By Karl Findling, Lands Conservation Director
The Deschutes and Willamette National Forests are asking for input on a proposed special recreation permit fee as a part of the new limited entry system for day and overnight use in three central Cascades wildernesses. The limited entry system will go into effect beginning the summer of 2020. The special recreation permit fee, if approved, also would go into effect in the summer of 2020.
The special recreation permit fee will be required from the Friday before Memorial Day to the last Friday in September in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters wilderness areas. The special recreation permits would be available through the Recreation.gov website.
The Willamette and Deschutes National Forests began an environmental analysis in January 2017 to address heavy-use impacts. Following this analysis and public input, the forests decided this past spring to apply a limited entry system, with the final decision signed on May 10.
The Willamette and Deschutes Forests now seek authorization through the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to charge a special recreation permit fee as a part of the limited entry system within the three wildernesses.
Thanks to input from OHA and others, some exceptions were made for hunters who purchase tags, which OHA stated constitutes a permit already purchased, similar to a hunting license serving as a parking pass at state wildlife areas.
Hunters with general archery tags will be exempt from day use limits and be able to scout and hunt in these wilderness areas without a limited entry day use permit. Hunters with the W. High Cascade deer tag (119A), will be able to hunt within these wilderness areas without needing to obtain a limited entry permit during the High Cascade hunt period in early September. The exemptions do not apply during the general rifle hunting seasons, but the limited entry permit season ends prior to the start of general and controlled rifle seasons.
All other hunts, when occurring in wilderness during the permit season, will require a limited entry permit or self-issue permit, depending on location. The USFS will continue to monitor hunting use in the wilderness, and their adaptive management plan will allow changes to hunting exceptions in the future, if needed (including adding more hunts).
The Forest Service has proposed the following structure for the special use permit fees:
- Day-use permit fee $3 per person (at 19 trailheads, no fee at 60 trailheads)
- Overnight permit fee $5 per person, per night (needed at 79 trailheads)
- No permit fees for youth 12 and under, though each person requires a limited entry reservation regardless of age.
Public input may address the proposed permit fee structure, how fees should be used, and any concerns or suggestions related to the special recreation permit fee.
The public comment period on the proposal is Oct. 9 to Nov. 25.
Comments on the special recreation permit fee should be mailed to the Willamette National Forest, ATTN: Recreation Fees, 3106 Pierce Parkway, Suite D, Springfield, OR 97477 or emailed to: WillametteRecFeeComments@usda.gov or dropped off at any Willamette or Deschutes National Forest office.