BEND, OR -- The Forest Service will require permits for visitors to some of the most popular trailheads in the Deschutes and Willamette National Forest, beginning in the summer of 2020. Friday's decision is part of the Central Cascade Wilderness Strategy Project, a process which began in January 2017.
Day use permits will be required for seven trailheads in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, two trailheads in the Mount Washington Wilderness and 10 in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Overnight permits will be required at all 79 trailheads in the three wilderness areas. Jean Nelson Dean, with the Deschutes national Forest, says this isn't a new idea, "There are lots of places that have permit systems. I would say we got a lot of support for doing this because people were starting to see that resource damage in the wilderness areas." She says the plan is to limit the number of people accessing an area at once to preserve the forest, and treat all users equally, "What we've tried to do with this decision is balance people's access to wilderness, with also maintaining those areas for future generations, maintaining the wilderness character in those areas." Nelson Dean tells KBND News, "The vast majority of wilderness access will not change under this decision."
Some permits will be available to reserve in advance, while others will only be issued on a same-day or next-day basis, in order to balance the needs of visitors planning trips and the spontaneous. Over the next year, the Forest Service will work to educate the public on how the new system works. Officials is also seeking authorization to charge a stewardship fee for permits.