LONGVIEW — The future of recreation in the Silver Star scenic area is open to public comment through the end of August, and community members are encouraged to fill out the online survey to help “define a vision” for years to come.
“This project seeks to define a vision that is shared among a diverse set of stakeholders including trail users, environmental groups and land management agencies; specifically the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Washington Department of Natural Resources, which manages the adjacent Yacolt Burn State Forest,” a National Park Service press release said.
The Silver Star Vision Plan Steering Committee is creating a draft vision plan for managing recreation in and around the Silver Star scenic area. The plan will be released for public comment in the fall or winter of 2021 or 2022, the press release said, so the survey will close Aug. 31.
Situated on the southwest corner of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the Silver Star area abuts the Yacolt Burn State Forest. The 4,390-foot-tall Silver Star Mountain and nearby ridges and valleys were designated as a Special Interest Area in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Management Plan in 1990, meaning motorized vehicles are not permitted in the area to “maintain the outstanding scenic, botanical, and cultural features of the area while still providing for an appropriate level of public access and enjoyment.”
In 1993, the Forest Service approved a trails plan that closed some of the roads that once led to Silver Star, authorized some new trails and established the management goal of providing a “semi-primitive non-motorized experience” with trails designated for hiking as well as some open to equestrians and mountain biking.
“It is rich with scenic, natural, cultural and recreational resources. Yet, it lacks an up-to-date plan to guide stewardship activities and protect these values across the landscape,” according to the press release. “Vision plans are useful documents for setting the direction of further planning and management. They are not legally binding plans or have specific timelines but rather an expression of the collective voice of those organizations and agencies that develop the vision.”
As vision documents are “less rigid than typical government planning frameworks,” state and federal agencies can then be participants instead of drivers of the conversation.
The Silver Star Vision Plan Steering Committee includes representatives from the Mount St. Helens Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of Washington, the Chinook Trail Association, the Washington Department of Natural Resources — Pacific Cascade Region, the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance — Southwest Chapter, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the Washington Trails Association and the Washington Trail Riders Association.
The group is facilitated by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.
“We respectfully acknowledge these lands are the homelands of Indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Tribes continue to rely on and share in the stewardship of these lands today,” the press release said, but the steering committee does not currently have a representative from a local tribe.