The 1981 management plan envisioned a wilderness where most visitors would take overnight trips and spread themselves throughout the wilderness in search of solitude. It was assumed that use levels would be low and the Forest Service would have robust funding for trail maintenance, education and stewardship. Currently, a majority of visitors take day trips and prefer to go to the most accessible and spectacular destinations regardless of crowds. The population of Washington State has grown faster than expected while the Forest Service recreation budget has shrunk over the decades. This combination of factors has caused:
erosion and vegetation loss along trails and camping areas
human waste management concerns
crowding and parking lot congestion
human safety and high demands on search and rescue
degradation of wilderness character
The Forest Service has a mandate to protect wilderness while allowing equitable access to a growing and diverse population. We want to hear from you about your experiences to make sure we understand all perspectives on how to accomplish this.
A trail near Perfection Lake grew to around 5' wide. Management direction is for it to be no more than 18" wide. Photo: USFS
A habituated mountain goat surrounded by hikers. Photo: USFS
A ranger cleans up toilet paper and human waste. Photo: USFS
Parking congestion at Tucquala Meadows Trailhead. Photo: UW Outdoor Recreation and Data Lab.
Where is the Alpine Lakes Wilderness?
Straddling the Cascade Mountain Range in central Washington, the Alpine Lakes consist of over 400,000 acres located within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.
Four ranger districts manage the wilderness area:
Cle Elum (Okanogan-Wenatchee)
Skykomish (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie)
Snoqualmie (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie)
Bounded by Interstate 90 to the south and Highway 2 to the north, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is the most accessible wilderness area to the Greater Seattle Metropolitan area and other population centers of the Puget Sound region. Sixty percent of Washington State residents, about 4.6 million people, live within a 2-hour drive of the wilderness.
What is wilderness?
Wilderness is a federal land designation. They are considered by many to be the highest level of federal protection for public lands. With exceptions, the Wilderness Act prohibits motorized equipment, structures, installations, roads, commercial enterprises and mechanical transport.
As stated in the Wilderness Act, a wilderness area "generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation...and may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value."
What is the ALC and what is our purpose?
The Alpine Lakes Collaborative is a network of individuals who are joining forces to generate creative solutions for visitor management within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We are building a future where everyone can appreciate the benefits of this wilderness area, ensuring it can thrive for generations to come.
What are we trying to do?
The collaborative is following the Interagency Visitor Use Management Council’s framework to develop management proposals for Forest Service consideration. The collaborative will solicit public involvement throughout the various phases of the visitor use management planning process.
The Interagency Visitor Use Management Framework is a process that balances visitor use with protection of resources using the following steps:
Analyzing and describing the current conditions.
Conceptualizing desired conditions for resources, visitor opportunities, facilities, and services.
Determining strategies and actions that will help reach those desired conditions.
Design a monitoring system to ensure the effectiveness of actions.
What do we mean by current and desired conditions?
Current conditions are statements of observation that reflect the condition of the wilderness as it is right now. Desired conditions are statements of aspiration that describe resource conditions, visitor experiences and opportunities, and facilities and services that an agency strives to achieve and maintain in a particular area. They describe what the area should look like, feel like, sound like, and function like.
An area may already be meeting these desired conditions, or they may be what is desired in the future.
Desired conditions do not state HOW an area will be managed. Desired conditions are intended to reflect the outcome, or result, you are aiming for.
For example, if you believe that an area should look and feel more secluded, remote, or scenic, a thorough desired condition statement would be: “Visitors experience the sense of being immersed in a natural landscape punctuated by rocky ridges, canyons, fins, towers, monoliths, pinnacles, and more than 2,000 arches. Use of this area requires a relatively long-time commitment and high level of physical exertion. The environment offers a moderate to high degree of challenge and adventure. Opportunities for independence, closeness to nature, tranquility, and the application of outdoor skills are moderate to high. The probability of encountering others is low.”