Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Use this forum to post links to news stories from other websites - ones that other hikers might find interesting. This is not intended for original material or anecdotal information. You can reply to any news stories posted, but do not start a new thread without a link to a specific news story.
User avatar
Charley
Posts: 1381
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Southeast Portland

Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by Charley » November 14th, 2018, 5:01 pm

My friend and I hiked the Three Sisters loop this fall, and boy, am I glad we got that one checked off the bucket list, because it's about to become a whole lot more expensive and complicated to do it. In fact, organizing such a trip is going to require a lot of touchy bureaucratic wrangling and a good bit of cash.

That's because the Forest Service has put out the new management plan for the Central Cascades Wildernesses, and, as expected, it's going to be a complete pain in the butt to visit our public lands.

Here's a link:

https://data.ecosystem-management.org/n ... ject=50578

The pdf with the full "Decision" is here:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/n ... 483291.pdf

It looks like they don't want us to visit, and they'll probably get their way. It'll be harder, more complicated, and more costly to visit the public lands that our tax dollars maintain for our enjoyment and benefit.

For example, you'll now have to pay for a permit to throw out a sleeping bag for a single night at any one of 79 trailheads in three Wilderness areas, from late May to September. That's right, the trails will be covered by feet of snow, and the trailhead may not even be accessible except by snowmachine, snowshoes, or skis, but the Forest Service needs you cough up just to experience it overnight. No humans will have set foot in those places since October, and practically no one can get to those places anyway, but, by george, it's too crowded! Why use a scalpel when you can use a bulldozer?

If you're hiking the entire PCT, they're now disallowing you from camping more than 1/2 mile from the trail itself in several areas, and if you're hiking less than 500 miles of it (you scum), you don't get to camp anywhere outside that corridor. Hope you weren't planning on taking any side trips, and I sure do hope you don't get off schedule and have to bivy on a side trail while on your way into town, because you'd be breaking the law!

They're even allowing some hunters to enter without having to fork over for the new permit. Great. I've got nothing against hunting, but can someone explain to me how hunting is less impact than hiking? The whole purpose is to remove an animal from the Wilderness! This is clearly not science based, and it seems like the kind of favoritism designed to prevent a politically connected and organized user group from resisting (we hikers are obviously not so powerful, otherwise this regulation would be going nowhere).

Especially galling to me is the logical inconsistency of the proposal: while they cannot come out and say it, the plan is clearly intended to cut down on crowding not by limiting the actual maximum number of people visiting in a given day, but by making it inconvenient enough that fewer people will show up in general. How do I know this? Well, take a look at this sentence:
Based on visitor use data from 2016, the quotas still provide for use somewhere in each wilderness on most days of the summer; for example, only 15 days in 2016 had overnight use levels in excess of the capacity in the Three Sisters; it was only 13 days in the Mt. Jefferson.
In other words, out of 365 days in the year, 15 or 13 days were too crowded. So... this proposal would supposedly reduce wilderness impacts by altering the number of people on a measly 13 to 15 days a year, but making all of us go through the rigmarole of the permit system from May to October. They're basically saying that the Wilderness is trashed by too many boots, but justifying the restrictions of this plan by claiming that it will allow virtually the same amount of boots. This is nonsense.

Were any of those 13 or 15 days on a weekday? Were any of those days during any other time than late June, July, or August? Again, why use a scalpel when you can use a bulldozer? Why are they making it hard to visit on weekdays?

They even admit this:
Even with the limited entry quotas for overnight use, overall use in all three wilderness areas
may continue to grow, depending on visitors’ willingness to distribute themselves geographically
across these wildernesses, and temporally, to other times of the year (weekdays, early summer,
later fall). For example in the Three Sisters, overall quota capacity overnight use, for the entire
permit season is approximately 22,000 groups, and use in 2016 was approximately 11,000
groups.
So, overnight use could literally double, and this permit system would not have maxed out its quota. So why put us through the trouble and expense? Because they know most people won't bother. The Forest Service just doesn't want us in there.

How much is this going to cost us pesky citizen hikers? Well, they won't tell us now, because that's a separate decision making process. That means we'll get to find out later, after they've already decided to impose these restrictions, exactly how much we have to fork over to visit Green Lakes for the afternoon or whatever. How much would it cost a family of four to hike the Three Sisters Loop for 5 days? I guess we won't know until we get the bill.

