Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Use this forum to see or share information about upcoming events, hikes, speakers or trail-tending opportunities from Portland-area clubs and organizations. Posts to this forum will automatically delete after 90 days.
chrisca
Posts: 102
Joined: January 22nd, 2010, 10:48 am

Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by chrisca » October 19th, 2019, 6:27 pm

The Forest Service is working on a response to the Gorge Commission's 2020 Management Plan draft. The first draft asked for more trails in the Gorge to address crowding. The Forest Service (FS) is pushing back on this idea, asking instead for alternatives such as quotas and fees to deter visitation. This is our chance for the hiking community to comment on these ideas and ask for more trails. The agency's viewpoint will likely have great weight with the Commission, as one of the sitting Commissioners is Lynn Burditt, the head of the FS office for the Gorge Scenic Area. This plan will shape trail policy in the Gorge for the next ten years.

They didn't announce the meeting below to a wide audience. It's also being held in Carson, which is difficult for people from the Portland/Vancouver metro area to get to. Since the majority of recreation users are from the metro area, you'd think the meeting would be held in Portland. I recommend calling the FS office to confirm the meeting before driving there, as it's being kept so quiet.

If we don't show up, we'll get what we as hikers often end up with, the short end of the hiking stick shoved you-know-where. Read the release below and get to Carson Tuesday night. I'll be there and I need your support.
Here are some background documents:
FS position statement to Gorge Commission: http://www.gorgecommission.org/images/u ... Report.pdf
Current Management Plan (See chapter 4) http://www.gorgecommission.org/images/u ... _2016).pdf

We need to ask for:
  • More trails
  • Trails that match the needs of hikers that are currently crowding sites because of particular attributes such as flower meadows, waterfalls, and views.
  • Dialogue with the hiking community before restrictions are placed on existing sites
  • Stable funding for trails that can be applied wherever the need is important, unlike today's fee structure that only allows spending at existing fee sites.
  • A campaign for responsible ethics regarding social media sharing of recreation sites
  • A public review of the fire management plan for the Gorge, including clear policy on when trails are closed during times of high fire danger.
NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact: Rachel Pawlitz, U.S. Forest Service, (503) 758-2624
Twitter: @crgnsa

Public Meeting on Updating Recreation Guidelines in Gorge’s National Scenic Area Plan

Hood River, Ore. — October 11, 2019 – The U.S. Forest Service and Columbia River Gorge Commission are interested in public input on recreation-related topics being considered for revision in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (CRGNSA) Management Plan.

The revisions are part of an effort called Gorge 2020, in which the U.S. Forest Service and Columbia River Gorge Commission are fulfilling their obligation under the National Scenic Area Act to review and revise the management plan every ten years.

Gorge 2020 began with a 2017 public scoping, followed by a complete review of the plan for issues in need of potential updates or revisions. In early 2018 “Recreation” was announced as a focus topic. Earlier this year, the two agencies hosted several meetings with recreation experts and public land managers in the Columbia River Gorge to discuss recent trends in recreation and identify aspects of the management plan’s framework that may need to be modernized.

For example, the management plan relies on a zoning framework called “Recreation Intensity Classes” to evaluate potential impacts of new developments on scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources based on the anticipated numbers of visitors. This framework is one of the key elements of the plan under discussion.

“We are still early in our revision process,” said Rachel Pawlitz, public affairs officer for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, “So far, conversations have helped us focus on the guidelines we might need to adapt to meet today’s needs and challenges. We haven’t started developing specific adjustments yet, so this is a good time to engage.”

The meeting will start with a presentation outlining the current plan’s approach and identify key questions under consideration, before inviting the public to provide inputs in an open house format. All interested members of the public are welcome to attend.

WHAT: Public Meeting on Recreation Revisions to the CRGNSA Management Plan
DATE: Tuesday, October 22, 2019
TIME: 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
LOCATION: Wind River Education Center, 441 Hot Spring Avenue, Carson, WA 98610

Visit Gorge Commission’s Gorge 2020 website to learn more about the revision process.

User avatar
Water
Posts: 1241
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by Water » October 19th, 2019, 8:16 pm

I'm absolutely not a friend of the FS when it comes to management.. but can you please highlight where push back in favor of fees and quotas is mentioned?

In the FS response nothing of that sort was mentioned that j saw. There was maybe one line that could potentially infer such but that's pretty speculative.

For instance under other considerations that could be ADDED to creating new recreation they said:

"The current guidelines encourage building additional sites rather than allowing existing sites to grow beyond RIC guideline maximums to meet demand."

I'd consider showing to the meeting if you can fill be in on the quotas and fees discussion.
Feel Free to Feel Free

chrisca
Posts: 102
Joined: January 22nd, 2010, 10:48 am

Re: Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by chrisca » October 20th, 2019, 2:05 pm

It's on page 3 of the position statement, in coded language:

"1. The Plan’s current approach is to meet recreation demand with more supply; constructing more recreation sites. Are there other considerations that could be added to the RIC Guidelines to respond to demand without necessarily building more?"

