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National Park Service Proposes To Change Name Of Ross Lake NRA to North Cascades National Recreation Area



A name change, wilderness and wild and scenic river designation, and improved visitor services are all provided for in the National Park Service's final general management plan/environmental impact statement on the Ross Lake National Recreation Area in Washington state.

In a bow to marketing, the plan calls on Congress to change the name of the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, which is sandwiched by North Cascades National Park, to "North Cascades National Recreation Area."

Released Thursday, the plan is expected to guide management of the NRA for the next 15-20 years. While the proposed name change might to some be the most eye-catching aspect of the plan, it's not the only substantive particular.

Overall, the plan is designed and intended to enhance visitor services in the NRA and provide better connections with the backcountry in the surrounding national park. It also would make it easier, via an online system, for backcountry users to secure permits.

There are, of course, a lot more details in the voluminous plan. Details that touch on grizzly bear management units and how grizzly recovery can be encouraged in the area, on sport climbing in the NRA, provisions for moving to cleaner-burning boat engines on the NRA's lakes, and a slight expansion of the Ross Lake Resort lodgings. To better understand these changes, read Chapter 4 of the plan.

The plan was welcomed by the National Parks Conservation Association, which said the document "provides better protection of natural and cultural resources, expands recreational and education opportunities for our children and grandchildren, raises the 118,000-acre recreation area’s public profile, and supports gateway businesses and local jobs."

"Specifically, NPCA supports the National Park Service’s recommendation that Ross Lake National Recreation Area be changed to the North Cascades National Recreation Area," said Sean Smith, the group's policy director. "Changing the NRA’s name came at the request of individual park supporters, and will improve people’s connection to and recognition of the entire North Cascades complex."

"The plan also converts nearly 4,000 acres of the Thunder Creek potential wilderness area to designated wilderness (as part of the Stephen Mather Wilderness Area). In addition, the new plan recommends 33 miles of park rivers, including Goodell, Newhalem and Skagit, for Wild and Scenic designation, which would permanently prohibit dams on these river sections, and provide the highest level of water quality and access protections," said Mr. Smith.


How does an NPS plan "convert" potential wilderness to designated wilderness? I thought only Congress could do that.

Just did some research and learned something new.
Chapter 5 (Affected Environment) says this about "potential wilderness":

Potential wilderness areas will become designated wilderness upon the Department of Interior Secretary’s determination, published in the Federal Register, that they have finally met the qualifications for designation by the cessation or termination of the nonconforming use.

Interesting stuff, I didn't realize Congress could conditionally approve a wilderness area but leave it up to the Secretary to determine when it met the qualifications upon termination of the nonconforming use.
Too bad he can't do that for BLM WSAs as well!

That seems to be the same process at work at Point Reyes National Seashore and Drakes Estero.

The Thunder Creek wilderness designation is finalizing an action authorized by legislation in the 1988 Washington Parks Wilderness Act. There was a pending non-conforming use (a proposed dam) that has since bit the dust, hence now the area can be designated wilderness without problems. Here is the description from the NPS planning newsletter:

The Thunder Creek Potential
Wilderness Area, totaling 3,559 acres, would be converted through
administrative designation to wilderness and included in the Stephen Mather Wilderness
as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. This action would
ensure that the Thunder Creek area’s wilderness character and wilderness
resources would be preserved in an unimpaired condition, in accordance with the
Wilderness Act. These lands would be devoted to the public purposes of
recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical
uses. Seattle City Light has determined that a hydroelectric project on Thunder
Creek is not economically or environmentally feasible. SCL has abandoned
hydroelectric development plans for Thunder Creek, and, thereby has removed the
possibility of a nonconforming use or incompatible condition. Conversion of
this area to designated wilderness would be completed in accordance with the
Washington Parks Wilderness Act of 1988, Title IV(a)(2) which states “any lands
designated as potential wilderness additions, upon publication in the Federal
of a notice by the Secretary of the Interior that all uses thereon
that are inconsistent with the Wilderness Act have ceased or that non- Federal
interests in land have been acquired, shall thereby be designated as wilderness
and managed accordingly.” Conversion to designated wilderness would also comply
with NPS Management Policies 2006 (Section which states, “…these potential
wilderness areas will become designated wilderness upon the Secretary’s
determination, published in the Federal Register, that they have finally met
the qualifications for designation by the cessation or termination of the nonconforming

Wouldn't it be simpler to just roll Ross Lake NRA into North Cascades NP and just manage that portion of the national park for appropriate recreational use?  Same with Lake Chelan NRA.  That's essentially the way the entire complex is managed now, so do the multiple designations really matter?  In my opinion, the two recreation area designations along with the national park is more confusing than enlightening.  The entire complex should just be called "North Cascades NP."

What a silly waste of time, energy, and focus.  Over six years in the making and a name change is the best you can come up with?  Shame on you....................

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