My recommendation? Hike the big trips you want to do in this area now, while you still can go during a safe weather window. Hike those trips now while you can still afford them. Hike them now, while the Forest Service is not actively trying to keep you away from your lands.

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 12282
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by retired jerry » November 14th, 2018, 5:15 pm

Weird that when they have more customers they turn them away rather than figure out how to accommodate them.

Where are people going to go, some other wilderness, or just stay in the city?

A key provision of the Wilderness act is to provide recreation access for humans, seems like they aren't fulfilling this

User avatar
Charley
Posts: 1381
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Southeast Portland

Re: Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by Charley » November 14th, 2018, 5:25 pm

I was just thinking about the fee: if it's going to be $5 per person per day, then it would cost $100 for a family of four to hike the Three Sisters Loop (at least a 48 mile trip) over five nights. If it is going to be a $10 fee, that trip would cost $200. Give me a freaking break.

User avatar
Charley
Posts: 1381
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Southeast Portland

Re: Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by Charley » November 14th, 2018, 5:41 pm

And if you think doing all the permit stuff online isn't actually going to be that inconvenient:

I had to purchase two permits to do my Three Sisters Loop trip, because I planned to enter and exit through the Osidian Limited Entry Area. So I bought $20 worth of permits (pointless, too, because almost no one else had bought permits for this area- it was far below quota), then tried to print it out, but discovered that what I got was only a receipt for my purchase. Unfortunately, they won't let you print out your actual permits if you buy them more than two weeks in advance; helpfully, the website said it would send me an email reminding me to print out those actual permits when that two week point arrived.

They never did send that email.

The night before I drive down there, I need to print them out. So I click through the link provided on my "receipt," and instead of allowing me to print out my actual permits, I'm informed that the website is down and will not be accessible. Great.

We ended up parking elsewhere, and altering our itinerary, because of weather (this happens all the time!). As a result, we went through the Obsidian area on a different day.

It was all pointless: the quota was nowhere near full for the days we purchased permits, we visited a different day, hiked through without actual printed permits, didn't see a ranger anyway, and the place was practically deserted.

So it was thoroughly pointless except I had to pay $20 and futz around on the computer for an hour. Great


Again, give me a freaking break.

User avatar
Water
Posts: 1140
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by Water » November 14th, 2018, 6:37 pm

so upset by this. The comments did little to influence them it seems.
Got to find legal grounds to overturn this.

Or, I'll largely ignore it.

PCT thru hikers cannot camp in Jeff Park? 14 day hikers per day PCT Breitenbush Lake TH? 30 per day at Whitewater? These are low numbers.

Cash from permit sales will go to increased enforcement? I'd absolutely love to see their back of the napkin math on that. So the projected income from this after overhead will be enough to fund multiple backcountry ranger positions? But they couldn't use that income to instead make new trails or trailheads to distribute use? wow.. sounds like they have their priorities lined up.
Feel Free to Feel Free

User avatar
adamschneider
Posts: 2776
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm
Location: SE Portland
Contact:

Re: Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by adamschneider » November 14th, 2018, 8:56 pm

Well, something needs to be done, and soon. Unfortunately, shutting down Instagram and Facebook is not an option. :roll:

This quote from the Draft Decision Notice is telling:
Consider if we were conducting this planning effort shortly after the 2011 season: the permit data for Tam McArthur Rim Trailhead would show a peak day use of 25 people, and an average use of 6 or 7 people per day. With an estimated capacity of 80 people per day, there wouldn’t have been an overuse issue. The Forest Service may not have foreseen that five years later in 2016 there would be 340 hikers on a peak day and the trailhead averaging about 116 per day for the season. Overnight use spiked as well in 2016, with 37 groups on one day seeking to camp in the area that can reasonably accommodate about 5 groups.
Look at those numbers again: in just five years, hiking traffic from this trailhead increased sixteenfold. (We can blame No-Name Lake's inexplicable fame for that one.)

I just read through the entire decision, and honestly, I think they make some really good points. You can't implement permits at just a few trailheads, or "displacement" will occur, so it has to be system-wide. And "camping zones" suck, so they chose not to do those. They also recognize that day-use permits should be mostly available on short notice, to allow for spontaneous trips.

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 12282
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by retired jerry » November 14th, 2018, 9:19 pm

There's always calling your congressmen. House and 2 senators. If they get a bunch of calls they might talk to the Forest Service.

