National Forests to delay wilderness permitting system until 2021

After much consideration, the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests will delay the implementation of the Central Cascades Wilderness limited entry permit system until May 2021.

“Given many logistical constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are delaying our implementation until next year,” said Deschutes National Forest Supervisor Holly Jewkes.

The Central Cascades Wildernesses limited entry system was set to begin on May 22, 2020 and would bring day-use limits to 19 out of 79 trails and overnight limits to all trails in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness.

“Our focus has been on responding to COVID-19, and preparations for the permit system were delayed,” said Willamette National Forest Supervisor Dave Warnack. “We felt there was too much uncertainty for the public on when we might open the reservation system. Therefore, we made this difficult decision.”

One aspect of the Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies decision, which will be implemented this year is the elevational campfire ban. The ban includes:

  • All campfires are 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 are banned above 6,000’ elevation in Diamond Peak Wilderness.

Other than the elevational fire ban, the wilderness areas will be managed this year as they were previously. The Willamette National Forest will maintain the Pamelia and Obsidian limited entry areas, and both forests will maintain the free self-issue permit systems for entering the wildernesses.

The two forests held a three month public comment period last year 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 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:

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

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

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 would not have any effect on people who want to drive up to the trailhead and hike around the lake.

 

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