US Forest Service Superintendent Rodney Smoldon recently issued a Final Decision Notice on the controversial and long-overdue Colville National Forest Management Plan Revision.
The Notice reflects more than a decade of work balancing recreation access, wildlife protection, forest health, cattle grazing, new recommended wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, forestry, resource extraction, local community wishes, and more.
Of all alternatives evaluated, the selected final plan had the least amount of recommended new wilderness areas and designates the Kettle Crest north of Highway 20 as a Special Recreation Interest Area. In short, this is great news for mountain bikers!
Moreover, the determination allows continued mountain biking in recommended wilderness areas, until these areas are Congressionally designated! This is BIG. It’s a first in this country, it sets a precedent nationwide, it confirms that mountain biking does not affect the quality of potential future wilderness land, and it shows innovation from the Colville District’s USFS staff (thank you!).
All current access is preserved, at least for the foreseeable future. We can all be very proud to have accomplished this, and I’m grateful for USFS staff who have forged a new path in managing recommended wilderness areas.
But there’s caution and remaining work with this outcome. The plan is disappointing for our conservation partners. I recognize this and want to underscore that while wilderness recommendations may mean future loss of access for us, we have a responsibility to find balanced solutions that foster sustainable land use and habitat protection, enhance user experiences, and preserve remaining pristine environments. That includes making compromises to respect the wishes of others.
As a biker, skier, trail runner and wilderness hiker, I get this. Just as I enjoy a dedicated purpose-built mountain bike trail, I also enjoy true wilderness hiking experiences, without wheels, purely powered by my feet and whatever I can carry. Evergreen has a role in this too and our work is not yet done.
We get a little break from this project for now, but we’ll closely follow new developments and wilderness proposals when the time comes. Many thanks to those of you who engaged in the process, came to KettleFest, and sent comments to the USFS these past few years.
Be sure to put the Colville National Forest trails and KettleFest (July 8-12) on your riding calendar for 2020!
-Yvonne Kraus, Executive Director