Mount Hood from Lolo Pass
After nearly ten years of informal meetings and town halls, Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer recently released a much-anticipated framework for legislation that will fundamentally change the management direction for Mount Hood and expand protections for the Columbia River Gorge.
The legislative details are forthcoming, but for now Sen. Wyden and Rep. Blumenauer are asking for public comment on a general legislative concept by January 7 – this Friday! That’s a very short comment period, but if you love WyEast Country (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t!) please consider weighing in, even if only to send a sentence or two on what is most important to you as this legislation takes shape.
Here are 10 things to know about this new proposal for Mount Hood and the Gorge:
1. It’s a very big deal for Mount Hood! At this time, it’s still a legislative concept, but it will frame the ultimate details of the legislation, and the scope of the concept is broad. This is the most sweeping legislation proposed for Mount Hood since the Oregon National Forest was created in 1908 (and later renamed the Mount Hood National Forest in 1924). This is a big deal for Mount Hood. More than the original Mount Hood Wilderness area created with the Wilderness Act in 1964, more than the subsequent wilderness additions in 1978, 1984 and 2009. And more than the Northwest Forest Act of 1992.
Why? Because the legislation would shift the core function of the forest away from commercial logging and toward forest restoration and enhanced recreation. This is a sea change for the Forest Service – and for the mountain. The degree to which this pivot is enforced in law depends solely on what the coming legislation says, and therefore the importance of weighing in early and often (as Rep. Blumenauer likes to say).
2. It’s big deal for the Gorge, too! While the greatest impact of the proposed legislation would be on Mount Hood and the federal lands that surround the mountain, additional protections and recreation enhancements for the Gorge are part of the proposal. They represent the most important step forward since the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area was established in 1986.
Crown Point and the Columbia River Gorge
3. Say it with me: Mount Hood National Recreation Area! The central and most powerful feature of the legislative concept is a dramatic expansion of the Mount Hood National Recreation Area (NRA). “Expansion” you might ask? Since when has a Mount Hood NRA even existed? Since 2009, as it turns out – though few know this, and it’s understandable. The awkwardly titled “Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness” bill that President Obama signed into law in 2009 added new wilderness and a number of other protections for Mount Hood, but tucked into the bill were three small areas to the east and southeast of the mountain deemed the “Mount Hood NRA”.
At the time, the creation of these NRA postage stamps was really just a consolation prize to mountain bikers who stood to lose access to trails falling inside the new wilderness areas. This is a frustrating and contentious issue among should-be conservation allies that was never anticipated when the Wilderness Act was signed into law in 1964 (bicycles are interpreted as mechanized, and thus excluded under the law). Though token as the original Mount Hood NRA units were, I wrote in this article several years ago that they also represented an opportunity to someday help Mount Hood achieve full recognition as a national treasure worthy of permanent protection. It was legislative foot in the door that may be about to open much wider.
The power of the NRA is clear in the legislative concept: it would encompass most of the Mount Hood National Forest north the Clackamas River, or roughly half the forest. The Forest Service would be thereby directed to write a new management plan for this vast area that focuses on forest restoration, recreation and watershed and water quality. This is a long-overdue change from the commercial logging mission that has hammered the mountain since the 1950s. As envisioned in the legislative concept, the new mandate would be to restore forest health and promote recreational activities that are in concert with a recovering forest that will be allowed to grow old, once again.
Rainforest along Whale Creek on the Clackamas River Trail
Did you know the current plan guiding the Forest Service for their management decisions was adopted more than 30 years ago, in 1990? The Portland region, alone, has grown by well over 1 million residents in that time, but aside from expansion of the commercial ski resorts, recreation opportunities on Mount Hood haven’t expanded — with the resulting traffic and trailhead crowding we see as a familiar reminder. The legislative concept speaks directly to this crisis in management, with a clear directive to the Forest Service to change its focus to better reflect the interests and concerns of a changed region. This is a sea change for Mount Hood.
Conservationists remain wary of the NRA, however. Why? Because they rightly point to the fact that every NRA in this country is a bit different, each tailored to the specific area they were created for. In Oregon, this includes the Oregon Dunes and Hells Canyon, for example. While some NRAs are written with conservation in mind, others are relatively toothless and don’t give the Forest Service much direction in how to manage these areas. This is why the details in the legislative language matters.