In other words, they don't want to build more sites even though the current draft of the plan calls for it. The story on fees is here: http://www.lensjoy.com/blog/NWFP_Report.htm . The law, called FLREA, only allows fees to be spent at existing designated fee collection sites. Any new sites must be built with a new source of money or approved by a committee that hasn't met since 2008, and there's no new funding due to ongoing budget cuts and borrowing to fight fires. There are ways the agency could provide more fee money, such as a small visitor fee at Multnomah Falls, where they could collect one but are not. However, the agency opposes this idea. If we charged only 50 cents per visitor, we'd have over a million dollars per year to spend on trails. The agency spends far more of its money and attention on logging than it does on trails, even though the recreation community is growing far faster than the timber industry.

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 12760
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by retired jerry » October 20th, 2019, 2:35 pm

They built a new parking area at Wyeth

It's very aesthetic with plantings

And room for 1/2 or 1/4 as many cars as otherwise possible

User avatar
Bosterson
Posts: 1982
Joined: May 18th, 2009, 3:17 pm
Location: Portland

Re: Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by Bosterson » October 20th, 2019, 3:46 pm

Chris, just to make sure I understand, it seems like you're referencing a chain of inferences. Your 2016 blog post about FS fee carryover said that carryover was increasing each year (ie, the money is there but not being spent) but it was not clear why this was happening. It seems like you are now contending the FLREA is the reason that money is not being spent. Here's the FLREA text about expenditures:
§6806. Special account and distribution of fees and revenues
(c) Distribution of recreation fees and single-site agency pass revenues
(1) Local distribution of funds
(A) Retention of revenues
Not less than 80 percent of the recreation fees and site-specific agency pass revenues collected at a specific unit or area of a Federal land management agency shall remain available for expenditure, without further appropriation, until expended at that unit or area.

(B) Reduction
The Secretary may reduce the percentage allocation otherwise applicable under subparagraph (A) to a unit or area of a Federal land management agency, but not below 60 percent, for a fiscal year if the Secretary determines that the revenues collected at the unit or area exceed the reasonable needs of the unit or area for which expenditures may be made for that fiscal year.

(2) Agency-wide distribution of funds
The balance of the recreation fees and site-specific agency pass revenues collected at a specific unit or area of a Federal land management and not distributed in accordance with paragraph (1) shall remain available to that Federal land management agency for expenditure on an agency-wide basis, without further appropriation, until expended.
So while the FLREA requires local distribution (to a site or an "area" - is the CRGNSA not an "area"?), 20-40% of the fees can still be appropriated into the broader agency budget. But it sounds like your contention is that since the FS either ties its fee collection to the individual sites (ie, THs) rather than the Scenic Area as a whole, and/or won't appropriate the remaining funds to build new sites, that it wants to revise the Gorge Management Plan to allow it to disperse use via permits/reductions rather than building more trails.

Like Matt, I definitely am no fan of the FS's approach to recreation management and love of permits. I can see how, based on prior experience, one could read their Gorge Commission proposal as a covert approach to enact broad permits and restrictions. For instance, they seem to conclude that judging by the experience of their land managers, overuse is an intractable problem:
The Forest Service wrote:Also, the number of visitors is not a “zero sum” amount, and more recreational opportunities and national attention have drawn more visitors. Therefore, a fixed number of users are not being dispersed through additional site developments in a way that lessens impacts on original sites. Instead, use has increased at both existing sites and newly developed sites, causing a net increase in impacts to all sites.
That definitely could be read as a broad justifications for restricted access. (The irony is that "national attention" is the result of their own tourism advertisements - see all the out-of-staters visiting Mt Hood after MHNF's multi-year advertising campaign in Montana, Idaho, etc. Bend is another example of this.) However, they go on in the a later section to talk about how use is concentrated in the waterfall corridor but dissipates quickly once you leave the parking lot. So I would say it's not clear from this proposal itself what their next move is. Broad permits and quotas beyond the NWFP are likely to cause noticeable outrage given the large number of people from the Portland metro area who visit the Gorge. ODOT, however, suggested fixing "illegal parking" with paid and timed parking meters, so perhaps that is the direction the FS is going.

Unfortunately, there's no way for me to get out to the meeting in Carson after work on a weekday. I hope if you go you will give us a full report; those of us sitting at home can bombard the FS with comments if necessary.
Will hike off trail for fun.

User avatar
BigBear
Posts: 1614
Joined: October 1st, 2009, 11:54 am

Re: Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by BigBear » October 21st, 2019, 1:41 pm

Hmmm...

It seems like I mentioned this very issue rising its ugly head just a few months ago. Look for a draconian Dog Mountain-like approach to all Gorge hikes. No one wanted to help waive the "unambiguously prohibited" flag stitched by Adams vs USFS and Bark vs USFS with regards to REA's prohibition on charging hikers fees.

