Mount Washington, Oregon

The change could affect some of the state’s most famous hiking destinations.

You’ve probably seen (or at least heard about) the bumper sticker campaign that urges people to “Keep Portland Weird.” The U.S. Forest Service branch in the region soon may launch a similar effort—one that implores, “Keep Oregon Wild.” 

The Forest Service in Oregon is considering instituting a permit system that would limit the number of visitors it allows at five of the state’s most popular public lands. 

According to a recent story in the (Salem, Oregon) Statesman Journal, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Three Sisters, Waldo Lake, and Diamond Peak wilderness areas all would be impacted by the change. 

The story quoted a U.S. Forest Service official as saying that a spike in crowds in recent years has triggered an uptick in environmental damage to the areas. As a way of minimizing these deleterious effects, the proposal under review would require any person hiking into the five wilderness areas to purchase a permit in advance. 

Day hikers entering from certain trailheads would also need to purchase a permit; depending on the duration of a trip, the permits likely would cost between $6 and $12 apiece. 

This proposal certainly would be a departure from the status quo; while permit systems are commonplace in neighboring states Washington and California, until this point, backpackers and hikers have had almost unlimited access to U.S. Forest Service land in Oregon. As of press time, only the Obsidian Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness and Pamelia Lake in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness require a permit to hike or backpack.

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Beth Peer, special project coordinator for Deschutes National Forest, told the Statesman Journal that the success of those permit programs factored into the move to consider permits on a larger scale.

Reports indicate that the formal permitting plan is still being developed. Officials must figure out how many permits they’d grant in a season and which permits would cost what. Rules could be implemented as soon as the summer of 2019. If you want to go before the change, get there soon.

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