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NacMacFeegle
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NacMacFeegle
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 1:57 pm 
I don't think the monument should become a National Park, at least as it currently exists. It may seem uncrowded some days, but it can also easily become badly overcrowded with only a relatively small increase in visitation. In the Johnston Ridge/Coldwater area there are basically only 4 trails, 3 of which lead to the same destination (Coldwater Peak). What's more, the environments in this area are still extremely delicate. Unleash National Park scale crowds on this part of the monument, and the trailheads would be overflowing every day, and trailside vegetation would be decimated. The South side is a bit more robust in terms of the ecosystem and the quantity of trailheads, but we already have a situation there where the hike to the summit has to be limited by permit, as does Ape Caves (which smelled like a sewer the last time I visited). Visitation to the adjacent Lewis River Falls area is also restricted by permit now. Lava Canyon and other trails there are also already very popular, and so it wouldn't take much more to completely overwhelm that area as well. Windy Ridge isn't any better equipped to handle more people, and the backcountry area of the park isn't really that large either. Camping sites are booked through the summer many months in advance. Visiting the Monument, visually it looks huge, and if you go on the right day it may seem empty, but this feeling of uncrowded emptiness is deceptive. The Monument is half the size of Mt. Rainier National Park, and every portion of Mt. Rainier has as much opportunity for hiking as all of Mt. St. Helens NVM combined. Simply put, the monument is too small to be a National Park. In order for Mt. St. Helens to become a National Park, it needs to at least double in size to include: - High Lakes region - A corridor along Spirit Lake Highway stretching down to Kid Valley - Toutle Mountains State Forest - Several more miles of the South Toutle River - Big Bull and Little Cow mountains - Lakeview Peak, Merrill Lake area, and the Kalama River headwaters - Land between the Swift Reservoir and the monument - Lewis River Falls area and at least part of the Dark Divide, perhaps stretching North to the Gifford Pinchot boundary near Randle. - Area around the Northern boundary of the monument - Several more miles of the Green River I would also add that most of the current monument should be designated wilderness for more permanent, lasting protection. Much of this extra land would of course need restoration, but its somewhat degraded state also means that trails and even new campgrounds could be constructed there (Fawn Lake for example) without causing harm to more natural, wild landscapes. The result would be a National Park capable of handling National Park scale crowds. Until the monument is expanded, particularly on its Western flank, I wouldn't be able to support National Park status.

Read my hiking related stories and more at http://illuminationsfromtheattic.blogspot.com/
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Malachai Constant
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 2:12 pm 
I am against NP status which in any case will never happen. NPs require passage by both houses of Congress and signature of the president . The Senate requires that at least 10 senators cross over to join the other side. Not gonna happen the so called Haset requires that a majority of the party in control has to approve it even being discussed. NM only requires the presidents John Henery.

"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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Secret Agent Man
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 5:03 pm 
NacMacFeegle wrote:
I would also add that most of the current monument should be designated wilderness for more permanent, lasting protection.
Making the area into wilderness would be controversial with a lot of folks - there are several popular running races operating around St Helens and Mt Margaret, and some of those trails are also quite popular with mountain bikes.

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Cyclopath
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 5:29 pm 
Secret Agent Man wrote:
Making the area into wilderness would be controversial with a lot of folks - there are several popular running races operating around St Helens and Mt Margaret, and some of those trails are also quite popular with mountain bikes.
I would vote against making it a Wilderness for the rain that cyclists would be kicked out.

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Randito
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 5:30 pm 
Secret Agent Man wrote:
NacMacFeegle wrote:
I would also add that most of the current monument should be designated wilderness for more permanent, lasting protection.
Making the area into wilderness would be controversial with a lot of folks - there are several popular running races operating around St Helens and Mt Margaret, and some of those trails are also quite popular with mountain bikes.
From a public safety perspective, National Monument status allows a lot more scientific activities that would involve a ton more paperwork to administrate if the area had wilderness status. Mt St Helens is one of the most closely monitored volcanoes around. The instruments provide a lot of data that allow the scientists to warn the public of increases in seismic activity and warn of possible new eruptions.