User avatar
Bosterson
Posts: 1749
Joined: May 18th, 2009, 3:17 pm
Location: Portland

Re: Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by Bosterson » November 14th, 2018, 10:10 pm

adamschneider wrote:
November 14th, 2018, 8:56 pm
I just read through the entire decision, and honestly, I think they make some really good points. You can't implement permits at just a few trailheads, or "displacement" will occur, so it has to be system-wide. And "camping zones" suck, so they chose not to do those. They also recognize that day-use permits should be mostly available on short notice, to allow for spontaneous trips.
Not to say that I agree with the Draft Decision or the FS's plan, but I agree with the above assessment. They appear to have taken the feedback given about the EA this past spring and revised their proposal. They decided to take one of the original options and retool it to remove Enchantments-style camping zones, increase the availability of some permits, and hold off on applying these new rules to Waldo Lake or Diamond Peak. And they do make clear that the spread of permit areas to TH's that are not currently overused is preemptive, with the expectation that usage at those TH's will increase as users are displaced by the super popular spots that will be restricted by the new quotas.

That said, this proposal is still quite restrictive and there is still obviously plenty of room for improvement. I don't think they make a strong argument for why the restrictions should be so broad, and for such a long permit season, especially when they say things like this:
While we expect to see some of this geographic and temporal displacement, there is no reason to expect that the level of displacement will ever approach filling the remaining quota capacity. We expect that the reductions in use on peak season days will offset much of the redistribution of use. (Draft Decision p.9)
On the subject of displacement, they also seem to make what to me seems a logical fallacy with the assumption that all THs and/or destinations are "equal" and that if the high use/popularity areas are unavailable, people will inevitably spill over into some or all other parts of the same wilderness. This seems an unsupported conflation of the area with a specific destination, such as discussing users who want "a wilderness experience in the Three Sisters" vs users who specifically want to climb South Sister. I think it's much more likely that the high use, high online popularity areas drive a lot of traffic, and if they become unavailable people will simply find other popular areas to go to rather than visiting another part of the same wilderness that lack coveted Instagrammable objectives.

Given this, and that the permit season is so long despite their admission that usage is substantially lower during shoulder seasons (Draft Decision p.35), it does seem like this plan could be scaled back quite a bit to allow more freedom and access without compromising some of the conservation goals. To the point that they expect displacement to affect some of the lesser used areas after the quotas go into effect, it seems like they could have held off on quotaing those as well in order to see just how serious of a problem the displacement actually is. It also seems totally unjustified that quotas would be needed at all during shoulder season, since it's clear the majority of overuse is in high summer. And despite their concession of more nonreservable permits, I contend that reservable permits are in general a bad and easily gameable idea that actually serves to increase desirability through scarcity - see: MSH, the Enchantments.

The actual cost and administration of the permits is its own issue; suffice to say that this - like all "pay to play" strategies - creates real socioeconomic disadvantages and inequalities of access that don't seem justified on the scale they're proposing. $10 per person per night (Charley - how did you come up with "family of four" as the economic yardstick of hiking? it's not like we're talking about annual household income ;) ) is the current price at the Enchantments, and disregarding how onerous that is or isn't depending on your financial situation, the difference here is that they're talking about doing it to a large proportion of the wilderness, rather than in just one contained area. Seattle, based on metro population, has to produce more users in the Central Washington wilderness than Portland and Bend ever could into Central Oregon, and yet as far as I know all of the Alpine Lakes outside of the Enchantments is free and unquota'd to visit. It is not clear why the FS is taking the (semi) nuclear option for Oregon.

