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home : current news : current news August 22, 2017

4/18/2017 1:13:00 PM
FS closing section of forest to camping

Faced with a large number of illegal campers, high levels of trash and significant sanitation issues, the Forest Service will close a section of forest near Sisters to camping for two years.

Beginning late this month, the Sisters Ranger District will close an area adjacent to Whychus Creek and in close proximity to the city of Sisters. The closure applies only to overnight camping. All day-use in the area will remain open. The temporary closure will begin on April 30 and end on April 29, 2019.

According to the Forest Service, impetus for the closure order is ongoing user conflicts that are leading to public health and safety issues. Long-term illegal camping in the area has led to chronic law enforcement, trash, and sanitation problems.

There is a 14-day camping limit on the forest, but many otherwise homeless people are living in that area semi-permanently.

"This is primarily people who have been residing for long periods of time," said Deschutes National Forest Spokesperson Jean Nelson-Dean.

The large number of long-term campers is difficult to keep track of, and consequently the rules are hard for Sisters Ranger District law enforcement officer Fred Perl to enforce.

Campers may still establish themselves in the area in violation of the closure, Nelson-Dean acknowledged, but having the closure in place will make the rules easier to enforce.

Nelson-Dean said that day-users of the forest, such as hikers, have expressed fear about going into the area. She said that, after the closure, "we hope that day use will increase in that area."

Asked whether the closure will simply move the problem to another area of the forest, Nelson-Dean said, "I don't have a real good answer to that question."

She said that the proximity to Sisters and the established nature of the camping area among the homeless population has made the area in question particularly attractive to long-term illegal campers. The two-year closure will give the Forest Service time to evaluate impacts there and in other areas of the forest.

In general the overnight camping closure applies to Section 17, Township 15, South; Range 10 East, which is west of Forest Road 16 (see map).

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