Hot Spot

Enchantment Permit Area 2019

Leavenworth, WA

Located in the iconic Alpine Lakes Wilderness (ALW) in the Central Cascades of Washington, the Enchantments Special Permit Area (the Enchantments) is known for its multitude of beautiful alpine lakes, stunning views, challenging hiking and climbing opportunities, and unique subalpine vegetation. In 1987, this 24,000-acre area was designated as the first limited overnight permit area in the nation in response to a decline in Wilderness character and a dramatic increase in recreational impacts, including a decline in water quality, loss of vegetation, wildlife negatively affected by dogs, and improperly disposed human waste.  In the past decade, however, visits to the Enchantments have increased significantly. Combined day and overnight use has increased from 19,678 visitors in 2009 to 45,810 visitors in 2018. The number of day hikers (who are not limited in numbers by the permit system) has increased from 14,224 in 2009 to 30,358 in 2018. Currently, day use accounts for approximately 70% of visits to the Enchantments.  Increased visitation is taking a toll. In the past seven years, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) staff have observed an upswing in many recreational impacts, including crowding, human waste, social trails, trampled vegetation, erosion, and habituated wildlife.

Solution

  • 200 People Educated
  • 144 Volunteer Hours Facilitated
  • 4 Campsite Restoration Projects Completed

Over the course of the Hot Spot activation week, we were able to host educational workshops, spend time in the field with USFS staff, volunteers, and stakeholders interacting with the public and rehabilitating campsites, and produce an educational video.  Given that this is a wilderness area and backcountry permits are now largely dispersed online, opportunities for face to face interactions are fairly limited. Because of this, ensuring that the interactions that do occur are effective, informative, and affirmative is very important.  Our communication workshops helped with this ongoing effort.  However, because of these limitations, the video we produced will provide educational opportunities for those researching and seeking permits online–many of whom may not ever interact with a ranger in-person.  We also believe that by bringing various stakeholders into the planning and execution of this Hot Spot, some of the working relationships have been improved and will benefit future stewardship efforts.

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