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:
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.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.
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:
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.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
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.