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In Washington State, we have a number of dormant volcanoes in the Cascade Range, including the famous Mount St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Baker. However, the most dangerous today is the little-known Glacier Peak in the north part of the state, northeast of our home in Everett. The volcano is known to have erupted just 2,000 years ago, and even today it sometimes emits steam. Seismologists place electronic monitors on dangerous volcanoes and then watch for clusters of little earthquakes that may signal an impending eruption (that was what happened in 1980 with St. Helens).
Recently, the US Forest Service was processing a request from local seismologists to install more monitors on Glacier Peak, described as the “most dangerous of Cascade volcanoes”, than just the one that has been there for years. Glacier Peak is located in a wilderness area, and is not accessible enough for tourists to visit. There were actually objections to the new monitors being placed on the mountain. Who, you ask, would object to seismic monitors that might save thousands of people from being buried in volcanic mud in an eruption?
The objections came from the usual suspects-environmental groups who object to the helicopters that would be needed to carry scientists to the mountain to place the new monitors. They always and everywhere object to helicopters in their precious wilderness, for any reason, even for the very short time it would take to install the monitors. The “environmentalists” value the wilderness more than the many lives of people living in the affected area, and more than the scientists (real scientists!) who keep track of potential volcanic activity to protect the public.
It is fortunate that the Forest Service approved the placement of the new monitors, over the objections of the radicals who value trees more than people.
The U.S. Forest Service determined the project would have no significant impact on the environment. Two groups opposed the use of helicopters in a wilderness area. The Forest Service considered a “full range of alternatives” in making the decision to move forward. Crews carry equipment in backpacks, cutting down on flight time.
I visited the website of the US Geological Service, and they have wonderful maps and photos of the surrounding area, and a lahar diagram of where eruptions would cause the most damage. The website has some spectacular photos, including this one of little peaks that show the columnar basalt produced when lave flows cool quickly.
The “environmental groups” should be ashamed of themselves for objecting to valuable scientific activity designed to warn people to evacuate if an eruption might be imminent. And that volcano could do a lot more damage than a helicopter to their precious wilderness!Published in