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Friday, October 1, 2010

Ilabot Creek road letter

September 28, 2010
Mr. Don Gay, Project Leader
c/o Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

2930 Wetmore Ave.
Suite 3A 

Everett, WA
RE: Illabot Creek Road Decommission
The North Cascades Conservation Council (NCCC) would like to commend the proposed action of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest regarding the Illabot Road. On behalf of the members and Board of Directors of NCCC, I am writing to express our support for your proposal to decommission over 14 miles of the Illabot Creek road. From the perspectives of resource protection and of economic rationality, it's the right thing to do. We wish other districts on the Forest were willing to entertain similarly bold steps, instead of straining to hold onto roads that are usually not maintained properly, to the continuing detriment of streams, rivers and the wildlife depending on them.
We urge you to decommission the full 14.5 miles. The half-measures suggested as possible alternatives, such as decommissioning only back as far as Otter Creek, while simultaneously attempting to stabilize the remaining open road and replace all significant water crossings with either bridges or much enlarged culverts, strike us as both expensive and as not answering the need for resource protection. The least stable parts of the existing road, with the greatest potential for sediment delivery, are the side-hill miles before the Ilabot Creek crossing. Attempts to stabilize and "stormproof" badly engineered roads on bad alignments in other portions of the Forest, such as FS 41 in the Canyon Creek watershed (Darrington RD), or the Evergreen Mtn road in the Beckler (Skykomish RD) have turned out to be chronic money sinks which should be an embarrassment to the agency.
We are not inclined to shed tears over the fate of bootleg trails that should never have been retroactively added to the official trail inventory. We anticipate, however, that others will not agree with this point of view. One of the things we have noted regarding timber sale or ¨vegetation management¨ EAs, is the inclusion of various kinds of sweeteners to make things go down more easily, such as road decommissions or road-to-trail conversions. Maintenance of the road as a trail is important. A discussion of converting the road to a trail should be included in the documents. Might we suggest that consideration be given to including one or more trails for the recreational interests in the preferred alternative, such as, for example, a short trail off the 1620 system to some viewpoint on the Illabot Peak massif, —an interesting trail which does not require the maintenance of a long, destructive, expensive trailhead road.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project.
Very Truly Yours,
Marc Bardsley, President

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