Update: New Hope for Historic Green Mountain Lookout

Posted on: September 24th, 2012 by Brian Turner

As abruptly as Judge John Coughenour doomed the fate of Washington State’s historic Green Mountain Lookout with a stroke of a pen last spring, he gave it new life last week.

Quick recap: Last March, the district court ordered the U.S. Forest Service to remove the lookout from the Glacier Peak Wilderness, finding that the agency had not properly justified its repair under the Wilderness Act. The decision provoked widespread public concern, and both of Washington State’s Senators urged USDA Secretary Vilsack to “use all legal means” to protect the historic lookout. Congressman Rick Larsen also introduced legislation in Congress to overturn the effect of the judge’s ruling.

Rather than file an immediate appeal, the Forest Service decided to first ask the Judge to modify his ruling in order to give the agency itself the opportunity to decide how to respond to the court’s decision. This summer, while the motion was pending, the legality of the lookout’s existence in its original location was in limbo.

On September 20, the Judge agreed to modify his decision. He remained steadfast that the Forest Service had violated the Wilderness Act by taking “aggressive” efforts to repair the structure.  But he was persuaded by the Forest Service that the remedy he had earlier imposed for the violation went beyond the court’s discretion. The decision on the historic lookout's fate has now been sent back to the Forest Service to give the agency the opportunity to decide how to comply with the court’s decision.

The court’s recent ruling provides a ray of hope, not only for the Forest Service, but for all historic preservation advocates who care about historic structures in wilderness areas.  The National Trust had filed a friend of the court brief defending the Forest Service’s stewardship of the historic Lookout.

We are now working closely with partners in the natural resources community to help establish clear guidance for wilderness management agencies on what should be maintained and, more importantly, what methods, tools, and equipment are appropriate for performing the maintenance.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Brian Turner

Brian Turner

Brian Turner is an attorney in the National Trust's San Francisco Field Office. He is an enthusiastic advocate for the protection of the nation's cultural and natural heritage.