4. More Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers. Senator Wyden has been particularly focused on expanding Oregon’s system of Wild & Scenic Rivers in recent years, a protection that mostly prevents rivers from being dammed, but also offers other protections intended to keep river corridors healthy and functioning for wildlife. The proposed legislation would add sections of the West Fork Hood River, Lake Branch, Coe and Eliot Branches, Cold Spring Creek and the Dog River to the Wild & Scenic River system in the Hood River basin, alone. On the west side of the mountain, sections of the Clear Fork of the Sandy River, Zigzag River and Still Creek would be added to the Wild & Scenic River system. The limit to this protection is that it only applies to public lands, and most of these streams flow through private lands, as well. These stretches located outside public ownership are not included in the legislative concept.
Wilderness expansions are an expected part of any new conservation bill for Mount Hood and the Gorge, even though most of the truly wild areas have already protected through past legislation. Therefore, most of the new areas being proposed are expansions of existing wilderness, including Lost Lake Butte, the middle Coe and Eliot Branch canyons near Cloud Cap, popular Tamanawas Falls, the east side of Bluegrass Ridge, the Red Hill area along the Old Vista Ridge trail and several small expansions along the east end of the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness.
Tamanawas Falls on Cold Spring Creek, one of the new wilderness areas in the proposed legislation
5. Moving trail stewardship up the Forest Service priority list? Ask someone who volunteers as a trail steward for one of the non-profits who work in WyEast Country (Trailkeepers of Oregon, Pacific Crest Trail Association, Mazamas, Backcountry Horsemen, Oregon Equestrian Trails, and Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition, to name among the most active) and they will tell you that one of the main obstacles in putting tools in the hands of volunteers on our trails is the Forest Service, itself. Compared to working with local and state land managers, navigating the Forest Service is a real challenge, even when you’re trying to bring needed resources in the form of volunteer labor.
The legislative concept builds on outreach conducted by Rep. Blumenauer’s staff to most of these groups to figure out what’s missing in the current Forest Service structure and what could be done differently to make trail stewardship volunteering easier. As written, the concept is a bit squishy, but the general themes of dedicating more Forest Service staff to serve as a coordination hub, and giving them new tools for coordinating virtually with volunteers is a good start. More thoughts on this topic follow in this article.
6. Talking with the tribes. This legislative concept has been in development for a while, and to the credit of Rep. Blumenauer and Sen. Wyden, it was slowed along the way to ensure meaningful consultation with affected tribes. As drafted, the legislative concept focuses on Forest Service obligations to better consult and coordinate with the tribes and to specifically to deliver on a first foods plan that would be added to the policies that guide forest management. More thoughts on this topic follow, as well.
Looking across the Columbia River to the town of Lyle from Rowena Plateau
7. Gorge Towns to Trails vision. Long advocated by Friends of the Columbia Gorge, this is a bold, long-term vision to create a European-style trekking network encircling the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The legislative concept gives a nod to the vision in all but name, along with a general direction to the Forest Service to develop a comprehensive system plan for all trails the Gorge.
It’s no secret that in the past the Columbia Gorge Commission staff has viewed new trails in the Gorge quite negatively, and National Scenic Area staff have also been reluctant to consider trail expansion, as well. This, despite the overwhelming growth in demand and resulting overcrowding that is apparent to anyone who spends time in the Gorge. The proposed legislation would guide staff at both agencies with a clearer vision for how and where trails will be expanded in the Gorge, and how existing trails experiencing overuse can be better managed.
8. Improving Mount Hood & Gorge Transportation. Who can argue with this? It can only get better, right? And yet, this is perhaps the squishiest of the elements in the legislative concept, as most of what it calls for is already being provided and the concept simply calls for more – as in more public transit and transportation “options” (read: bikeways?), more rest areas, more law enforcement, more emergency response capacity. What the concept misses is that transportation, itself, is a recreation experience, not just a service. More thoughts on this topic follow below, as well.
The Dollar Lake Fire on Mount Hood (September 2, 2011)
9. Forest Fire “management”? Well, it’s safe to say that as a society we are beginning to grapple with the reality that a century of aggressive forest fire suppression coupled with a warming climate has set up an impossibly volatile circumstance in our forests. But I would emphasize the word “beginning”, because while the scientists and public agencies (and even a few politicians) understand the situation, there remains intense public pressure to somehow prevent forest fires – especially from people who live in the so-called “urban-rural interface”. This is policy jargon for people who live on private forested acreages abutting our public lands in places like the U.S. 26 corridor, and who are at real risk from catastrophic forest fires.
