Forest Service to begin permit system for wilderness areas; fees to be delayed

The Deschutes and Willamette National Forests will implement a limited entry permit system for day and overnight use in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters wildernesses beginning in May.

But it has decided to delay charging a special recreation permit fee.

The two forests held a three month public comment period on an associated special recreation permit fees – $3 per person for day use and $5 per person for overnights – and received a wide range of public comments on the controversial issue.

The forests have decided at this time, though the limited entry system will be implemented, no special recreation permit fee will be charged.

The Forest Service says the money would help manage the number of visitors to some of the most popular areas, and reduce resource damage.

A processing cost of $1.00 per day use permit and $6.00 per overnight permit will be charged through Recreation.gov. This processing charge is an administrative cost and does not return to the two national forests for management.

Some of the key decisions from the Forest Service:

Overnight Use

· All overnight use in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness areas will be a part of the limited entry system.

· No overnight use limits will be in place in the Waldo Lake and Diamond Peak Wilderness areas.

Day Use

· Day use will be regulated during the limited entry system season at 19 of 79 trailheads in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness areas.

· Free, self-issue permits will continue to be required at:

o Waldo Lake and Diamond Peak trailheads (overnight and day use).

o 60 of 79 trailheads for day use in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness areas that are not regulated.

o At all trailheads from the last Friday of September until October 31.

Those trailheads will have daily quotas.

At Todd Lake, for example, 12 individuals per day can leave from the Todd Lake Trailhead into the wilderness. The permit system does not have any effect on people who want to drive up to the trailhead and hike around the lake.

“People will need to get a limited entry permit to enter from that location into the Three Sisters Wilderness for a day hike,” said Jean Nelson-Dean, a Forest Service spokeswoman.  “It is one of the 19 trailheads that will require a permit.”

Permit Exceptions:

· Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Long Distance permit, issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association for long distance hikers traveling more than 500 miles along the PCT.

o Camping is restricted to the PCT Corridor, and prohibited in certain high use areas.

· Hunters holding valid hunting tags:

o West High Cascade Hunt (119A)

o General archery deer and elk hunt; exemption is only for day use.

o Scouting and group size: administrative decisions regarding scouting and group size will be determined in discussions with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and following additional data gathering by ODFW.

· Volunteers, while volunteering in coordination with the Forest Service

Elevational Fire Ban

· All campfires will be banned above 5,700’ elevation in Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters Wildernesses, as well as some areas lower than 5,700’.

· All campfires will be banned above 6,000’ elevation in Diamond Peak Wilderness.

Access Management

· The trailheads to Broken Top and Crater Ditch will be pulled back to create one trailhead.

Adaptive Management

· The Forest Service will publicly share monitoring results annually, as well as any proposed adjustments to the permit system.

Next Steps

· The Forests continue to pursue a special recreation permit fee as a part of the limited entry system. The special recreation permit fee proposal is still undergoing internal review.

“We appreciate the broad and diverse public input we received on the Special Recreation Permit fee since the fee was proposed last October. As we implement the limited entry system this year, we will continue to consider the valuable public input received during the environmental analysis and fee proposal processes and adapt, as needed, to best manage these wilderness resources for current and future generations,” said Holly Jewkes, Forest Supervisor for the Deschutes National Forest.

For general information about the limited entry system, the public can go to the following link:  https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/deschutes/home/?cid=FSEPRD578153

Permits will be available on Recreation.gov beginning April 7, 2020.

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