BEND, OR -- Outdoor enthusiasts are protesting a plan to limit access to local wilderness areas. Several groups filed 96 objections with the U.S. Forest Service over a plan to impose additional fees or restrictions to popular sections of the Sisters and Mount Jefferson Wilderness Areas.
Executive Director for the outdoor group the Mazamas, Sarah Bradham, says the drastic restrictions proposed by the Forest Service would limit both day use and overnight camping access to popular trails, "There'll be a fee-based system, which has the potential to be an equity issue, favoring people who can afford permits versus those who can't."
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The Forest Service claims an increase in visitors has caused environmental damage to more than 450,000 acres in these wilderness areas over the last decade. But Bradham says they worked with limited data to justify making it more difficult for people to experience the great outdoors. She attended a Friday meeting with other groups and the Forest Service, where she expressed concerns about access. She tells KBND News, "We were wondering if they could have tried a different solution, different measures, such as education measures, and different levels of restriction, instead of going to a highly restrictive, fee-based permit for such a significant portion of the wilderness area." She adds, "There's a potential impact on the locals, would they be required to get permits to recreate on trails that are in their backyards?"
A formal public hearing is expected at the end of this month. Bradham expects the Forest Service will have a finalized plan at that time, which would likely go into effect in 2020.