Debate over the future of Mount St Helens 18 August 2009Posted by admin in Mount St Helens, United States.
Tags: Mount St Helens, United States, volcano monitoring, volcano research
The Mount St Helens eruption of 18 May 1980 created a unique opportunity for scientists to study how a landscape recovers from a major destructive event. To facilitate long-term research the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument was established in 1982 ‘for research, recreation, and education’. The MSHNVM website explains that ‘Inside the Monument the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance’; the 110,000 acres (44,500 hectares) of the Monument is essentially a vast open-air laboratory within which scientists can investigate in depth and over time how an entire landscape and ecosystem reacts to large-scale disruption.
An article in the New York Times looks at the future of the Mount St Helens Volcanic Monument, and the differing views over how the mountain and its landscape should be managed in the future. The Monument, which is run by the United States Forestry Service, has been in place for nearly thirty years: is it time things changed? The prioritization of research means access to the area around the mountain is restricted and economic and recreational activities that were very much part of the local landscape before the eruption are no longer permitted. Should the balance between the needs of scientific study and other human activities be changed? Then there is the question of who should manage Mount St Helens, the Forestry Service as at present, or the better-financed U.S. National Parks Service. If the mountain became a National Park more money could be put into it, but there is the danger (as some see it) that access might be even more severely restricted.
These are the issues currently being weighed up by the Mount St Helens Citizen Advisory Committee, set up to investigate and make recommendations regarding how the mountain and its landscape should be managed in the future. The resulting debate reflects the tensions and compromises involved in exploiting a unique opportunity for scientific study in a landscape that is not static but ever-changing, and of which human activities are an aspect that is as natural as any other.
Clash over rebirth of Mt. St. Helens – New York Times, 17 August 2009
Global Volcanism Program: Mount St Helens – summary information for Mount St Helens (1201-05-)
Cascades Volcano Observatory: Mount St Helens – information from the CVO
Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument – website for the MSHNVM