can expand or even continue to exist in Olympic. It is possible that some commercial ventures might be seen as threats to future enjoyment of the park.

Superintendent Morris has outlined some of the main questions the plan will attempt to address:

What kinds and how much use by the public is appropriate at Olympic National Park?
How can managers adequately protect the park for future users?
What can managers do to inform the public about the mission, purpose and significance of the park?
How can the park work with partners to protect park resources and increase support for the park?

You can get a newsletter about the park's management plan and process by sending your name and address to the Superintendent, Olympic National Park, 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362; or e-mail your name and address to: OLYM_GMP@nps.gov.

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