News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

New ranger station progressing

As winter wanes and spring appears in the shortening shadows, it’s time for another Ranger’s Corner.

While 2021 is a transition year in many ways, Sisters Ranger District employees are still hard at work stewarding and protecting your national forest. This year will bring more active management, community engagement, and a major shift in the management of three Central Oregon wilderness areas.

First, we welcome two new permanent employees to the Sisters Ranger District: John DeLuca and Lauren DuRocher. John is our new wildlife biologist and has years of experience working with partners and conserving wildlife including northern spotted owls. Lauren is our new environmental coordinator and has vast experience in project management, community collaboration and complex vegetation management.

We also say farewell to Nate Dachtler, one of our esteemed fisheries biologists, who recently accepted a promotion in Bend.

Speaking of vegetation management, we are working on two vegetation projects on Green Ridge, west of Sisters. The first is a danger-tree removal project along roads in the 2020 Green Ridge Fire scar. The second is a large landscape restoration project, for which we intend to release a draft environmental assessment this summer. Green Ridge is an important area for wildlife, as well as a potential wildfire buffer from populated areas. We continue to administer a logging contract for diseased and dead trees around Suttle, Dark, and Scout lakes. And our silviculturists are diligently preparing for thousands of acres of reforestation this spring in the 2017 Milli Fire burn scar.

The Deschutes National Forest was recently awarded over $3 million in USDA Joint Chiefs funding. Much of these funds will be spent in the Sisters “fireshed” and will target fuels reduction and fish and wildlife habitat restoration. Expect to see smoke in the air outside of Sisters this spring as we resume our underburning program after a one-year hiatus related to COVID-19. As always, we will work to ensure smoke impacts are brief, localized, and well-communicated.

Many of you have likely heard about the permit system coming this summer to the Mount Washington, Mount Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness areas. The intent of this project is to manage for wilderness character as mandated by law: with solitude and naturalness key tenets of wilderness character. Permits go live on April 6 through and ranger district staff are available to answer questions about the permit process. Staff will be monitoring the results of this summer’s permit season and adapting the process as necessary in the future.

In the spirit of community engagement, there are several upcoming opportunities for the public to interact with Forest Service employees around many of the projects described above. The first is a virtual Sisters Ranger District open house scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. on April 13. The second is a community conversation around long-term dispersed camping concerns sponsored by Sisters Citizens4Community “Let’s Talk” on the evening of Monday, May 17. The third is a community dialogue and brainstorming session around Sisters Ranger District trails master planning in mid-June (details TBD).

Please watch The Nugget and Deschutes National Forest social media for more details about these three upcoming community-engagement events.

Due to COVID-19, the front office of the ranger station is still closed to the general public, although we hope to see some changes in 2021 that will allow for more traditional public contacts. We are available by phone at 541-549-7700 during weekday business hours to answer your questions. Or you can email us at [email protected] and we will reply as soon as possible.

Finally, our design contract with Steele Associates Architects to design the new Sisters ranger station is progressing splendidly and we have recently approved a 30 percent design. We intend to commence construction on the new warehouse in 2022; and the main ranger station as soon as 2023, dependent on funding.

Watch for an article in The Nugget soon describing the historic relationship between the Forest Service and the City of Sisters as the City experiences its 75th anniversary. Enjoy the days ahead; there is light at the end of the tunnel!


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