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home : opinions : opinions January 16, 2019

12/18/2018 1:26:00 PM
Slow down on wilderness restriction
By Barry Clock

I'll have to admit that I'm shocked at the lack of response in the letters to the editor section, to the commentary ("FS wilderness restrictions are too severe," by Craig Eisenbeis, The Nugget, December 4, page 5).

I can appreciate the issue of overuse of certain areas. It does appear something should be done in regards to those areas and the trails that access them. But I oppose the favored paid/reservations required/quota system to hike numerous area trails, proposed by the Forest Service. It will last until October. It's excessive and drastic for a beginning approach to overuse, instead of starting slowly and carefully.

Why is the USFS using such a wide brush on this issue? Instead of restricting only the trails and areas of the very highest need. Those trails where it is overwhelmingly obvious to all that some controls must be put in place before those select areas are "destroyed" by overuse.

Then, annually, see how those new restrictions actually worked. And if they are shown to be not enough, in a measurable way, and beyond all doubt - then implement additional restrictions. With public input of course. And if it's found that certain trails and areas need fewer restrictions, or none at all, then implement that as well, with removal of restrictions.

I disagree completely with charging money for the trail hiking permits. It provides every incentive for the USFS to do the wrong thing, to increase its cash income and restrict trails to the maximum. And also every incentive for the USFS to require permits and reservations on more and more trails. The more trails with required permits, the more money for the USFS. The higher and higher the fees per hiker, the more money for the USFS. The fewer the number of permits, the more money the USFS can charge per permit, because of the scarcity of desired permits.

The USFS is trying to "sell" back to us, the use of the lands that we all own. That bothers me. I would maybe agree, if the USFS budget clearly requires small fees to maintain those restricted trails. But only as a last resort!

To keep the severe trail permit restrictions in place until October each year is ridiculous - clearly overkill. What is the goal? To only allow "free" hiking when the weather makes it impossible to do so? Come on!

Rigid restrictions that cost money to just hike a trail are the exact opposite of what is needed in a clearly troubled America. Nature offers us all a retreat from the "insanity" of parts of life in America today. Offers us a real world, where the artificial tech world fades into the background for a few hours or days. That's terribly important to provide to all of us but especially the young. We are lucky enough in Central Oregon to live next door to that "real" world of nature. And we're going to surrender our ability to use it?

Please, please start slow, and then proceed carefully and methodically. As uncomfortable and messy as the process is, include the maximum general public in the process at every possible opportunity.

I had hoped I wouldn't be around to see this day come. I'd much rather lose my right to vote or my right to free speech than to lose my "right" to sometimes just get away to beauty and nature on a moment's notice. Rather than to lose my ability to totally forget about money, problems and all that, for a few dozen hours or a few days every year. Even if I don't use it, just knowing I can ... is worth the world to me. I'm completely serious. I know that is true for many others that live here.

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