Forest Service plan could fundamentally change hiking in Oregon’s wilderness

News that the U.S. Forest Service is proposing a way to limit the number of people entering Oregon’s wilderness areas didn’t come as a major surprise.

As the number of people hiking and camping in Oregon’s outdoors has skyrocketed, wilderness areas, often in fragile alpine environments, have been particularly hard-hit.

What did surprise many was the scope of a plan announced this month by Willamette and Deschutes national forests. They propose a system that would require a permit to hike or backpack in the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Three Sisters, Diamond Peak and Waldo Lake wilderness areas.

The goal is to limit crowds and damage by restricting numbers, officials said. But it would also represent a fundamental change in a state that, for the most part, allows people to recreate as they please on public lands.

Reaction to the news was mixed. Many who’ve watched places such as Jefferson Park and Green Lakes Basin get trampled were supportive of the proposal. But many pushed back against fees associated with the proposal. The cost of a permit would range from $6 to $12, officials said.

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