SALEM — The U.S. Forest Service is seeking to limit the number of hikers in Oregon's wilderness by requiring permits for popular areas.
The plan announced this month by Willamette and Deschutes national forests would require a permit to hike or backpack in the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Three Sisters, Diamond Peak and Waldo Lake wilderness areas, The Statesman Journal reported.
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 venture as they please on public lands.
Salem photographer Jeff Green said it's frustrating that overcrowding has reached this point, but it's time for permits.
"I feel user experience will vastly improve with less shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and all the human impact and garbage that comes with it," Green said.
Other people were concerned with the permit pricing of $6 to $12.
"The permits are overpriced and there is little control over the system," said Matt Reeder, author of "101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region." ''It is disappointing to see a permit to access a public area cost $12, all for the privilege of hiking on public property."
Hunters, however, were happy they would be exempt from the permit requirement after purchasing a tag.
Environmental groups said the episode demonstrated that Oregon needs more wilderness areas.
"It's supply and demand and Oregon has very little protected wilderness," said Erik Fernandez, wilderness program manager for Oregon Wild. "Oregonians love to visit our amazing wilderness areas. Until our elected leaders step up and protect more, this trend isn't going to go away."