Monday, December 4, 2017

A Private Landowner Almost Cut Off the PCT - Full Article

David Ferry
Nov 29, 2017

The association that manages the West's premier national trail just paid $1.6 million to prevent a property owner from putting up a fence 150 miles shy of the Canadian border

In January 2015, the Pacific Crest Trail Association received a letter from the owner of a 402-acre plot of land near Stevens Pass, roughly 75 miles east of Seattle. The landowner, a family trust, held one of the few remaining privately held patches of the Pacific Crest Trail—a parcel that thousands of Washingtonians use each year to reach alpine wilderness areas and thru-hikers traverse on their way up to the northern terminus at Manning Park. The family trust, the letter said, wanted to sell.

It was good news for the PCTA, a nonprofit that’s been laboring to preserve and protect the 10 percent of the long-distance trail that, surprisingly, still sits in private hands. But the landowner, who remains anonymous, wanted to play hardball. The trust had divvied up the plot, which lies near the popular Stevens Pass ski area, into 16 different parcels, and according to a memo put together by the trust’s real estate adviser, the zoning meant a prospective buyer could build up to 748 dwellings in the pristine Cascade wilderness along the trail. Even more worrying, the letter made clear that the trust was willing to erect a fence across the section of the PCT that crossed its property, bisecting the trail 150 miles short of the border.

“For us, not only was it a big threat they could close the trail,” says Megan Wargo, director of land protection at the PCTA, “but we had done some fieldwork to look at what it would take to reroute the trail. It wasn’t just a simple loop around; it would have taken an extensive reroute to get around some serious topography. It would have had a significant impact on people’s ability to do a thru-hike.” Wargo estimates it would have taken a year to reroute the trail.

The PCT gets severed all the time, usually due to wildfires or the occasional newly discovered endangered species ecosystem on the route. But the threat to the Stevens Pass section of the trail underscores the little-known threat from private developers faced by the PCT and other long-distance trails...

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