The Snoqualmie Corridor

Developing a Comprehensive Recreation Management Plan

Over the past 20 years, through land exchanges and other transactions, the WA Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has increased the amount of land it manages in the I-90/ Snoqualmie corridor.  Recent acquisition of the Raging River State Forest, which fills in a missing link between Rattlesnake Mountain Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) and Tiger Mountain State Forest, and the designation of DNR lands within the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River watershed as a NRCA has presented the DNR with a unique opportunity to develop a more coordinated and strategic approach to recreation management throughout this 53,000-acre corridor.

Laura Cooper, a master’s degree student working with Professor Gordon Bradley, is working with the DNR, recreation user groups, and local stakeholders to develop a comprehensive recreation management plan for the Snoqualmie corridor.  Located in the Cascade Mountains along I-90, this corridor offers tremendous opportunities for outdoor recreation within easy reach of the Seattle metropolitan area. It also presents major challenges in meeting both the needs of recreation users and the administrative requirements of the DNR, including trust land management and conservation planning.

Responding to this kind of challenge is at the core of the School’s social sciences graduate interest group, which is designed for students who want to study the social science aspects of the environment and natural resources. Issues surrounding natural resource planning, policy, business, economics, and applied management give students, working with a multidisciplinary faculty, the opportunity to develop an understanding of disciplines such as sociology, planning, political science, law, economics, business, and anthropology.  

Cooper, whose background is in architecture, where she worked on private residential, institutional, commercial, and retail projects for the last 13 years, entered the social sciences graduate program to pursue an interest in environmental and social issues related to land use.  She says, “My graduate studies and my work with the DNR have made it possible for me to experience and participate in a community land use planning process first hand, an opportunity I would never have been able to create for myself while immersed in the daily pressures of professional practice.” Applied lessons in planning, public participation, facilitation, and survey design are just a few of the activities in which Cooper will actively participate throughout the course of the Snoqualmie corridor project.

The Snoqualmie corridor planning process began this winter with a public meeting at which the DNR introduced the project, and encouraged the public to share their ideas and concerns, and to apply to serve on the Recreation Planning Advisory Committee consisting of citizens chosen for their experience and knowledge of the area.  This 17-member committee began meeting in March and will work with the DNR over the course of a year to develop a comprehensive recreation plan.  Cooper will be working closely with the committee as a facilitator, helping guide the process and contributing to an understanding of the diverse landscape that contains both natural areas and trust lands, and incorporating a variety of recreational and environmental interests into the development of a combined vision. The corridor also includes recreation lands managed by federal, state, and local entities, and although the project will not include activities on those lands, the process will look at ways to improve coordination with managers of many of these lands. The plan will be completed in the fall of 2013 when it will be presented to the Commissioner of Public lands for adoption.

Professor Bradley and UW students have a long successful history of collaborating with the DNR. Throughout the years, graduate students and classes working with Bradley have helped the DNR develop conservation management plans for the West Tiger Mountain, Rattlesnake Mountain, and Mt. Si NRCAs.  For the Snoqualmie Corridor project, ESRM seniors Jake Dawe and Ben Silver are also working with Bradley, making the DNR planning effort a subject of their Senior Capstone Projects.  They will be attending the Recreation Planning Committee meetings and observing the planning process and data gathering phases of the study. 

Such collaboration presents great opportunities for all involved.  The DNR benefits from the resources of the UW and the unique perspective that faculty and students are able to bring to contemporary natural resource planning issues, while students and faculty benefit from applying their knowledge on a project with high regional impact.  Cooper says, “I’m pleased to be part of this collaboration. Graduate internships like this provide an opportunity that is rarely provided by school or professional life alone—the chance to participate in a real project while learning about and letting the work benefit from the theoretical and historical framework surrounding it.”

Snoqualmie Corridor Recreatioin Planning Area. Image: WA Deoartment of Natural Resources.

Research in the social sciences graduate interest group often involves collaborating with citizens and policy makers on natural resources issues. Photo: Gordon Bradley..