USFS is betting that not enough people will take them to court because, as we've seen, USFS considers themselves above the law. They won'r care if they lose, because they won't change their behavior when the do.

The line has been drawn in the duff. It's time for Oregon Hikers to let USFS know they are breaking both the law (REA) and the court findings that found them in violation.

Or, you can continue to argue that it all doesn't matter and pay, pay, pay.

User avatar
Water
Posts: 1241
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by Water » October 21st, 2019, 2:09 pm

Still haven't heard anything back from Hood River district. I sent my 'warning to pay $5' back with a copy of FLREA and Adams vs USFS highlighting the key portions.

I suppose I should call and ask about ticket# and be coy, don't ask if they got anything etc. Should have ponied to have sent registered mail so there was no funny business from them too.
Feel Free to Feel Free

User avatar
Bosterson
Posts: 1982
Joined: May 18th, 2009, 3:17 pm
Location: Portland

Re: Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by Bosterson » October 21st, 2019, 2:22 pm

BigBear wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 1:41 pm
Look for a draconian Dog Mountain-like approach to all Gorge hikes.
Dog Mountain is an ODOT restriction based on "emergency" hazard conditions for pedestrians who park on SR-14. It does not rely on FLREA and the FS cannot use the same justification in other areas, unless they declare Wahkeena a driving hazard for pedestrians (which they may do, who knows). A bigger question may be how many years can something be happening for it to remain an "emergency," which, as the FS might say, is "outside the scope" of this discussion. ;)

In terms of "Draconian," just look at the Central Cascades permit snafu! If people want to step up, the first step is to write comments saying the fees are not supported by FLREA, since regular hiking is not "special recreation." The FS received very few comments about the initial permit proposal - like a couple hundred. More people in the hiking community need to stand up for open access.
Will hike off trail for fun.

User avatar
jessbee
Posts: 808
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Contact:

Re: Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by jessbee » October 21st, 2019, 5:33 pm

Bosterson wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 2:22 pm

In terms of "Draconian," just look at the Central Cascades permit snafu! If people want to step up, the first step is to write comments saying the fees are not supported by FLREA, since regular hiking is not "special recreation." The FS received very few comments about the initial permit proposal - like a couple hundred. More people in the hiking community need to stand up for open access.
This. Please please continue to contribute your voice to this matter. It's not over.
Will break trail for beer.

Blog and photos

chrisca
Posts: 102
Joined: January 22nd, 2010, 10:48 am

Re: Forest Service Gorge Trails Management Plan Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Carson, WA

Post by chrisca » October 21st, 2019, 6:30 pm

Bosterson wrote:
October 20th, 2019, 3:46 pm
So while the FLREA requires local distribution (to a site or an "area" - is the CRGNSA not an "area"?), 20-40% of the fees can still be appropriated into the broader agency budget. But it sounds like your contention is that since the FS either ties its fee collection to the individual sites (ie, THs) rather than the Scenic Area as a whole, and/or won't appropriate the remaining funds to build new sites, that it wants to revise the Gorge Management Plan to allow it to disperse use via permits/reductions rather than building more trails.
It's not an inference regarding how fee dollars are allocated. It's been confirmed by speaking with both Stan Hinatsu (Recreation programs manager) and Lynn Burditt (head of the CRGNSA and a Gorge Commissioner). The NW Forest Pass was created under the "Fee Demo Program" which allowed fees only at sites with certain amenities, §6802(f):

(f) Standard amenity recreation fee
(https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?hl= ... er87&num=0)
Except as limited by subsection (d), the Secretary may charge a standard amenity recreation fee for Federal recreational lands and waters under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, or the Forest Service, but only at the following:

(1) A National Conservation Area.
(2) A National Volcanic Monument.
(3) A destination visitor or interpretive center that provides a broad range of interpretive services, programs, and media.
(4) An area—
(A) that provides significant opportunities for outdoor recreation;
(B) that has substantial Federal investments;
(C) where fees can be efficiently collected; and
(D) that contains all of the following amenities:
(i) Designated developed parking.
(ii) A permanent toilet facility.
(iii) A permanent trash receptacle.
(iv) Interpretive sign, exhibit, or kiosk.
(v) Picnic tables.
(vi) Security services.

Since the fees are only collected at these "developed sites," they are subject to the 80% provision you mentioned. 80% of the money must be spent at those sites unless a temporary reduction to not less than 60% is made by the Secretary, and to my knowledge that has never happened in the Scenic Area. In addition, up to 15% of the fees may be used for "administration," so that means that only 5% of the fees under typical conditions can ever be spent outside of the existing improved fee sites.

It's a mess, very complicated, and no one seems to understand how all the parts fit together. I've spent a lot of time on it, and still find out surprises in how the agency can creatively find ways to work around the law.

Post Reply