Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Ski Area Threatens Roadless Area

by Mark Lawler, Chapter National Forests Committee Chair

Nestled in an out-of-the-way corner of the southern Cascades of Washington is a pristine mountain hideaway long cherished by backcountry skiers, snowshoers, hikers, and backpackers, not to mention a host of native wildlife such as mountain goats, elk, wolverines, bears, and spotted owls. Cross-country skiers find some of the best backcountry skiing in Washington. Hikers of all ages enjoy a walk up the Pacific Crest Trail through this mountain haven and savor views of nearby Mt. Rainier. Lower slopes of the basin are clad in old growth forests of subalpine fir, mountain hemlock, and Douglas-fir.

This place is Hogback Basin, a roadless area just south of White Pass, between Olympia and Yakima. Once part of the original Goat Rocks Wilderness established by Congress in 1964, it was removed after the private company that runs the ski area at White Pass wanted to expand its developed operations in 1984.

Hogback Basin’s fate has been in the balance ever since. Citizens around have rallied to the area’s defense twice, asking the U.S. Forest Service not to allow ski area development in the basin. When those pleas went unheard, conservation groups, including Sierra Club, sued the Forest Service and twice halted ski area development by demonstrating that environmental laws were violated.

Now the Forest Service has issued the same basic plan a third time, despite public opposition. The ski company would clearcut 22 acres of mostly old growth forests, clearcut and bulldoze a new 7-acre parking lot, and build a mid-mountain restaurant building, new ski lifts, and water and power lines. This development would be a catastrophe for the wild character and habitat of the roadless area, and Yakima and Olympia residents would lose winter and summer recreation opportunities that they have relied on for generations.

So now for a third time the Sierra Club and a local group, the Hogback Basin Preservation Association, have gone to federal court to keep the area from being harmed. The roadless area is now covered by the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, and streams and wetlands are protected from harm by the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan. Unfortunately the Forest Service has failed to follow those laws and regulations.

You Can Help Protect Hogback Basin

It is important that we let our elected officials know that Hogback Basin is important to protect from development, and that the Forest Service should not be allowed to harm roadless areas, old growth forests, and watershed resources to benefit a private ski company. Please write or e-mail your member of Congress and two U.S. Senators to express your concern about this proposal. Thank you!