At best, we might be able to reduce the number of human-caused fires. These are still the majority, including the massive Riverside (2020) and Eagle Creek (2017) fires that scorched a large chunk of Mount Hood National Forest in the past five years. The proposed legislation tries to ease into this with by requiring the Forest Service to create a “mitigation and adaptation” plan for managing both fire risk and response. “Mitigation” would include prescribed burns and thinning crowded plantations on old clear cuts to improve forest health and fire resilience – two of the main ways the Forest Service is responding to the growth in catastrophic fires in the West.
“Adaptation” is less defined in the proposed legislation, however. The elephant in the room are the thousands of homes and summer cabins (hundreds of them on federal land through 99-year leases) located in that “urban-rural interface”. Can they be protected? The fire that tore through the communities of Talent and Phoenix in Southern Oregon in 2020 didn’t stop at the urban-rural interface, they burned right in developed urban areas. “Adaptation” suggests that we might change how and where we live in relations to forests in the future, so what does that mean for the urban-rural interface, before or after fire? I don’t envy the Forest Service on this task, nor will this legislation solve the larger policy dilemma, but there’s no question it will need to be part of developing a Mount Hood NRA plan.
In a rare moment of justice, these target shooters were caught in a no shooting zone on Wildcat Mountain, and asked to clean up their trash while the deputy watched (2010)
10. Who isn’t for public safety in our forests? This is another topic the proposed legislation didn’t have much choice in acknowledging. Most who visit Mount Hood in the Gorge are keenly aware of the lawless activity that finds refuge in a vast area with little law enforcement presence. The legislative concept calls for more funding, including for local law enforcement, as well as “public education”. More thoughts on this topic follow, as well.
So, I’ve highlighted the main take-aways as a WyEast advocate who has long dreamed of a fundamental shift on management focus like this, but the legislative concept has more.
You can download the concept document here:
You can also view and download the surprisingly detailed draft concept map here:
And you can comment directly on the proposed Mount Hood NRA legislation here:
This will take you to an online form for sharing your thoughts. The following are what I plan to share during this comment period – and they might be useful to you, as well.
What’s Missing from the Concept?
Though there’s a looming comment deadline of January 7 (this Friday!), this legislative process is just getting started, and there will be more opportunities to weigh in while congressional staff drafts the actual legislation. With any luck (and some will be needed!) and enough support, this just might make it through the most divisive Congress in recent memory.
Here are a few things I’d like to see in the new Mount Hood legislation:
1. Restorative justice for the tribes. This means more than “living up to our statutory obligations”, as currently written in the legislative concept. Most of the statutes governing tribes in this country are rooted in our dark history of displacement and oppression of native populations, and the presumption that what was taken from the tribes must forever be lost. Restorative justice means to reverse the harm, and for Mount Hood and the Gorge might include restoring the ecosystems that provide first foods – as included in the legislative concept. But it might include dedicating or expanding public lands for the sole purpose of restoring exclusive tribal access to sacred places.
Restorative justice should include an inventory of interpretive and directional signage and symbols, too, to become inclusive of pre-white settlement history and customs, and reverse some of the cultural erasure caused by place names and white-centric written history. The most egregious examples are interpretive signs located along the Oregon Trail and Barlow Road. In my view, every one of these should include the perspective of native peoples who were pushed aside by westward expansion. But only the tribes can speak to this history from a perspective of cultural suffering, loss and continuing harm these migratory roads represent.
Only by meaningfully engaging and listening to the tribes can the Forest Service know what a larger restorative justice commitment would look like, but it should be part of their mandate for the proposed Mount Hood NRA.
Restorative justice for tribes begins with never forgetting — nor accepting — the cultural harm to native peoples caused by white settlement in WyEast country (Celilo Falls in the late 1950s, a few years before it disappeared behind The Dalles Dam)
2. Making public lands truly public. Show up at a popular trailhead in the Gorge or on Mount Hood and you’ll immediately see that our public lands are an overwhelmingly white space. This is especially true for trails and campgrounds, as many recent studies have documented. Why is this?
Ask a person of color, and researchers will tell you that white people who dominate the trails and campgrounds are a big part of the problem. The hostility ranges from outright and overt racist attacks to simple comments like “it’s so nice to see a person like you out here.” Well meant? Perhaps, but also unwelcome and uninvited when a simple “hello” is how a white person might have been greeted. Official signage at trailheads and campgrounds can be similarly hostile and unwelcoming in ways that are racist. It’s a problem that requires a plan of action to change.
