US Forest Service road pilings draw criticism

KING 5's Alison Morrow reports.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST, Wash. -- Hikers, lawmakers, even biologists, are furious about logs and rocks piling up on Olympic National Forest roads and are demanding answers from the U.S. Forest Service.

"See where they've pretty well terrorized it."

On a normal day Bernie Stratton wouldn't be walking on this trail. He'd be riding his horse if he could.

"I'm on what's left of a road," he laughs.

Late last year hunters noticed old roads used for wilderness access started looking like jungles themselves.

"They tore up the gravel road, put these piles of logging slash."

Dan Boeholt hiked the West Fork of the Humptulips as a kid. He supported U.S. Forest Service work to clear the woods for wildlife habitat, but he had no idea the leftover debris would end up on his favorite trails.

"This is where we grew up. This is our land."

It's standard protocol for the forest service to destroy temporary roads after they're done, but these roads existed before the work ever started.

"It angers me that we're having to fight the federal government to preserve recreational access," said Representative Brian Blake, who is organizing a committee to stop it.

And it's not just hikers who are getting stuck in the debris.

"Bears, bobcats, snowshoe hair, elk, deer, just about anything, cougars that prey on them, would use it."

Jack Smith studied elk for 35 years with The Department of Fish and Wildlife. He knows roads like this one, when left cleared, often grow food for mammals, thanks to sunlight that breaks in.

But these pilings are far from edible.

"Not a good thing for wildlife," he said.

There are about a hundred roads in the area that face the same fate - popular recreation spots that may soon disappear.

"It contributes to economic depressed areas like this one. When you eliminate these roads, it's just another piece of the recreation industry that's gone," said Smith. "To destroy roads like this, it's just unconscionable."


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