Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies

Need to Manage Visitor Use within the Central Cascade Wilderness Areas

Three sisters mountains with quote from the Wilderness Act

Between 2011 and 2016 the Forest Service noted substantial increases in visitation to the five Central Cascades Wilderness Areas (Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Three Sisters, Waldo Lake and Diamond Peak) coinciding with notable increases in vegetation trampling, loss of meadow and riparian vegetation, tree damage, human and dog waste, widening and braiding of trails, overcrowding and unsafe parking conditions, and compaction of sites in these areas.

graphs showing increase in visitation to wilderness areas between 2011 and 2016Despite 19 Forest Service and volunteer wilderness rangers taking enforcement measures and doing daily outreach, education and patrolling of these wilderness areas the impacts continued to increase as annual visitation grew 15-20% year after year.

In the winter of 2016 Forest Supervisors on the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests reached the conclusion that a change in management strategies for the wilderness areas was needed. In January 2017 they created a team of resource specialists to gather data and develop a range of management strategies to meet the mandates of the Wilderness Act, as established by Congress.

Developing the Management Strategies

One principle guiding the team of specialists was to develop alternative strategies for managing visitor use that would both provide broad access to wilderness areas for visitors while making sure the wilderness was managed

in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character …(Wilderness Act, Section 2).”

Following public comment on an initial proposal for management in May and June 2017, the team began developing alternative strategies in response to public comment and additional data.

During 2017 and early 2018, the team developed and analyzed the environmental impacts of a range of  visitor use management strategies. In April 2018, a range of five alternative strategies went out for public comment (see adjacent table). Meetings were held with various interest groups as well as four public meetings and a Wilderness Pub. Over 500 individual or group comment letters or inputs were received along with close to 5,000 comment form letters.

Five alternative strategies have been analyzed, which range from lesser to broader changes in management. Learn more about the alternative strategies here. The Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) was released on April 20, 2018 and can be found at https://bit.ly/2HHav6V.

For more information contact:

Beth Peer
Special Projects Coordinator, Deschutes National Forest

Matt Peterson
Assistant Recreation Staff Officer, Willamette National Forest