adamschneider wrote:
November 14th, 2018, 8:56 pm
Look at those numbers again: in just five years, hiking traffic from this trailhead increased sixteenfold. (We can blame No-Name Lake's inexplicable fame for that one.)
I was shocked to read in the Final EA that Devil's Lake TH had 4,200 users in 2011 and 15,700 users in 2016!! :shock:
Charley wrote:
November 14th, 2018, 5:01 pm
They're even allowing some hunters to enter without having to fork over for the new permit. Great. I've got nothing against hunting, but can someone explain to me how hunting is less impact than hiking? The whole purpose is to remove an animal from the Wilderness! This is clearly not science based, and it seems like the kind of favoritism designed to prevent a politically connected and organized user group from resisting (we hikers are obviously not so powerful, otherwise this regulation would be going nowhere).
This is a small concession they made from what I gather were numerous hunting-related comments on the original EA. This exception only lasts about a week, only applies to hunters who already have a limited hunting tag, and is so minor it's basically irrelevant:
We have decided to allow hunters with the W. High Cascade deer tag (119A) to be able to hunt within these wilderness areas without needing to obtain a limited entry permit, during the High Cascade hunt period (the dates in 2018 were September 8-16 only; the exemption does not apply during the general deer hunting season). We’ve made this decision because the land base open to this hunting opportunity is primarily in wilderness, and there is a limited number of tags available. (Draft Decision p.11)
The "Final" EA published this month is amended with some revisions and also includes a lengthy collection of user comments about the first EA back in the spring, along with their responses. Sadly a large number of those responses appear to be "[insert point of contention] is outside the scope of this project." :roll:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/n ... 483293.pdf
Will hike off trail for fun.

User avatar
jessbee
Posts: 744
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Contact:

Re: Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by jessbee » November 14th, 2018, 10:12 pm

Water wrote:
November 14th, 2018, 6:37 pm
so upset by this. The comments did little to influence them it seems.
Got to find legal grounds to overturn this.

Or, I'll largely ignore it.

PCT thru hikers cannot camp in Jeff Park? 14 day hikers per day PCT Breitenbush Lake TH? 30 per day at Whitewater? These are low numbers.

Cash from permit sales will go to increased enforcement? I'd absolutely love to see their back of the napkin math on that. So the projected income from this after overhead will be enough to fund multiple backcountry ranger positions? But they couldn't use that income to instead make new trails or trailheads to distribute use? wow.. sounds like they have their priorities lined up.
Imagine if they would have spent the time and money on ranger staffing and education instead of dreaming up this elaborate proposal. Laughable.
Will break trail for beer.

Blog and photos

User avatar
jessbee
Posts: 744
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Contact:

Re: Visit the Central Cascades while you still can...

Post by jessbee » November 14th, 2018, 10:23 pm

Bosterson wrote:
November 14th, 2018, 10:10 pm
On the subject of displacement, they also seem to make what to me seems a logical fallacy with the assumption that all THs and/or destinations are "equal" and that if the high use/popularity areas are unavailable, people will inevitably spill over into some or all other parts of the same wilderness. This seems an unsupported conflation of the area with a specific destination, such as discussing users who want "a wilderness experience in the Three Sisters" vs users who specifically want to climb South Sister. I think it's much more likely that the high use, high online popularity areas drive a lot of traffic, and if they become unavailable people will simply find other popular areas to go to rather than visiting another part of the same wilderness that lack coveted Instagrammable objectives.

Given this, and that the permit season is so long despite their admission that usage is substantially lower during shoulder seasons (Draft Decision p.35), it does seem like this plan could be scaled back quite a bit to allow more freedom and access without compromising some of the conservation goals.
This.

People are not going to mosey over to some other random trailhead that only permits access to miles of flat woodlands when they want to hike to (No Name Lake, South Sister, Tam McArthur Rim). Those are completely different experiences and you don't get as many likes for posting pictures of trees (I'm only half joking). So, what's going to happen is that people are just going to hike anyway, without a permit. Meanwhile the rest of us will either have to fork over a bunch of cash to literally take a walk or avoid those areas because we don't want to deal with the permit system.

Instead, if the FS channeled their resources into the small handful of places where people are being idiots, they might be able to educate some people and rein in the bad behavior. What's effectively going to happen now, if people do what they think they will, is spread all those people all over the forest where they absolutely can't keep an eye on things.

Anyways, the wilderness is practically empty mid-week and on less Instagrammable trails. I know because I'm almost always by myself in the wilderness. I get out there several times a year since it's so close to Bend. I hardly ever see people because I know where to go. And when to go!

So with, for example, a day use quota of 12 (yes, 12, read the Decision) at Todd Lake...if a group of 4 shows up early Sunday morning and spends an hour there and another few groups totaling 8 shows up around noon to hike for another couple of hours that parking lot and trail sits empty for most of the day. To me that is taking a very heavy-handed approach to regulating wilderness use.

And let's not even talk about more people climbing in the mountains on bad weather days "because they have a permit for that day." Even more work for SAR, they might as well have a basecamp on South Sister.
Will break trail for beer.

Blog and photos

Post Reply