Last year, national forests in the Pacific Northwest began rolling out a permitting system to manage visitors and reduce overcrowding, including at Deschutes and Willamette National Forests.
Lisa Machnik is the recreation, heritage, partnerships and land staff officer with Deschutes National Forest. She says the paid permit system came after forest officials saw a spike in use in recent years that began to strain resources.
“If we didn’t do something to better manage the use, these areas would essentially change entirely,” she said.
In areas like the Three Sisters Wilderness, officials saw an average of 40 to 60,000 visitors a year in the 1990s. Two decades later, that number soared to around 140,000 visitors a year.
The increase in visitors recreating in specific areas during weekends and at other peak times caused land management concerns, according to Machnik.
“The whole experience people were having and looking for when they went into the wilderness was going to be something we weren’t going to be able to recover from,” she said.
A day-use permit to visit the Deschutes National Forest costs a dollar and can be obtained online.
Forestry officials are trying to cut down on the number of reservation no-shows by no longer allowing reservations to be made more than 10 days in advance of a visit.
Machnik says there are a number of reasons people don’t use permits they reserve, including outdoor conditions like smoke and heat, and the process visitors need to take in order to cancel their reservation.
“It’s fairly easy to get a permit, and it’s also easy for other things to come up,” she said.
Lisa Machnick joined Think Out Loud to discuss what the permit system has been like so far at Deschutes National Forest. You can listen to the full conversation here: