The Upper Stehekin Valley Road

In the past 20 years a number of destructive floods have washed out sections of the upper valley road above High Bridge. The flood of 1995 damaged the road section between Glory and Cottonwood resulting in closure of the last couple of miles. While it is never pleasant to hike old road sections (along with some new trail to bypass washed out sections)it did not present a major obstacle for those wanting to get to Cottonwood Camp or other destinations further up valley. But the 500-year flood of 2003 was so destructive as to make repair of the road through the Stehekin River Gorge between High Bridge and Bridge Creek almost impossible.

An examination of the Park Service's 1995 Management Plan, Proposed Action (see pp 154-155)(download 1995 General Management Plan pdf file) shows an intent to maintain the road all the way to Cottonwood. However, Alternative A calls for conversion of the road from the landing to a pedestrian trail and Alternative B would convert the section above High Bridge to a trail.

Public comments were heavily in favor of maintaining the existing road to Cotonwood.

Impacts on wetlands, shorelines etc and rare or endangered species

The proposed action calls for existing NPS development to be relocated to suitable sites and requests (along with the alternatives) that further studies, inventories etc of rare and endangered species be conducted. Alternative A calls for removal of all nonesential development from wetland, shorelines etc and that, over time, all private property be acquired.

Source of funds for emergency road repairs

This exchange of emails helps shed some light on this subject and should help answer critics of the road repair who think that rebuilding the road will rob the Park Service of funds needed for trail maintenance or other important projects.

A fear has also been expressed that pending legislation (HR 2806 to relocate the wilderness corridor and rebuild the road) might set a precedentleading to the erosion of our entire wilderness system.

Counter arguments to reopening the road are expressed in a short note in The Wild Cascades magazine published by the NCCC (North Cascades Conservation Council). It is written by David Fluharty and can be viewed online at the NCCC website. The text of this note can also be viewed here. An earlier article on NCCC's position is by Carolyn McConnell.

We expect to post further comments from those opposed to reopening the road.

The 2003 Flood Opened Other Possibilities for Avid Environmentalists

The Environmental Assessment (download Upper Road EA pdf file) following the 2003 flood did provide one alternative, regarding the road, that would have carried out the intent set out in the 1995 Management Plan. Alternative D (with overwhelming public support) would have relocated the 100-foot road corridor in the washed out section between Car Wash Falls and Bridge Creek up onto the rim of the gorge and would have restored the still existing 'Old Wagon Road' to its place as a flood proof route from High Bridge to Bridge Creek. However, the Park Service opted to abandon the road above Car Wash Falls.

The proposed action (along with the alternatives) sets out further studies, inventories etc of rare and endangered species to be conducted. These actions provide information for subsequent actions taken to protect rare and endangered species. This information would be supportive of Alternative A from the 1995 General Management Plan.

The concept for Alternative A calls for (see p165 of the 1995 General Management Plan) the lower Stehekin Valley, including the Landing, to become a wild and natural area where natural forces would be allowed to remove all traces of manmade development. In accordance with a "sanctuary wilderness" concept, both upper and lower valleys would be permanently protected and available as habitat for gray wolves, grizzly bears, Pacific fishers, and possibly California wolverines. It is this extreme change in the nature of the Upper and Lower Stehkin Valleys that needs to be the subject of extensive public discussion leading to legislation that clearly spells out the nature and justification for this new type of wilderness. This legislation would set the precedent for other such areas in existing or new wilderness areas.

It would seem reasonable that before an alternative such as Alternative A were to be implemented that the American people should be fully informed and that by legislation of their duly elected representatives they would have the final say. It would seem appropriate that new legislation be enacted before such drastic actions be allowed to take place.

You are invited...

(1)To weigh in on the desired action regarding the road and...

(2)Extend the discussion about using the Stehekin Valley (upper and lower) as a model for a wilderness concept that might best be called "sanctuary wilderness" or...

(3)Propose or discuss other issues relevant to our national parks and wilderness areas.

There is a good deal of material out there about grizzly bears, wolves and other rare, endangered or recovering species. Articles on wolves and pikascan be found in a recent issue of NCCC's (North Cascades Conservation Council) magazine, The Wild Cascades. There is an article in an earlier issue about grizzly bears.

These are examples of what we would like to display here to advance the discussion.

We welcome your help.

This site is presently under development...

As we launch this web site we are most familiar with issues involving the North Cascades National Park and for this reason most of our material will relate to this area.

Hopefully, as time goes on, we will be able to extend our discussion of issues to other Parks and Wilderness Areas and we solicit your help in doing this.