▶️ Open houses set for proposed wilderness areas permit fees

The Deschutes National Forest will host two open houses in November for the public to learn more about the proposed special recreation permit fee structure for the limited entry system, which will be implemented next year in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters wilderness areas.

The public comment period for the proposed special recreation permit fee began on October 9 and will end on November 25, 2019.

The first open house will be held on Monday, November 4, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Station, 301 S. Elm St. in Sisters.  The second open house will be held on Tuesday, November 12, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Deschutes National Forest’s Bend-Ft. Rock Ranger District, 63095 Deschutes Market Road in Bend.

Both open houses will begin with a brief presentation about the proposed fee structure followed by an opportunity for people to visit informally with Deschutes National Forest leadership and staff about the proposed fee structure and to provide written comments.

Background

The Deschutes and Willamette National Forests are asking for input on a proposed special recreation permit fee as a part of the new limited entry system for day and overnight use in three Central Cascades wildernesses. The limited entry system will go into effect beginning the summer of 2020. The special recreation permit fee, if approved, also would go into effect in the summer of 2020.

The Central Cascades Wildernesses include the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Three Sisters, Waldo Lake and Diamond Peak wildernesses. Increased recreational use is degrading the resources, wilderness character and recreation experience in these areas. The Willamette and Deschutes National Forests began an environmental analysis in January 2017 to address these impacts. Following this analysis and public input, the forests decided this past spring to apply a limited entry system, with the final decision signed on May 10, 2019. The Willamette and Deschutes National Forests are now seeking authorization through the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to charge a special recreation permit fee as a part of the limited entry system within the three wildernesses.

The Forest Service has proposed the following structure for the special use permit fee:

·        No special use permit fees for youth 12 and under, though each person requires a limited entry reservation regardless of age.

·        Day-use permit fee $3.00 per person (needed at 19 trailheads, no fee 60 trailheads)

·        Overnight permit fee $5.00 per person, per night (needed at 79 trailheads)

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.

Limited entry reservations would include the special recreation permit fee, plus the processing fees charged by Recreation.gov. The processing fees are currently $1 per person for day use and $6 per overnight group.

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 Forests will review and consider all comments and use them to inform how the proposal may be adjusted.

The final proposal will be presented to two Resource Advisory Committees, one on the east side of the Cascades and one on the west side of the Cascades. The Resource Advisory Committees will give the Forest Service recommendations on the fee structure. The Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest, Region 6, will make the final decision.

Under Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, 80 to 95 percent of the proposed special recreation permit fees would be invested in wilderness management activities, trail maintenance, visitor education and expanding work with volunteers and partners within the three wildernesses.

Comments on the special recreation permit fee be mailed to the Willamette National Forest, ATTN: Recreation Fees, 3106 Pierce Parkway, Suite D, Springfield, OR, 97477. Comments can also be submitted by email to WillametteRecFeeComments@usda.gov or dropped off at any Willamette or Deschutes National Forest office during business hours.

For more detailed information about the proposed fee structure, people can go to the Deschutes National Forest webpage: www.fs.usda.gov/deschutes .

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