New permits to protect wilderness on select Central Oregon trails

A woman hikes past mountain peaks in the Three Sisters Wilderness, Deschutes National Forest, in a Sept. 16, 2016 USDA Forest Service file photo.

BEND, Ore. (May 13, 2019) – The Deschutes and Willamette National Forests will use permits to manage entry at trailheads within three Cascade wilderness areas, beginning the summer of 2020.

Starting next year, from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend through the last Friday in September, wilderness day use permits will be required at 19 of the 79 Forest Service trailheads across Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness areas:

  • Mount Jefferson will have a day use permit system at seven trailheads (32 percent of all trailheads),
  • Mount Washington will have a day use permit system at two trailheads (20 percent of all trailheads) and
  • Three Sisters will have a day use permit system at 10 trailheads (21 percent of all trailheads).

Also during this time frame, overnight use will be managed through a permit system at all 79 trailheads within the three wildernesses.

Waldo Lake and Diamond Peak Wilderness areas will continue to operate with no day use or overnight limits.

For affected trailheads in the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness areas, some day use and overnight use permits will be available for advance reservations, while others will be retained for issue as next-day or same-day permits.

This permit system is intended to balance the needs of visitors planning trips, as well as visitors making spontaneous visits to wilderness areas, while managing the impacts of increased visitor interest and recreational use at these sites, Tracy Beck, Forest Supervisor, Willamette National Forest, said.

John Allen, Forest Supervisor, Deschutes National Forest, said the changes are needed to “protect the character of these special places for future generations.”

The forests began public outreach regarding the Central Cascades Wilderness Strategy Project in winter, 2016 after experiencing substantial increases in visitation during the previous four years. From 2012 through 2016, visitation to the Three Sisters Wilderness increased by more than 180 percent, with some trailheads experiencing increases between 300 and 500 percent.

The draft environmental analysis was released on April 4, 2018. Several hundred people commented on the draft environmental analysis through public meetings, phone calls, emails and letters.

The draft decision was issued November 14, 2018. Ninety people submitted formal comments on the draft decision.

Forest Supervisors and staff conducted eight meetings with objectors to resolve issues before the final decision was released. The decision can be viewed here: https://tinyurl.com/y27jmjzq.


Source information: Deschutes National Forest, Willamette National Forest (joint press release).

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