Analysis shows little progress on recommendations over past three years
Seattle, WA – Providing new analysis of the U.S. Forest Service’s management of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, students from the University of Washington’s Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs released a report today, examining the Forest Service’s progress toward 35 recommendations made by the Mount St. Helens Citizens Advisory Committee in 2009. Among the report’s findings, little or no progress has been made on 16 of the recommendations, with only some progress on an additional seven, over the last three years.
The student-led report precedes a U.S. Forest Service review of recommendations initially set by the St. Helen’s advisory committee in July of 2009. Comprised of citizens, business leaders, and elected officials, the advisory committee focused its recommendations on conservation, science, industry, access, recreation, tourism, and the Forest Service’s management of the monument. Specific recommendations included dedicating line item federal funding for the monument; building a connector road between Mount St. Helens from Coldwater Ridge and Highway 12; and reinvesting in the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center as a public overnight destination.
“While many of the committee’s recommendations were difficult to quantify, overall we found the Monument to have uncertain funding sources and levels, limited staff, and a lack of long-term management vision,” said Katie Gibbons, graduate student in the UW Evans School of Public Affairs. The students completed the report as part of an internship program with the National Parks Conservation Association. Each Master of Public Administration (MPA) student at the Evans School is completes 400 hours of a public service-focused internship.
“This report is an excellent example of the high quality work produced by Evans School students, and shows how valuable our internship program is to both students and clients,” said Evans School Dean Sandra O. Archibald.
Over a year of research, site visits, interviews, and analysis went into the report which concludes that the Forest Service made little or no progress on 16; met the goal for 11; made some progress toward 7; and had one recommendation that was unable to be evaluated. Recommendations lacking progress include gaining line item funding in the President’s budget dedicated to the Monument; updating and funding emergency response plans; and developing a destination resort in and around the Monument. Some progress has been noted in areas including funding trail and facility maintenance, and conducting initial research towards creating camping facilities. The Forest Service has been successful in encouraging partnerships with voluntary organizations and refraining from building new roads in restricted areas. The report aims to provide decision makers with a snapshot of the current status of the recommendations.
“A thirty-three percent success rate by the U.S. Forest Service is a far cry from a win in my book. We can and must do better for Mount St. Helens and its surrounding communities; it is time for Mount St. Helens to become a national park,” said Sean Smith, Northwest Policy Director for the National Parks Conservation Association, who served as a consultant on the student project. “Over the years, we have been joined by a broad range of community and business leaders in calling for new management to better tell the story of this natural gem, which will help increase visitation and expand visitor services; all of which will create tremendous benefits to communities surrounding the monument and those throughout the Northwest.”
According to the National Park Service, every dollar invested in park operations generates about $10 to local communities, and every two Park Service jobs yields one outside the park.
The U.S. Forest Service report is scheduled to be delivered this fall to Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.