Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) Signed for Heavens Peak Fire Lookout Stabilization Project
Contact: Ellen Blickhan, 406 888-5838
Contact: Mary Riddle, 406 888-7898
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Officials at Glacier National Park announce the completion of the environmental analysis and review process for the Heavens Peak Fire Lookout Stabilization Project. The Finding of No Significant Impact (the decision document) was signed by Intermountain Regional Director, John Wessels, on May 18, 2011. The National Park Service reached the decision after careful analysis of the environmental impacts associated with the project and serious consideration of public comments on the environmental assessment (EA) released in February, 2011.
Over 200 comments were received on the EA, while a number of these supported the project including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, most opposed it based on the belief that preservation of cultural resources and the use of helicopters are not permitted by the Wilderness Act. "We understand the concerns of Wilderness Watch and others," said Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright, "But we disagree with their position and interpretation of the Wilderness Act. The Heavens Peak Lookout is not only an integral part of Glacier's cultural legacy, but also contributes to the unique character of the park's wilderness landscape."
A number of commenters wanted the park to reestablish a permanent trail to the lookout. A permanent trail will not be reestablished because the site is in an area with the highest density of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, and a trail would result in a major adverse impact to grizzly bears.
The Heavens Peak Fire Lookout was built in 1945 by conscientious objectors in the Civilian Public Service (CPS) and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. It is one of the last remaining structures built by the CPS in the country. Built on the rugged north shoulder of Heavens Peak, the lookout embodies the National Park Service rustic design philosophy of buildings that are harmonious with the landscape and is significant for its association with the Civilian Public Service. The original historic fabric and structural integrity of the lookout is being lost through harsh weather conditions and lack of maintenance.
Glacier National Park will stabilize the lookout, thereby preserving a historically and architecturally significant structure that represents a distinct period in the park's history. The work will be limited to those repairs necessary to keep the lookout standing and minimize further deterioration. No more than twelve helicopter flights will be used to deliver tools and materials to the work site and remove debris.
The Glacier National Park Fund, a park partner, will fund the project from donations. The project will be completed with volunteers and is anticipated to begin in late July or early August of this year, continuing until early or mid-September. However, the project may be postponed until the summer of 2012, due to other priority maintenance projects being delayed by weather and heavy snowpack, and because emergency repairs may be necessary for some buildings damaged by heavy snow.
The FONSI is available online on the NPS planning web site, http://parkplanning.nps.gov/HeavensPeakFONSI.
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Did You Know?
Did you know that eight inches of snow fell during one night in Glacier's high country in August, 2005? The weather forced hundreds of backpackers out of the backcountry.