Wild Voices: Unlawful, widespread, intentional, and habitual snowmobile use in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
By Robert Mullins, Leavenworth, WA

Skiing Alpine Lakes WildernessWe parked at the Beverly Creek trailhead on the Wenatchee National Forest, and walked on skis up Earl Peak on the edge of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, a 362,789-acre preserve in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. At the 7,036-foot summit, we saw spectacular views of Mt. Stuart and the aptly-named Enchantments. We were surprised by snowmobiles lapping the valleys and crossing several drainages inside the Alpine Lakes Wilderness below us.

We were further dismayed by both the Forest Service’s and local sheriff’s refusal to do anything to catch the trespassers even after we reported the license plate numbers of their vehicles from the parking lot!

Sadly, I’ve seen illegal snowmobile use in Wilderness on many other backcountry ski trips. New, advanced technology enables snowmobiles to climb mountains they never could before! The Teanaway/Ingalls divide, open country with spectacular views, is tracked by snowmobiles regularly, and law-breakers cross the divide to enter the Wilderness. Last winter I climbed Navaho Peak with a friend and we planned to ski the northeast bowl into the Wilderness. The ridge was a packed snowmobile-highway through scores of broken high-altitude trees. From the summit we saw that snowmobiles had tracked the bowl and adjacent ridge far into the Wilderness and also descended at least 1500 vertical feet below (also into the Wilderness).

Skiing Alpine Lakes WildernessIt’s frustrating to see so much snowmobile trespass in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Forest Service officials claim to take the problem seriously, but say they are unable to stop it. A local group, the Wenatchee Mountains Coalition has had enough. We have submitted a proposal to Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Supervisor, Rebecca Heath, to designate new winter non-motorized areas along the Wilderness boundary. Closing the slope south of the Wilderness boundary on the Teanaway crest, down to the North Fork Teanaway Road, would create an easily enforceable snowmobile closure boundary that would keep snowmobiles away from the Wilderness. The Forest Service could easily enforce the law within its current budget by creating this boundary, which would be a groomed road they could patrol.

The problem is well known and discussed extensively on internet forums. Reliable reports, many from USFS personnel, document trespass across the breadth of the Wilderness—from Stevens Pass to Cle Elum! Citizens must speak out, insist that the agency enforce federal law and protect the Alpine Lakes Wilderness from unlawful, widespread, intentional, and habitual snowmobile Wilderness trespass. A recent article—http://www.justgetout.net/Wenatchee/21163 describes the efforts of the Wenatchee Mountains Coalition. For more information or to join, email: wenatcheemountainscoaliton@hotmail.com.

Photos by Robert Mullins: Skiing in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near snowmobile highmark tracks/
Mt. Stuart, Sherpa Peak, and the Enchantments