Conservation groups and scientists are challenging a federal decision to build a road through the Mount St. Helens blast zone, saying it would damage more than two dozen decades worth of irreplaceable research plots.

John Bishop.

John Bishop, professor of biology at Washington State University, says the plan would be extremely damaging for researchers — but also for ordinary people who want to better understand the 1980 eruption’s aftermath. The road construction and tunnel work would require the temporary closure of the Truman Trail, a hiking route across the Pumice Plain.

“Right now, when you go hiking out in the Pumice Plain as well as many other areas in the monument, you’re experiencing being in a wilderness,” he said. “You really feel that when you’re out there, you’re in a really unique place.”

The Forest Service determined the plan strikes the right balance between public safety and scientific pursuits. It plans to begin work this spring.

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