BY MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
The Deschutes and Willamette National Forests are asking for input on a proposed special recreation permit fee.
“The pro to those fees is that that money is reinvested in the care and maintenance of those wilderness areas,” said Ian Isaacson, chairman of Oregon Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
And opinions are split on how best to keep our forests flourishing.
“Congress needs to do a better job of protecting more wilderness areas for people to hike in,” said Erik Fernandez, wilderness program manager, Oregon Wild.
Beginning summer 2020 a new limited entry system will go into effect for day and overnight use in three Central Cascades wildernesses.
The system could also consist of a permit fee, charging $3 per day-use permit and $5 per overnight permit.
The special recreation permit fee will be required from the Friday before Memorial Day to the last Friday in September in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters wilderness areas. The special recreation permits would be available through the Recreation.gov website.
The Forest Service says the money would help manage the number of visitors to some of the most popular areas, and reduce resource damage.
But not everyone believes charging people is the answer.
“There is some value, potentially, in a permit system. However, to charge people to access their public land creates a lot more problems,” Fernandez said.
Although others believe a fee could actually fix some of our wilderness problems.
“The hope from our stance is that that money and revenue generated from these fees will go towards trail maintenance, enforcement of the laws up there, and things like that,” Isaacson said.
In Isaacson’s opinion, the fees seem reasonable and aren’t too far from the current processing fees of $1 per person for day use and $6 per overnight group.
He believes a small payment is worth the long-term benefits and overall experience.
When folks visit these wilderness areas, they’re getting the experience that you’re supposed to get in wilderness,” he said.
Public input will inform the Forest Service’s final proposal for the special recreation permit fee structure, how the fees should be invested, and any concerns or suggestions related to the special recreation permit fee. The public comment period on the proposal begins on October 9 and end on November 25.
“During the past two years, as we analyzed the management strategies needed to maintain these wilderness areas, the public shared many concerns and ideas about the fees associated with a limited entry system,” said Tracy Beck, Forest Supervisor on the Willamette National Forest. “Now we seek the public’s engagement on the specifics of the fee structure.”
The Forest Service says comments submitted over the next few weeks will be used as they finalize the permitting system.