Forest Service Approves Navy Jet War Games
over Olympic Peninsula
In a tragic and short-sighted decision, Olympic National Forest has decided to rubber-stamp a deeply flawed Navy proposal to conduct electromagnetic warfare training over the western Olympic Peninsula. The agency will permit electronic emitter trucks on Forest Service roads as contact points for fighter jet overflights. This can occur for up to 16 hours a day, on as many as 260 days a year.
The Forest Service ignored more than 3,500 public comments, most of which were overwhelmingly opposed to the project, and gave unquestioned blanket approval to a Navy environmental study that failed even to consider the noise impacts from jet overflights.
The thunderous noise of Navy EA-18G Growler jets will affect the quiet and natural soundscapes for
visitors to Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and state and private forest lands, as well as coastal Indian reservations and the communities of Forks and Amanda Park. Olympic National Park alone attracts more than three million visitors annually and is considered one of the quietest natural landscapes in the U.S. Impacts to wildlife were dismissed as not significant.
The final Forest Service environmental review is available here.
This shortsighted decision cannot stand. Please contact your U.S. senators and members of Congress. Tell them the quiet and natural sounds of Olympic National Park must be preserved. Jet training can continue in areas outside one of our national treasures.
And, if you can, contact Forest Supervisor Reta Laford. Tell her to deny the permit to the Navy and demand a full environmental impact statement (EIS) that addresses all of the impacts to our Peninsula’s natural areas, wildlife, visitors, and communities.
Comments will be accepted until January 13, 2017.
To read OPA’s comment letter on the Navy’s flawed plan, click here.
Enchanted Valley Chalet: Au Revoir
After moving the old log hotel away from the East Fork Quinault River two years ago (at an estimated cost of 300–400 thousand dollars) and finding the river again poised to sweep it away, Olympic National Park is preparing to pull the plug. The Park has begun an environmental assessment process that will finally resolve the chalet issue.
The Park has released four draft alternatives for disposition of the chalet. Options include:
photo credit National Park Service
1. No action: Allow the structure to remain in its current location propped on I-beams where it was moved in 2014.
2. Set the structure in place on a wooden foundation that could be reabsorbed into the environment.
3. Dismantle and potentially remove the chalet from the Enchanted Valley.
4. Move the chalet to another location in the Enchanted Valley.
Historic preservation devotees are advocating for another move. This one would be more than four times longer than the first, and would supposedly save the building “indefinitely.” This is an unlikely prospect. OPA considers this option a costly, futile and destructive proposal. It would involve tree-cutting, grading and disruption of the Enchanted Valley camping area. And it is unacceptable in wilderness. The National Historic Preservation Act requires only that agencies fully document historic buildings before removing them.
OPA favors disassembling the chalet and allowing Enchanted Valley to return to a wilderness condition.
Public meetings were held around the Peninsula this summer, and the Park accepted scoping comments on the plan. Deadline for comments closed August 31. A draft EA with a preferred alternative is due next spring or summer.
2016: National Park Service Centennial
a Critical Year for Olympic National Park
For nearly 70 years, Olympic Park Associates has worked to protect the stunning natural beauty, biological richness, and untrammeled wilderness of Olympic National Park. With your help, we’ve achieved some remarkable successes. Our ongoing efforts continue to be inspired by this extraordinary planetary preserve—and supported by our members’ active engagement.
The centennial year of the National Park Service, 2016, will prove to be a watershed year for continuing protection of Olympic National Park. Monumental decisions affecting the future ecological integrity and wilderness character of the park are about to be made. A long-awaited Wilderness Stewardship Plan will determine how park managers will protect the wilderness quality that defines the heart of the Olympic Mountains. A Mountain Goat Management Plan, on hold since the mid-1990s, will finally address the presence of non-native mountain goats and their impacts on fragile alpine environments in the park. And funding decisions in the coming year will allocate limited, reduced funds across a growing gulf between management and maintenance needs and dramatically reduced staffing.
OPA is actively involved in all these processes. As park managers roll out their preferred courses of action, they—and the congressional representatives who fund them—will need both our support and our strong advocacy in making decisions that put protection of park resources foremost.
Here are OPA’s positions on some key issues—and why we advocate for them.
Olympic is one of America’s foremost wilderness parks. Presently, 10 million people live within a five-hour drive of Olympic. Last year saw 95,000 visitor nights in the Olympic Wilderness. Regulating this number of backpackers is imperative: educating them regarding minimum impacts, guiding where they can camp and build fires, and determining the level of development of trails, bridges, structures, and privies needed to serve them. OPA favors vigorous protection of Olympic’s wilderness character and placing resource protection at the forefront in all cases. As urban populations increase, more and more people will want to experience what Olympic has to offer. A strong wilderness stewardship plan is the best insurance for preserving the park’s outstanding wildness.
Mountain Goat Management Plan
The proliferation of non-native mountain goats is the largest threat to Olympic’s alpine areas, particularly during a time of global warming. The goats’ feeding, trampling, and wallowing behavior is causing acute destructive impacts on sensitive alpine and subalpine environments. Olympic’s rare and endemic plants are affected. Impacts to alpine wildlife, including the endemic Olympic marmots, are unstudied and unknown. OPA strongly advocates removal of all non-native goats from the Olympics.
Government sequesters and draconian budget cuts to national parks have eviscerated visitor services, maintenance, and staff at Olympic. ONP was underfunded by $7.7 million, or 42 percent, in 2014. Visitor center hours and interpretive programs have been reduced significantly. Permanent and seasonal ranger positions have been eliminated. This past summer, rangers were nearly impossible to find in many areas of the Olympic Wilderness, leading to group camping in closed areas, fecal contamination of camp areas, trampling of heather and sensitive vegetation in alpine areas, illegal fires, firearm use, and other destructive activities. OPA continues to pressure Congress to restore full funding, and to lobby park managers for judicious use of limited funds—with resource protection paramount.
Meanwhile – Other Issues
- OPA continues to work for passage of the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act currently before Congress.
- We are actively involved in fighting a Navy proposal to turn the airspace over Olympic National Park and Forest into a warfare training area.
- We are participating in Congressman Kilmer’s Olympic Collaborative that seeks to promote sustainable ecological management of Olympic National Forest.
Quiet Area, Bioacoustic Preserve?
A Visionary Proposal for Olympic National Park
by Tim McNulty, Vice President OPA, Fall 2015
Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist, an internationally recognized and Emmy Award-winning natural sounds recorder, and an eloquent advocate for natural quiet. He is well known for his “One Square Inch of Silence,” a place in the heart of Olympic National Park’s Hoh Rain Forest that he has shown to be one of the most quiet places on earth.
Hempton considers Olympic one of the least noise-polluted national parks in the U.S., pointing out that it has the greatest diversity of natural soundscapes with the longest noise-free intervals of any park outside Alaska.
And he has a revolutionary idea for Olympic National Park: designating it a “Quiet Area and Bioacoustic Preserve.” It would be the first such acoustic preserve in the world.
Currently there is a “Quiet Zone” in Muir Woods National Monument where the National Park Service asks visitors to voluntarily keep their voices down, turn off their cell phones, and control children.
But Hempton has something larger in mind. He envisions an extensive ecological preserve free of man-made noise. He believes that federal legislation would be required to create a no-fly zone over the park. Further, he thinks it would be a popular cause among visitors to Olympic, where air traffic has tripled over the past 10 years.
With the threat of a Navy Electronic Warfare Range hanging over the park, this might be the time to give Gordon’s proposal serious consideration.