Oregon Forestry Service officials are considering requiring that hikers buy permits in order to enjoy the state’s public wilderness areas, the Statesman Journal reports.
The wilderness has grown increasingly crowded with an influx of tourists over the past few years. The increased foot traffic is destroying the environment at a rate that has officials worried, according to the Statesman Journal.
“The upside is that we’re serving more people than ever before — and seeing more smiles than ever before,” Oregon Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Chris Havel told the Statesman Journal in November after attendance records at Oregon’s state parks were broken for the second year in a row. “At the same time, we’re having problems keeping up with crowding, trash, and the wear and tear on parks.”
To decrease the amount of traffic on public land, the Forest Service would price hiking permits at $6 to $12. The policy proposal is a major shift in approach to public lands for a state where parks and wilderness have been freely accessible to the public for the most part, according to the Associated Press.
The proposed permitting process has garnered both support and criticism.
“I feel user experience will vastly improve with less shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and all the human impact and garbage that comes with it,” photographer Jeff Green told the AP.
“The permits are overpriced and there is little control over the system,” author and hiker Matt Reeder said. ”It is disappointing to see a permit to access a public area cost $12, all for the privilege of hiking on public property.”
Hunters with tags would be exempt from having to buy a hiking permit.
“It’s supply and demand and Oregon has very little protected wilderness,” Oregon Wild program manager Erik Fernandez told the Statesman Journal. “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.”
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