Repairing Rainier: A Question of Values

Road repairs in Mount Rainier National Park; NPS Photo

Fixing the roads in Mount Rainier National Park; NPS Photo.

What's more important, a thick, primordial forest, or the road that takes you to it? Is Yellowstone in winter only remarkable and wondrous if you can view it from the back of a throbbing snowmobile? Is the backcountry of Big Cypress National Preserve only impressive if you bounce through it on a swamp buggy on steroids?
These aren't new questions, but no clearcut answers have been attached to them. I revisit them now because of a story in the Seattle Times that examines how officials have been trying to rebuild Mount Rainier National Park in the wake of last fall's torrential storms that washed out roads and campgrounds.
The story, by Warren Cornwall, reveals that park officials, determined to stop a rampaging stream from undercutting the Nisqually River road, dispatched a bulldozer through designated wilderness to alter the new channel of Kautz Creek. Fortunately, saner minds prevailed before too much damage was caused.
Of course, sanity is a measure of perspective in this instance. Is the road more valuable than the wilderness?
A similar question arises in Rainier's northwestern corner, where the storms, once again, washed out much of the Carbon River Road. While park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga wants to rebuild a section of the road, the storm redesigned the Carbon River, in some places sculpting deep pools valuable to bull trout, a species protected by the Endangered Species Act.
In each of these instances we need to place a value on nature, and determine whether that value is diminished because we can't easily reach it.

Comments

You tree-huggers are pathetic..."too much damage" maybe we oughta just put a FENCE around it and keep everybody out.... The storm did one helluva lot of DAMAGE too, including dumping a LOT of SILT in the river too...who ya gonna blame, God??
Crissakes, ya have to keep the infrastructure if people are gonna have a chance to enjoy the park, otherwise let's just sell it off to the highest bidder and develop it.
BRAVO!!! to Supt. Uberagua for his efforts to allow the American people to enjoy THEIR park...it DOESN'T just belong to a minority of envirowhackos who don't include Homo sapiens as part of the park ecology!
If you were my grandson, I'd SLAP some common sense into yer head!

Granma

Two things:

1. Olympic and North Cascades already protect the forests in WA. Rainer has also been the most developed, and I think that by developing it, we might not have a balance between recreation and resource protection within the park, but we will have a balance within Washington State . So I say build the road, but do it right. Whoever decided to send a bulldozer up a river isn't too bright.

2. Sally - NPT is not a place for personal attacks. You might not agree with what us "envirowhackos" have to say, but please just respect us instead of attacking. You'll find that debate works much better without ultimatums.

Sally,

I get this feeling that you've never read "How to Win Friends and Influence People"....

Kurt

Sally,
I feel sorry for your grandchildren who have to suffer your physical abuse. Take your verbal abuse elsewhere.

Back to the point, there is a fine line (as has been repeated over and over) between protecting the resource and providing access to people. I'm not sure if these things can be decided on a blanket, general basis. It seems that diverting Kautz Creek may be a frustration response by park officials who have sought to tame that road crossing for the last 50 years. Between lahars and floods, they've pumped a lot of money and time into that crossing.

I also think that the NPS has become kind of trigger-happy when it comes to flood repair. The Yosemite situation has made them that way. After the 100-year flood of 1997, Yosemite sought to look at long-term responses rather than just "fixing what's broke." As good an idea as this was, it's 10 years later and things are still just getting started, due primarily to litigation.

I think, as frustrating as the process of looking at the long-term may be (i.e. asking "do we really need a road here?") it is vital we do so. More and more, Rainier is becoming an island in a sea of development. If we can't retain wilderness in Rainier, where can we?

The "line between protecting the resource and providing access to people" isn't fine. In the case above, it's a half-mile long scar carved into living forest by a diesel-slurping smoke-spewing monster that does not belong in wilderness. Period.

And what is up with the title of this post? Could it be any more innocuous? This blog sensationalizes fees and cloaks environmental degradation in mundane language.

Here's a grabber for this story:


"Top Park Officials Illegally Allow Bulldozer Use in Wilderness"

That better sums up the story than the blase "Repairing Rainier: A Question of Values".

Is the road more valuable than the wilderness?

You know wilderness is more valuable than the road. Less rhetorical questions and more assertions please :)

What good is wilderness if nobody can see it? Wake up and smell the real world, enviropukes.

We need to get back to the 40s and 50's...get rid of all these stupid environmental regs...they have to just drive these Superintendents batty. The public deserves and needs ACCESS...otherwise, quit taking our tax dollars for parks....

The public HAS access. It's called two legs and two feet in motion, otherwise known as walking you fat lazy Americans! For those who can't walk, someone else can carry them or they can ride an ass.

Happy thought for the day: Mount Rainier will one day resolve the whole issue, wiping out every bit of construction under millions of tons of debris on its slopes and taking out several towns downstream when the flow of water and rock and mud and trees races toward the ocean, squashing all the people and their belongings like little bugs. And then we'll wonder why we ever built anything anywhere near it.

-- Jon Merryman