Ross Lake National Recreation Area General Management Plan

The National Park Service is pleased to release the Ross Lake National Recreation Area Final General Management Plan.

*See below to access the complete document, newsletters, and other planning information.

Context of the Plan
The purpose of the Ross Lake National Recreation Area General Management Plan (GMP) is to articulate a vision and management strategy for Ross Lake NRA over the next 15 to 20 years.

In creating this plan, North Cascades National Park Service Complex articulates a future vision for Ross Lake National Recreation Area - one that has been defined largely by you: the owners and users of this public land. Over the course of the GMP planning effort, you shared with us a clear vision for Ross Lake NRA: one that recognizes the North Cascades as a national treasure; one that preserves and protects the natural and cultural histories of this land as they are; and one that connects visitors with this place, its mountains and waters, its history, diversity, and wildness.

We believe this plan heeds your suggestions, concerns, and call to maintain and enhance what we have. This final GMP sets forth actions to manage Ross Lake NRA as a gateway to millions of acres of wilderness by providing enhanced visitor opportunities along the North Cascades Highway, preserving a remote backcountry experience on Ross Lake, and ensuring the long-term stewardship of the surrounding North Cascades ecosystem and wilderness.

Scope of the Plan
This final document outlines the purpose and need for this plan, the foundation for planning and management in Ross Lake NRA, and the final general management plan for this NPS unit, including re-aligned management zones and a complete description of every proposed action in the plan. It also includes the executive summary of the Skagit Wild and Scenic River Study and the Record of Decision, the legal document that marks the completion of the environmental impact statement (EIS) and initiates the park's ability to begin the implementation phase of the GMP.

Click here to access the complete Ross Lake NRA Final GMP/EIS.

Major Actions of the Plan
North Cascades National Recreation Area
• Change the name of Ross Lake National Recreation Area to North Cascades National Recreation Area in order to respond to widespread public requests to connect to North Cascades National Park and its greater ecosystem through the NRA. This action would require Congressional legislation. Existing uses, such as hydropower generation, hunting, and hiking with dogs on trails would continue.

Skagit Wild and Scenic River
• Recommend wild and scenic river designation of Goodell Creek, Newhalem Creek, and the Skagit River from the Gorge Powerhouse in Newhalem to the western boundary of Ross Lake NRA, totaling 33 river miles.

• Convert 3,559 acres of Thunder Creek Potential Wilderness Area to designated wilderness, implementing the authority granted to the Secretary of Interior by Congress in the Washington Park Wilderness Act of 1988.

Resource Management
Airshed: Pursue redesignation of the Class II Airshed within Ross Lake NRA to a Class I Airshed.
Grizzly Bear Management: Retain grizzly bear habitat in large, contiguous, isolated blocks, and assess any new development to ensure high quality grizzly bear habitat would not be compromised. Maintain a minimum core area of ≥ 70% within each Bear Management Unit.
Soundscapes: Use the natural sounds program to create a complete inventory of natural sounds and implement an ongoing monitoring program to assess changes in the soundscape.
Cultural Resources: Develop a program for paleoecological research. Increase storage capacity for museum collections and archives. Expand opportunities for sharing information about cultural resources through interpretive and educational media and programs.

Climate Change and Sustainability
• Reduce carbon emissions and increase energy and fuel efficiency in infrastructure through the continual and increased use of "green technology". Lead regional efforts on climate change research and planning. Pursue stewardship projects that promote ecosystem resiliency.

Visitor Experience
Boating: To maintain and improve the current visitor experience, visitor safety, soundscapes, and water quality, the NPS would require the exclusive use of four-stroke engines, direct-injection two-stroke engines, or equivalent technology for all boats in the NRA by 2015.
Seaplanes: To improve soundscapes while maintaining seaplane use, the NPS would institute noise abatement procedures for seaplanes and establish a long-term acoustic monitoring program.
Backcountry Permit System: Develop an advanced trip planning option for the backcountry permit system.

Trails: Improve existing trails and construct new day hiking and accessible trails primarily along the highway corridor.
Campgrounds: Consider new camping facilities at the Newhalem Creek Campground and at Upper and Lower Goodell group sites.
North Cascades Visitor Center: Update the exhibits, multi-media programs, and activities at the North Cascades Visitor Center.
Wilderness Information Center: Continue upgrades to the facility to improve visitor services and operational efficiencies.
Thornton Lakes Road: In order to comply with the current wilderness boundary, close the upper one mile segment of the Thornton Lakes Road, convert old road to a new trail, and improve the trailhead with parking. Maintain and upgrade the trail to Thornton Lakes.
Ross Dam Trailhead: Enlarge the footprint of the parking lot to accommodate a turn lane, pull-through spaces for six oversized vehicles, and capacity for 40 passenger vehicles.
North Cascades Highway: Recommend nomination and designation of the North Cascades Highway as a National Scenic Byway.

Ross Lake Resort: Permit Ross Lake Resort to run two water taxis on Ross Lake, and allow the Resort to expand by ten percent.

For More Information Description
Link to complete project information on the Planning Environment and Public Comment website View project information and access documents on the National Park Service's Planning, Environment, and Public Comment System (PEPC).
Access the Final GMP/EIS Ross Lake National Recreation Area Final General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (December 2011) | Links to webpage with the complete set of files for Volumes I and II of the Ross Lake NRA Final GMP/EIS

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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