Stevens Pass development needs thoughtful review for wildlife
May 27, 2010
Conservation Northwest supports and encourages outdoor recreation at Stevens Pass, including mountain biking, hiking, and skiing. But any recreation must be compatible with protecting habitat and wildlife, such as wolverines, that rely on these high forests and meadow.
Today, Conservation Northwest and Sierra Club jointly filed an appeal to the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest's decision on development plans at Stevens Pass in the North Cascades.
While Conservation Northwest supports and encourages outdoor recreation at Stevens Pass, including mountain biking, hiking, and skiing, any recreation must be compatible with protecting habitat and wildlife that rely on these high forests and meadows. The development plans at Stevens Pass, so far, do not address effects to wildlife reliant on the area, such as wolverine.
Of all the high peaks and high country along US Highway 2, Stevens Pass is unique in that it provides a critical habitat path for wolverines between the North Cascades and the central and southern Cascades. Wolverines travel long distances and move through high elevation areas, like Stevens Pass, that get snow earlier and hold it later in the year.
As climate changes, the habitat at Stevens Pass will only become increasingly crucial to wolverine survival and recovery.
Stevens Pass Ski Area Resort, which operates on a special-use permit from the Forest Service, announced plans in 2007 to expand significantly beyond its current footprint in nearly every direction and directly into the wolverine’s travel routes. Over the next 10 to 15 years, the resort hopes to build new ski runs into the Grace Lakes unroaded area and to construct facilities for nearly 20,000 people in the spring and summer months, times which in the past were quiet for wildlife.
Many wildlife are sensitive to human presence. Wolverines, especially, avoid areas where people are active.
Such high stake developments require careful and comprehensive review. Yet the Forest Service’s analysis only looked at the first of many developments planned by the resort, examining only a single plum instead of the whole pie. The resort’s complete development plans have the potential to break apart wolverine populations and increase the rare native carnivore's risk of extinction. Because of this, all plans should be looked at in totality.
The Forest Service could and should follow the example of The Summit at Snoqualmie (and indeed, every other ski resort in Washington’s Cascades), which successfully completed a review of The Summit’s Master Development plans, identifying and avoiding wildlife impacts. The Summit's plans ultimately received broad community support, including from Conservation Northwest and other wildlife groups.
For further information, please contact Conservation Associate Jen Watkins.
3-D image of proposed development at Stevens Pass Ski Resort as found in their 10-15 year Master Development Plan