Where is the Silver Star area? Silver Star Mountain is located approximately 25 miles northeast of Vancouver in Skamania County. The mountain and surrounding lands are situated in the far southwestern corner of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and bordered by Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lands to the west, south and east and private lands to the south.
The Silver Star area is dominated by a ridge connecting three major peaks west to east: Silver Star Mountain, 4,390 ft above sea level, Little Baldy, 3,920 ft and Bluff Mountain 3,980 ft. Steep slopes and ridges drop off the central ridge into the Copper Creek basin to the north and the Washougal River basin to the south. Ridges and peaks in the area tend to be steep with many rock outcrops, bluffs, talus slopes and waterfalls making the area outstanding in its geologic and scenic features.
This downloadable Image File is a map of the area showing the system trails in the area.
What regulations apply to Forest Service Special Interest Areas? The Silver Star Mountain and nearby ridges and valleys were designated as a Special Interest Area in the Forest Management Plan in 1990. The goal of this designation was to maintain the outstanding scenic, botanical, and cultural features of the area while still providing for an appropriate level of public access and enjoyment. Standards and guidelines specify that motorized vehicles should not be permitted within the Special Interest Area. In 1993 the Forest Service approved a trails plan that closed some of the roads that used to lead to Silver Star, authorized some new trails and established the management goal of providing a semi-primitive non-motorized experience with trails designated for hiking as well as some open to equestrians and mountain biking.
Who is involved in this project? This project is a collaborative effort guided by a steering committee composed of Forest Service and DNR staff as well as representatives from several nonprofit trail user groups. These groups are: Backcountry Horsemen of Washington, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Chinook Trail Association, Washington Trails Association and the Washington Trail Riders Association. Additional technical assistance with facilitation, research, and writing is provided by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program through a grant. In December 2021 the steering committee ended the data collection phase and evolved into a planning team that was expanded to include representatives that bring in important perspectives to this project. These additional entities are: The Cowlitz Tribe, backcountry hunters, motorized recreation, Friends of the 4109 Road, and the Native Plant Society of Washington.
If Silver Star is on lands managed by the Forest Service why is the Department of Natural Resources involved? The Silver Star area (Gifford Pinchot National Forest) shares a border with the Yacolt Burn State Forest (DNR) and several trails interconnect between DNR and Forest Service managed land. An increasing number of people are parking at trailheads managed by DNR and using the trail system to access Forest Service managed trails. The steering committee believes that a holistic and integrated approach to managing recreation across both land management agencies will be the most efficient way to provide a high quality trail system while protecting natural, cultural and scenic resources.
What is a vision plan? A vision plan sets the direction for the future management of an area. It describes the character and the overall type of experience a person would expect to find decades from now. Vision plans are typically short on specifics but instead provide the conceptual idea of a place to which future planning efforts should align. They are not legally binding plans or have specific timelines but rather an expression of the collective voice of those organizations and agencies that develop the vision. Being less rigid than typical government planning frameworks allows state and federal agencies to engage as participants rather than drivers of the conversation.
Will there be new trails? First and foremost, this effort is an attempt to build consensus around how to best manage recreation in this special area while protecting the values and resources that make it unique. It is possible that increased access and new trails help achieve the vision that we develop. However, this planning process may also reveal that maintaining a more primitive and less developed landscape is a higher priority. Therefore, it is possible that the plan will recommend new trails, but it is also possible that the plan recommend maintaining the current trail system or even reducing the miles of trails; it all depends on what type of vision for the area is best supported by all involved including input from the public, indigenous tribes, conservationists, and other stakeholders. Why aren’t there any motorized groups involved in this project? The 1986 Gifford Pinchot National Forest travel plan designated the Silver Star area as non-motorized to protect the unique and fragile planned communities from damage and to protect the semi-primitive recreational values.
When will this planning process be done? The steering committee plans to finish a draft plan by winter of 2021 and publish a final plan in spring 2022.
What comes next? Once the vision plan with its goals and recommendations is finished the steering committee will have a list of recommendations and priorities to work from. In some instances, such as restoring an existing trail or parking area the work could be scheduled as long as there is staff and volunteer capacity plus the necessary resources to get the work done. Other recommendations such as rerouting a trail would require additional research, planning and analysis to ensure that such a project is properly vetted according to applicable state and federal regulations. Some recommendations might take years to become a priority. An example might be a recommendation to establish a reservation system for backcountry campsites. Such a recommendation might align with the future vision of how the area should be managed, but may not be needed yet.
What is happening now to manage recreation in the Silver Star area? The Forest Service, DNR and the other partners involved in this planning effort are actively engaged in trail maintenance events and even new trail construction projects approved on DNR lands in the Yacolt Burn Recreation Plan that was adopted in 2010. Building our collective capacity to steward the trails we have now will help ensure future generations will enjoy these special landscapes so rich in cultural, natural and scenic value.
How can I provide comments? We would like to hear from you! Please share your experience and opinions about recreating in the Silver Star area using this email: firstname.lastname@example.org