Stephen Mather Wilderness photo 6064399650 39c858b6a4 b Stephen Mather Wilderness
Photo by MiguelVieira cc

2015 Funding Priority | Amount Needed $29,820

The Stephen Mather Wilderness Comprises about 94% of North Cascades National Park Service Complex and the park is initiating an update of its Wilderness Management Plan. This project continues the next phase, following the foundational work published in the State of the Stephen Mather Wilderness Report (2014-15). It will utilize field surveys and mapping of recreational impacts to develop a comprehensive assessment of wilderness conditions.

A field crew leader and a student intern will recruit and train a small cadre of volunteers to assist in mapping informal (social) trails and informal campsites in cross-country zones of the park. Social trails and camps will be mapped with a GPS and data will be entered into the park’s GIS system and into a database on impacts. Data will then be analyzed to evaluate the impact on park resources such as presence of impacts in sensitive wildlif habitats, presence near rare plant species, sensitivity of social trails or camps to climate change (e.g., flooding, landslides), and habitat fragmentation.

The park’s Wilderness Management Plan was written in 1989. Since that time, plan updates have been limited to changes in overnight camping limits. Surveys of recreational impacts have been conducted opportunistically over the past 25 years, but a comprehensive survey conducted at one time would provide a valuable blueprint for updating the entire plan. This project would be conducted over three years, essentially providing a snapshot of current conditions. Analysis of the data would provide:

  • quantification and distribution of social trails and informal campsites
  • trends in recreation impacts since the initial plan publication
  • identification of potential new trails or camps
  • identification of indicators and standards for protection of wilderness conditions

The heart of this project is to document recreational impact in Wilderness and to use these data to improve management and protection of our resources for future generations. By documenting the location and severity of impacts, we can develop the appropriate management responses. We will recruit volunteers to assist on our surveys and in this manner build volunteerism and invite volunteer input on mitigation of impacts to improve stewardship. This funding request is for the 2016 field season, and we estimate this project will require three years to complete.