Removing the barriers that make our public lands unwelcoming to people of color is within our reach, and must be at the core of how the proposed Mount Hood NRA is managed
The legislative concept should speak explicitly to this in the provisions required for the Mount Hood NRA management plan. As written, the concept vaguely mentions providing a “variety of recreational experiences to serve diverse users”. It should be more specific: our public lands have a racial diversity problem that implies specific bias that prevents black and brown Americans from sharing these special places equally. That’s unacceptable and should be a filter for everything in the new management plan.
Like the previous topic on restorative justice for tribes, this work must begin with the Forest Service directly engaging – and listening — to communities of color as they develop a plan of action. This conversation also means meeting black and brown communities where they are, not at a remote ranger station located miles from the nearest population center. It’s a long-overdue conversation and the proposed Mount Hood NRA is the perfect vehicle to begin this work.
3. Law enforcement without all the baggage? When I walked into White River Falls State Park last summer with a friend who is a young Black man, he groaned, cringed visibly and shook his head at a giant new sign (below) that the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department had placed at the trailhead. No doubt it was installed to deal with heavy vandalism in recent years to the historic structures in the park, but I’m quite sure the park managers didn’t intend the reaction my friend experienced. They message was intended to protect the very resources he came here to enjoy, but made him feel deeply unwelcome, instead.
This sign at White River Falls betrays a tone-deafness to how images of law enforcement might impact communities of color – in this case, literally the image a faceless authoritarian with a finger pointed at arriving visitors
It’s a painful fact that we live in fraught times with our law enforcement. So, when I read the public safety element of the legislative concept, I had that new sign at White River Falls in mind. What is the law enforcement issue there? Largely, young people tagging historic structures. I doubt the new sign with have much impact (except to become a new target for tagging?), but an occasional human law enforcement presence might help – or perhaps a security camera?
I don’t presume to know the answers, but having my own vehicles broken into a couple of times at trailheads — and having encountered much more troubling lawless behavior away from the more popular areas—I do think the idea of providing federal funding for expanded law enforcement through local counties is a good one. But given the times we live in, I’d also like to see that funding come with strings attached: the officers should be uniformed distinctly and differently from their local agency, as Mount Hood NRA officers. Creating a new, hybrid law enforcement identity would also be an opportunity to build some racial diversity in the generally rural law enforcement jurisdictions that would carry out this work.
I’m also quite open to security cameras at trailheads – as most hikers are (especially younger hikers). There was a time when this might have been controversial (say, ten years ago?) but today these are among the few public places that don’t have some sort of security monitoring, right down to our front doors, complete with doorbell cams. Lawless people know this, and it’s evidenced by the piles of broken glass than can be found throughout most of the major trailheads in the Gorge and on Mount Hood.
Law enforcement on public lands is a thorny topic, indeed, but one that needs more thought and attention than is reflected in the current legislative concept.
Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO) volunteers building new trail at Punchbowl Falls Park
4. Set benchmarks for recreation. You may know that Congress has a long history of setting annual logging quotas for the Forest Service that must be met. So, if the purpose of the Mount Hood NRA is to shift the management emphasis of the forest from commercial logging to forest recovery and recreation for Mount Hood and the Gorge, why not set quotas for recreation?
This could be in the form of new trails and trailheads constructed, or the number of hikers who show up at trailheads – or both – measured per capita, as defined by the population living within 100 miles of the Mount Hood NRA, for example. Since the late 1960s, the Forest Service has acknowledged an ongoing growth in demand for trails, yet the system hasn’t grown, and what we have has increasingly fallen into disrepair. Why is this?
One of the greatest barriers to expanding trails is simply a mindset within the Forest Service. After decades of inadequate funding from Congress for trail construction and maintenance, the agency culture has been apprehensive to even talking about new trails. This, despite the obvious demand and overcrowding on the existing system. The problem also includes doing the needed planning, engineering and environmental assessments needed to advance new trail projects when funding does come – a critical obstacle that only the Forest Service can remove.
The proposed Mount Hood NRA provides an opportunity to link the new agency focus on recreation to both the growing interest in trails and sheer numbers of people living in proximity to the forest. If specific benchmarks were set up as funding incentive in the legislation, it could speed the transition of the Forest Service culture from logging to forest recovery and recreation, including making the planning work needed to move new trail projects from concept to construction a priority in agency budgets.
The opening segment of the new Mirror Lake Trail, the first accessible trail built on Mount Hood in decades
5. Accessible trails and trailheads are not a luxury. For too long our public land agencies have viewed recreation opportunities for people with disabilities as something outside the norm. The result is a woefully inadequate system of accessible outdoor trails for people who use walkers, wheelchairs or other mobility devices. As our population becomes increasingly older in coming years, and the share with disabilities grows, this unmet need for accessible trails will only accelerate.
