Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies Project

Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies Project

In January 2017 the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests began analyzing strategies for managing visitor use in five Central Cascades wildernesses to address resource impacts and to maintain wilderness character.  Four of the wildernesses (Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Three Sisters and Diamond Peak) are shared by both Forests and one wilderness (Waldo Lake) is managed solely by the Willamette National Forest.

The goal of the project is to sustain recreational use in these five wildernesses while ensuring future generations can experience the natural and undeveloped qualities of these areas. Actions to reduce impacts are needed to meet the purposes of the Wilderness Act and to meet the direction in the Deschutes and Willamette Forest Plans. Throughout the process, the Forests will engage both local communities and communities of interest to bring the public’s energy and ideas into balancing the three important components  (environmental, social, and economic) of sustainability while meeting the Forest Service’s wilderness commitments.  Both the Willamette NF and the Deschutes NF see this project as integral to implementing sustainable recreation on their Forests.


Ongoing and rapidly increasing recreational use of these wildernesses is causing damage to high-elevation riparian and meadow vegetation through overcrowding, overnight camping, human and dog waste, trail bed expansion and trail braiding.  Both Forest Supervisors recognize that joint implementation of any strategies to promote sustainable recreation on their shared wildernesses  will be more effective in maintaining landscape integrity and reducing impacts.  In addition, consistency in rules and regulations across the two Forests will make it significantly easier for the public to understand and follow rules and regulations to meet Wilderness goals.


Congressionally-designated wilderness areas are special places accorded the highest level of protection in the country.  Wilderness is an area where lands are “designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition” and “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man…retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvement or human habitation.”  A place with “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.”  This direction, from the 1964 Wilderness Act, sets wilderness apart from other public lands.  It also often makes these areas very desirable to recreationists, and the wilderness areas of the Central Cascades are no different.

Wilderness areas on the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests provide a great diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities.  However, they continue to face increasing recreational demands that can degrade natural resources and impact the wilderness experience. Current trends suggest that the character and condition of these wilderness areas are being negatively affected to the degree that potential changes to management are warranted.

A complete overview of the Existing Condition and Trends by Wilderness Area is available for review on the Forest Service website:

Management Direction

Legislative Direction:  The Wilderness Act of 1964 specifies congressional policy to secure for the American people an enduring resource of wilderness for the enjoyment of present and future generations.  It defines wildernesses as areas untrammeled by people that offer outstanding opportunities for solitude and directs agencies to manage wilderness to preserve natural ecological conditions.  

The wilderness areas of the Central Cascades in Oregon were legislated in 1964, 1968, and 1984: 

  • Mount Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness:Designated by Public Law 88-577 – Wilderness Act of 1964.

  • Mount Jefferson Wilderness:Designated by Public Law 90-548 in 1968.

  • Waldo Lake Wilderness designated and additions made to Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters:Public Law 98-328, Oregon Wilderness Act of 1984.

Forest Service Regulations and Policy:  Pertinent sections of the Code of Federal Regulations include 36 CFR 293.2(b) – Wilderness will be made available for human use to the optimum extent consistent with the maintenance of primitive conditions; and 36 CFR 293.3(a) - ….the Forest Service may require permits for, or otherwise limit or regulate, any use of National Forest land, including, but not limited to, camping, campfires, and grazing of recreation livestock.  Forest Service Manual 2323.14 Visitor Management states “Plan and manage public use of wilderness in such a manner that preserves the wilderness character of the area.  Provide for the limiting and distribution of visitor use according to periodic estimates of capacity in the forest plan. 

Land and Resource Management Plans:  Through the goals, standards and guidelines, and management area direction, the Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) for the two Forests provide overall guidance for management of the wilderness areas.  The wilderness areas are divided into Wilderness Resource Spectrum (WRS) zones (transition, semi-primitive, primitive, and pristine).  Each zone has its own management objectives and desired future condition.  Forest Plan excerpts and maps of the WRS zones are available online at:


Begin Formal Scoping May 2017.

For more information

Contact Beth Peer, 541-383-5554