Cyclopath, jaysway
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jaysway
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 5:45 pm 
Randito wrote:
Secret Agent Man wrote:
NacMacFeegle wrote:
I would also add that most of the current monument should be designated wilderness for more permanent, lasting protection.
Making the area into wilderness would be controversial with a lot of folks - there are several popular running races operating around St Helens and Mt Margaret, and some of those trails are also quite popular with mountain bikes.
From a public safety perspective, National Monument status allows a lot more scientific activities that would involve a ton more paperwork to administrate if the area had wilderness status. Mt St Helens is one of the most closely monitored volcanoes around. The instruments provide a lot of data that allow the scientists to warn the public of increases in seismic activity and warn of possible new eruptions.
While I generally like the idea of more protection, you raise a great point about scientific study. For this area to be considered for wilderness there would need to be broad carveouts for scientific research and monitoring. Additionally, I worry that wilderness protection would make it difficult to maintain important infrastructure such as the Spirit Lake tunnel or the Coldwater Lake spillway. The Forest Service recently prevailed in their lawsuit against researchers and conservation organizations to be allowed to build a temporary road in the pumice plain in order to conduct repair work for the Spirit Lake tunnel. Presumably, the idea of a temporary road would be a non-starter if the area were wilderness. Not to mention that if/when there is another explosive eruption there might need to be entirely new infrastructure projects!

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jaysway
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 6:08 pm 
I'm not sure that I have enough information on the pros and cons to have a strong opinion on whether or not the monument should be transferred to the NPS to potentially become a national park. The best reason for a transfer is if the USFS truly lacks the funds to adequately maintain the monument, although this supposes that the NPS will have the funds. Not to get too political, but it seems like lack of USFS funding is a persistent issue that affects many national forests. Ideally, a better solution might be to pass another Great American Outdoors Act-like piece of legislation or identify other continual funding sources for the USFS. Short of that, if a transfer to the NPS truly allows this monument to be much better funded, then I could get onboard. One example of the lack of funding (not sure if this has been mentioned or not yet) is that I believe the Coldwater Lake restrooms were vandalized last year and I heard that they still have not been repaired and opened back up frown.gif. Declining visitation doesn't seem like as good of a reason to turn the monument into a national park. It makes sense that the monument would have gotten more visitation when the 1980 eruption was more recent as it was fresher in people's minds. Plenty of folks like myself were born after the eruption happened. A better question to ask is: what is an ideal level of visitation? I would also be curious to know how much visitation has ticked up these last couple of seasons with the COVID hiking surge. I've been to the Johnston Ridge Observatory twice, once on a weeknight evening in May when there was lots of snow on the ground and few people. And another time on an early July weekend when there were plenty of people. If the place truly needs more visitors to justify better funding or help the local economy, could the USFS either create or partner with nonprofits/private companies to build campgrounds? Or ask more visitors to geotag and post pictures of the monument on social media dizzy.gif ? I'm not against the place becoming a national park, but I worry that once that happens the genie is out-of-the-bottle and there is no going back. What if becoming a park results in too high visitation? I doubt this would happen, but let's not forget that some national parks now require permits for entering the park or using park roads. The monument is easily scenic enough to justify national park status, but so are the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Pasayten Wilderness, and just about any other wilderness or scenic national forest in Washington smile.gif.

