|5/15/2018 12:57:00 PM|
Wilderness restrictions comment deadline near
|A Forest Service proposal may severely restrict public access to wilderness areas in Sisters Country. photo by Craig Eisenbeis|
By Craig EisenbeisTime is short for the public to weigh in on a U.S. Forest Service reservation system that could severely limit future use of wilderness areas in local National Forests.
If implemented, the system would affect all wilderness areas in Sisters Country.
Last month, citing increasing user pressure and dwindling resources, the Forest Service published notice of a 30-day comment period for the "Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies Project," which would affect wilderness areas in the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests.
A portion of the notice reads, "The Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies Project was undertaken last year with an overarching goals (sic) of reducing recreation-related impacts and preserving the wilderness character of the following: Mount Jefferson Wilderness, Mount Washington Wilderness, Three Sisters Wilderness, Waldo Lake Wilderness, and Diamond Peak Wilderness. Sharp increases in the number of visitors to some of these areas is (sic) putting pressure on resources, and causing crowding and degradation of natural conditions. Other areas are at risk of the same impacts if the trend in visitor growth continues."
In public meetings conducted last month, including one in Sisters, Forest Service personnel explained that the proposed reservation system would be similar to one already in place at two popular Willamette National Forest wilderness sites, the Obsidian Trail and Pamelia Lake.
At those locations, potential forest users must contact a private contractor to obtain one of a pre-determined, limited number of permits for wilderness use in that specific area for a specific date. Permits for one wilderness trail would not be valid at another site, even if in the same forest or wilderness.
Five possible variants for the strategies project have been made public. Generally, the proposals differ based on perceived or recorded user impact on specific sites. At one extreme, all wilderness entry would be subject to limited permit use; in other proposed options, only some of the more highly used areas would be impacted. One option also includes the possibility of no new restrictions on wilderness use.
Those wishing to comment on the project must do so by the end of this week. They may comment after the deadline, but failure to meet the deadline leaves the commenter without "standing for administrative review." The Forest Service notice also specifies that "comments posted after the close of a designated comment period may not be able to be given full consideration."
In order to provide comment, those interested are invited to contact Beth Peer, at Deschutes National Forest, 63095 Deschutes Market Rd., Bend, OR, 97701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information can also be obtained at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=50578. The deadline for comments is May 20.
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