There have been some shining successes – the Lost Creek nature trail and Little Crater Lake trail area couple of my favorites. But even these trails fail to get the basic maintenance needed to remain fully accessible. The legislative concept should include a specific provision that a complete system of accessible recreation facilities and sites be incorporated into the Mount Hood NRA plan and constructed as part of the benchmarked targets described above.
Who hasn’t stopped here to admire this roadside view?
6. Transportation IS a recreation experience! There’s a spot near Hood River, along the Mount Hood Loop, that I blogged about years ago. The view of Mount Hood and the upper Hood River Valley that unfolds there is world class. More often than not on a clear day, there’s a car or two pulled over, with someone taking photos with their phone. It’s not surprising, as since the original Mount Hood Loop was completed in the early 1920s, it has been a classic touring route. It just hasn’t been managed that way for many years.
It’s true that the modern Mount Hood Loop carries a lot of traffic, and the proposed legislation concept speaks to the basic transportation needs that exist – the lack of meaningful transit, the complete lack of a safe bikeway along Highway 35 and U.S. 26 and (less explicitly) the lack of what planners call “demand management” to promote incentives for visitors to use travel options like transit and visit outside of peak travel times. Demand management would include managing peak period parking at major trailheads and destinations in the Gorge and on Mount Hood – again, implied, but not specific.
These are all good things needed to make traveling around the mountain and through the Gorge a better experience, and less of a barrier to people who don’t have access (or prefer not to use a car), in particular. But the legislative concept should also call for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Forest Service to work collaboratively to create a transportation vision – a long-range plan to make the experience of traveling to and around the mountain a destination, in itself.
Congress can’t directly regulate ODOT, but it can regulate an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation known as the Western Federal Lands Highway Division. This is an agency with a regional office in Vancouver that has led several projects on Mount Hood in recent years, including the White River Bridge replacement, the historic Sahalie Falls Bridge restoration and designing and constructing the new Mirror Lake Trailhead. They have long worked with ODOT, and could be the avenue for the new legislation to be specific about improving the traveling experience on the mountain through a collaborative planning effort with ODOT.
ODOT’s designs for new structures in the Columbia Gorge draw from a carefully developed policy guidance developed by the agency (the new Fifteenmile Bridge on I-84)
Elements of a Mount Hood NRA transportation plan could build on the excellent design policy that ODOT has followed for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area over the past two decades. This policy guides the design and maintenance details of I-84 and the Historic Columbia River Highway from the smallest details (did you know the back of freeway signs in the Gorge are painted “national park brown”?) to bold, as ODOT gradually replaces old slab-style concrete freeway bridges in the Gorge with handsome new structures that are a visual complement to scenic area (shown above).
A Mount Hood NRA transportation plan should also incorporate the re-imagining of several long- abandoned or bypassed sections of the old loop highway into a continuation of the world-class Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail that is nearing completion in the Gorge. ODOT has built the in-house expertise for this work, and will soon have the capacity once their work on the Gorge trail “final five” miles is completes over the new few years. I posted two articles on this concept for Mount Hood early in 2021 (and have also shared these with congressional staff – please feel free to mention them in your comments, too!)
Another piece of the transportation puzzle that calls for a plan under the new Mount Hood NRA are the off-highway, paved forest routes, like Lolo Pass Road (FR 18/ FR 1810), Dufur Mill Road (FR 44) and White River Road (FR 48) that function as scenic drives, but suffer badly from disrepair and a complete lack of visitor amenities. Each of these routes needs a management plan and vision for making them the positive recreational experience that the public is already seeking when the venture on to these roads.
Which brings me to a final element of a Mount Hood NRA transportation plan – gateways, enhanced directional signage, waysides, pullouts and interpretive displays that tell the story of WyEast country to the traveling public. These are all things you would find in a parkway design in one of our national parks, and the Mount Hood NRA should have parkway designations for Highway 35, U.S. 26 and the off-highway routes mentioned above, too, with design guidelines to ensure a great travel experience as the system is developed over time. There are plenty of great parkway plans to draw from, the proposed legislation just needs to provide the mandate to do the work.
Civilian Conservation Corps crews building trail in the 1930s
7. The CCC? It was a great idea in 1932… And it’s still a great idea: the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to get young, idle men off the street and into productive work that would give them job skills, food, housing, clothing and a modest paycheck ($30/month, of which $25 was sent to their families!). It was among the most popular New Deal programs, but sadly, the CCC was disbanded in 1942 as our country went to war.
