In a USDA press release, the Methow Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest was named one of 15 national trail maintenance priority areas by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Over 90 miles of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail falls within the selected portions of the Methow Ranger District within the Pasayten Wilderness, a highlight of the trail in Washington which offers the longest roadless stretch of the trail corridor.
Each priority area was selected by the US Department of Agriculture to address trail maintenance backlogs on our National Forests under the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016, which seeks to increase the role of partners and volunteers in trail maintenance on Forest Service managed trails.
Priority areas were selected “where a lack of maintenance has led to reduced access to public land; increased risk of harm to natural resources; public safety hazards; impassable trails; or increased future trail maintenance costs,” as specified by the legislation.
Having committed partners with a demonstrated ability to coordinate volunteers to help get the work accomplished was also a factor in the decision.
In the Pasayten Wilderness, naturally-occurring fires have played an important role in forest health, and have left significant challenges for trail maintainers. The PNTA is pleased to learn that our partners at Methow Ranger District earned this special designation and that the forest’s well-loved trails were identified for future maintenance projects.
Executive Director, Jeff Kish said that, “PNTA looks forward to learning how we can assist the district with the rehabilitation of the Pacific Northwest Trail after the 2017 Diamond Creek Fire and other focused trail work on the forest.”
Restoring the PNT/ Boundary Trail in the massive wilderness, inaccessible by road and without mechanized equipment will be a challenge, albeit one helped by the USDA designation. PNT enthusiasts that feel the call to action can help by making a donation in support of PNTA trail crews and by looking for future volunteer opportunities. Given the challenges of the notoriously short weather window, it will probably take multiple seasons for the PNTA and our partners to fully restore the trail. Until then, the wilderness will be even more challenging to navigate, and more rugged to traverse than it has been in recent years.