I am very disappointed that High Country News, just as many other newspapers, has fallen for the news releases of Rep. Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., regarding rock "painting" on national forest lands along Stevens Pass Scenic Byway, as portrayed in your Barb (HCN, 8/21/95). You need to check the facts.
The rocks were to be stained with a water-based spray of Permeon, not painted. The rocks were to be so treated because of "scaling" of unstable rocks on the mountainside would create unnatural new scarring along a Scenic Byway. The Washington State Transportation Department and the U.S. Forest Service had mutually agreed to do this rock staining on the state's project affecting about 1 acre of national forest lands. The Forest Service is obligated by its forest plans to maintain a certain level of scenic quality. NEPA also requires mitigation of environmental impacts.
The Forest Service makes mistakes, but this is one case where they did not and they should be supported by media concerned about the environment - not ridiculed and chastised. The practice of rock staining, or rock color restoration, has been going on since at least 1930, when the National Park Service developed a stain to subdue the horrible scarring of freshly blasted granite spilled over the canyon walls from Wawona Tunnel construction. The scenic majesty of the canyon walls was restored. It has been used on many private land developments throughout the West, as well as award-winning Glenwood Canyon Highway and Vail Pass in Colorado.
The American Society of Landscape Architects, Scenic America and others are deeply concerned that Congress has, as a result of Rep. Metcalf's assault, initiated legislation to ban an economical, effective and inexpensive tool to reduce visual impacts in scenically sensitive areas of national forests.
Congress should not be micromanaging federal agencies by prohibiting the proven technological tools that federal agencies utilize in carrying out their mandated stewardship of public lands.
Wayne D. Iverson
The writer is a former regional landscape architect for the Forest Service.