Pasayten Wilderness Aaron FlickrWilderness Watch is opposing the latest effort by the Forest Service (FS) to drastically increase the amount of commercial pack stock outfitting and guiding from current levels in the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wildernesses east of the Cascade crest in Washington State. This is some of the wildest country in the lower 48 states, providing habitat for rare lynx, spotted owls, grizzlies, and wolves. Despite evidence of damage from existing use, the agency’s reissued Pack and Saddle Stock Outfitter-Guide Special Use Permit Issuance Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) seeks to allow even more use by commercial outfitters and guides. Wilderness Watch successfully challenged an earlier plan in 2013
that would have nearly doubled such use.


Alternative 3 in the SDEIS comes closest to meeting the letter and spirit of the Wilderness Act. It reduces party size to 12 “heartbeats” (a combination of people and stock not to exceed 12), and allows the least amount of commercial use, 25 percent over the past five years’ average. However, even Alternative 3 proposes to allocate more use than the average of the past several years.


We let the FS know it needs to consider other alternatives that would protect the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wildernesses from the abuses of commercial interests. In our SDEIS comments, we urged the agency to:

  • Reduce party sizes from 18 head of stock to a maximum of nine (a number based on wilderness research) or adopt the 12 “heartbeat” limit for all groups;
  • Retain existing rules that keep campsites away from streams and other sensitive areas;
  • Maintain current forest plan standards for barren core areas at campsites and require outfitters to modify their operations to allow existing soil and vegetation damage to heal;
  • Reduced allocated commercial use to only that which is necessary, somewhere below the 10-year maximum of 1,500 service days; and
  • Focus on protecting the wild character of these two Wildernesses rather than catering to the economic interests of a few.


Read our comments


Read our action alert (comments were due 2/8/17)

Photo: Aaron via Flickr

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