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NacMacFeegle
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 6:13 pm 
jaysway wrote:
Randito wrote:
Secret Agent Man wrote:
NacMacFeegle wrote:
I would also add that most of the current monument should be designated wilderness for more permanent, lasting protection.
Making the area into wilderness would be controversial with a lot of folks - there are several popular running races operating around St Helens and Mt Margaret, and some of those trails are also quite popular with mountain bikes.
From a public safety perspective, National Monument status allows a lot more scientific activities that would involve a ton more paperwork to administrate if the area had wilderness status. Mt St Helens is one of the most closely monitored volcanoes around. The instruments provide a lot of data that allow the scientists to warn the public of increases in seismic activity and warn of possible new eruptions.
While I generally like the idea of more protection, you raise a great point about scientific study. For this area to be considered for wilderness there would need to be broad carveouts for scientific research and monitoring. Additionally, I worry that wilderness protection would make it difficult to maintain important infrastructure such as the Spirit Lake tunnel or the Coldwater Lake spillway. The Forest Service recently prevailed in their lawsuit against researchers and conservation organizations to be allowed to build a temporary road in the pumice plain in order to conduct repair work for the Spirit Lake tunnel. Presumably, the idea of a temporary road would be a non-starter if the area were wilderness. Not to mention that if/when there is another explosive eruption there might need to be entirely new infrastructure projects!
Making exceptions for scientific research doesn't seem like a problem. Regarding the Spirit Lake tunnel and road, the only reason to build a temporary road was because the government was too cheap - the work they're using that road for was previously done by helicopter. Regardless, exceptions have been made to allow previously roaded areas to be included in wilderness. Also, speaking as someone living downstream of the volcano, I would prefer the area be left alone and allow nature to take its course. Regarding bicycles, they were originally excluded from the Coldwater area, and Cyclists are perfectly capable of walking. For those who enjoy mountain biking, I would hope that you agree that it's more important to afford places like the Mt. Margaret/Mt. St. Helens backcountry the strongest protection possible. My main point though is that the protected area around Mt. St. Helens needs to be significantly larger. That's true whether or not park status or a wilderness area is part of the goal. Furthermore, I'd be perfectly fine with the construction of exclusive mountain biking trails in addition to hiking trails in potential new protected areas West of the Monument. I'd even welcome small campgrounds near Fawn Lake and in the Toutle Mountains. For those who haven't experienced those areas, they're every bit as beautiful as the existing monument.

Read my hiking related stories and more at http://illuminationsfromtheattic.blogspot.com/
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jaysway
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 6:32 pm 
NacMacFeegle wrote:
Making exceptions for scientific research doesn't seem like a problem. Regarding the Spirit Lake tunnel and road, the only reason to build a temporary road was because the government was too cheap - the work they're using that road for was previously done by helicopter. Regardless, exceptions have been made to allow previously roaded areas to be included in wilderness. Also, speaking as someone living downstream of the volcano, I would prefer the area be left alone and allow nature to take its course.
If making exceptions is not a problem that would help move me into the corner of increased protections. My worry though is that there is a precedent for wilderness protection making it very challenging to install seismic monitoring equipment on Mount Hood and Glacier Peak, two volcanos where it seems prudent that we have monitoring equipment. Would there be similar challenges with adding or updating such equipment on MSH if the place becomes wilderness or a national park? Or would creating exceptions before such designations overcome these problems? I have mixed feelings about the road vs. the helicopter. It's a shame that they don't have the funding to spend more money using the helicopter vs. using the road, but to play devil's advocate for a second (hopefully it's clear from my previous post that I am strongly for more funding for the USFS, and the NPS too) the fact that the area does not have wilderness protections allowed for work to happen with less funding instead of having to wait until more funding was available for a helicopter, which might be a good thing? This of course depends on how urgent the repair work was and how much the road impacts the character and scientific projects in the area. Ultimately, I wish the USFS simply had the budget to do things the right way from the start.

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FiveNines
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 6:36 pm 
altasnob wrote:
What I was getting at is what activites are currently allowed at Mt St Helens National Monument that would not be allowed in Mt St Helens National Park? I can't think of anything.
Previously answered your own question, w/o even thinking.
altasnob wrote:
mountain biking is popular on a lot of the trails.

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altasnob
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 8:35 pm 
Just because a place is a National Park doesn't mean you can't bike there. There are National Parks with mountain biking. Regarding wilderness and scientific monitoring equipment, half of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is designated as wilderness.

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Randito
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PostMon Jun 06, 2022 9:19 pm 
The Mt St Helens monument area is already tightly regulated. Hiking above the 4800 elevation level requires a special permit and those are limited to 100 per day in the non-winter months. Hiking around the mountain is now permitted, but no camping is allowed in the 10 mile stretch through the "blast zone". Given the highly regulated nature of the monument As it is currently managed , I'm wonder what sort of issues would be "solved" by designating portions of the monument as wilderness.

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