The proposed Mount Hood NRA provides a unique opportunity to revive the CCC model, but in modernized form. The benefits to the NRA are clear, with youth workers helping to restore, build and maintain trails, trailheads and campgrounds, along with habitat and forest restoration work – all things the original CCC did, and whose work still shapes what we see in our forests today.
A modern CCC would be open to all youth, not just young men, and compensation could include college tuition credits, along with a paycheck, room and board. Mount Hood already has Forest Service facilities that could (again) become CCC camps – Camp Zigzag, Timber Lake in the Clackamas River corridor and the Herman Creek work center in the Gorge, to name some of the more obvious options.
The legislative concept hints at this possibility, but it should be fully incorporated as a core element of the vision for the Mount Hood NRA in order to drive the needed Congressional funding.
Badger Creek Wilderness and Mount Hood from the White River Wildlife Area
8. Let’s get the boundaries right. The overall scope of the Mount Hood NRA, as expressed on the draft map [link], is terrific. Notably, it includes both Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands along the west edge (along the US 26 corridor), as well as the various pieces of federal land that frame the upper Hood River Valley. It would have been easy to leave these small parcels out, but they provide an important starting point for public land acquisition by the Forest Service to better define the Mount Hood NRA – though a directive to do this work should be included in the legislation. The now-permanent Land and Water Conservation Fund already provides an important funding conduit for these needed land acquisitions.
There are also a few pieces missing from the proposed Mount Hood NRA on the concept map. First, most of the Badger Creek Wilderness is excluded. This is a big oversight if the goal of the proposed Mount Hood NRA is to shift the Forest Service focus to recreation. Why? Because the Badger Creek Wilderness has a deep backlog of trail maintenance needs that are out of reach for urban volunteers doing day trips, as many of the Badger Creek trails are remote and require overnight crews.
Second, the nearby Dog River drainage that falls within The Dalles watershed management area is excluded. The Dog River is proposed to become a Wild and Scenic River in the legislative concept, and the Dog River basin already has a lot of recreation activity, as it is not a fenced watershed. Well-traveled Dufur Mill Road (FR 44) travels extensively through the watershed, and a number of other forest roads, hiking and biking trails are in or near the watershed, including the popular High Prairie trailhead. It makes sense to include Dog River in the Mount Hood NRA in order to more effectively manage these activities — and to ensure that recreation will continue to be allowed here.
Pup Creek Falls is excluded from the proposed Mount Hood NRA, along most of the Clackamas River National Recreation Trail
A third map oversight is along the south edge of the proposed Mount Hood NRA, where the south half of the Roaring River Wilderness is left outside the proposed recreation area, along with a section of the Clackamas River that is traversed by the Clackamas River National Scenic Trail. Some of this area was burned in the 2020 Riverside fire, and that reality, alone, is reason enough to bring it into the NRA to direct resources toward rebuilding and restoring trails and campgrounds. While I would like to see the entire Clackamas basin brought into the NRA, that will have to wait for future legislation. For now, extending the proposed Mount Hood NRA boundary south to the Collawash River confluence would be a reasonable start.
The Upper Sandy Guard Station in better days. Today, it is on the brink of being unsalvageable, despite being on the National Historic Register
9. Don’t forget our history! Finally, an important missing element in the legislative concept is some sort of recognition that we are rapidly losing historic structures through the Mount Hood National Forest. The 2020 Riverside Fire destroyed several of these priceless buildings, so recognizing and preserving the remaining gems is even more urgent today. The Mount Hood NRA management plan should include an updated historic resources inventory and plan for capital investments needed to stabilize or restore sites and structures – ideally, in partnership with non-profit partners.
What can you do?
That’s a deep dive into the legislative concept, along with ways it might be improved. If you have read this far, kudos for being a friend of Mount Hood and the Gorge! The next step is to weigh in, and you’d be surprised how much your thoughts matter to congressional staff – they really do care! The timeline for commenting on the concept and map is short – they must be submitted by this Friday, January 7. Again, here’s the online form for commenting:
That said, if you’re not able to weigh in during this round, watch this space – I’ll post updates on the legislation as it (hopefully) moves forward. While there is a lot of major legislation churning through Congress right now, it’s entirely possible that this concept will get turned into a bill that makes it through both chambers… with a little luck and a push for all who love Mount Hood and the Gorge!