The Forest Service (FS) has made a good decision for the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington due to pressure from Wilderness Watch and others. The agency’s original Talapus Lake trail reconstruction project included using helicopters to ferry several dozen loads of materials and using motorized rock drills to reroute the three-mile trail to Talapus Lake. (The minimum requirements analysis states the reason the trail needs to be rerouted and reconstructed is to handle the “several hundred” people who visit on nice weather days.) Wilderness Watch urged the FS to complete the work without motorized equipment or helicopters (whose use would be unlawful), and we also opposed the agency’s plan to construct a steel bridge and extensive trail boardwalks. We suggested a number of other ways to accomplish the work including the use of packstock and other traditional skills. The agency issued a decision in May to use pack stock and hand tools instead of helicopters or rock drills, and has abandoned the idea of building the bridge.
The North Cascades Conservation Council and the Alpine Lakes Preservation Society also sent letters opposing the project as proposed. Conversely and unfortunately, the Mountaineers, Washington Trails Association, Washington Wild, and The Wilderness Society sent a joint letter supporting the use of helicopters and motorized equipment as “necessary.
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