News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters Ranger District unveils HQ plans

Initial plans for the proposed new Sisters Ranger District headquarters were outlined at last week’s virtual open house. (Video of entire meeting available on Deschutes National Forest Facebook page.)

The current office was built in the 1950s and has a number of safety and accessibility issues. According to Sisters District Ranger Ian Reid, “The new station is necessary to keep us here (in Sisters).”

By dividing the 80-acre parcel of Forest Service property into three pieces and selling them separately, while retaining the southeastern part of Parcel 2 for the new headquarters, money will be available to construct the new buildings. It was necessary to get special authority from the U.S. Forest Service to divide and sell the property.

Parcel 3, on the north side of Barclay, will be the site of 14 light industrial buildings. The center portion, Parcel 2, between West Barclay, North Pine, and Highway 20, has been sold for a multi-use development. Parcel 1, located south of Highway 20, is currently for sale with negotiations for purchase underway.

The new headquarters will have three separate wings meant to symbolize the Three Sisters — Faith, Hope, and Charity. Reid hopes that work will begin on a new warehouse in 2022 and on the new headquarters in 2023. Within the building will be a conference room that will be made available to 501(c)(3) organizations after hours. Housing for seasonal staff will also be located on the property.

Seasonal work getting underway

A great deal of work is planned or underway on the District to mitigate damage to the National Forest from fires over the last several years. Thousands of new trees are being planted in the Milli Fire scar around Highway 242 west of Sisters, which is scheduled to open on June 21.

Since the Cache Mountain Fire in 2002, the Sisters Area Fuel Reduction (SAFR) Program over the past 20 years has allowed for more successful fire suppression and safer forest operations, according to Andrew Myhra, Cascade Division Fire Management Officer and Fuels Specialist. (See related story.)

Myhra said that there were 103 fire responses on the Sisters Ranger District in 2020 including the Green Ridge Fire caused by lightning, as well as the Lionshead Fire that started in the Metolius Basin and then turned and headed west over the hill. Myhra warned that if there is a rapid spring melt-off of snow, there could be an earlier start to the 2021 fire season.

Haley Anderson, Sisters Ranger District Silviculturist and Vegetation Manager, explained the danger tree removal project on last year’s Green Ridge fire area to provide for long-term public and employee safety along the roadside. The timber sale in that area is being used as a tool to conduct the project, and is not the reason for the project.

Danger trees are removed if they stand within one-and-a-half times their height from the road. If a danger tree (dead, dying or diseased) is 100-feet tall and it is 150-feet from the road, it is removed.

A Green Ridge Landscape Restoration Project is being undertaken on 25,000 acres to improve forest resiliency and ecological function by thinning the trees, aspen restoration, and doing some prescribed burning.

District Forester Steve Orange discussed the Suttle Lake Vegetation Project, which includes Camp Tamarack on Dark Lake south of Suttle Lake. The Forest Service hopes to be finished with the removal of dead, diseased, and danger trees around May 1.

Other work in the area that will require weekday closures, will be at Link Creek (done by Memorial Day), the Suttle Lake Loop Trail campground area, and Scout Lake (done by mid-to-late June). These areas will be open to the public only on the weekends while work is underway. Roadside work will take place between Scout and Dark Lakes to remove danger, dead, and dying trees.

According to Mike Reihle, District Fish Biologist, First Creek Road will be permanently closed and decommissioned. Decompacting of the roadbed will enable planting of vegetation to improve wildlife habitat. That work will be undertaken later in the summer.

Areas of the Metolius River that have been restored by the instream Wood Placement Project have yielded three times as many Chinook salmon and two times as many redband trout, according to the District. More logs are scheduled for placement in the river, but they will not be in the main channel and will not block boat passage.

Campgrounds and permits

All fee campsites on the Sisters Ranger District are available by reservations only on, according to Sarah Baughman, Recreation Team Leader for the district. All non-fee campgrounds are first come-first serve. Campers are encouraged when doing disbursed camping to please use already established sites to avoid creating new sites.

Baughman reminded equestrians to bring stock water with them to Graham Corral because there is currently uncertainly as to whether or not water will be available.

The new limited permitting system for the wilderness areas of Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters is necessary to protect the wilderness from more damage due to increased use by the public, according to Deschutes National Forest Staff Officer Lisa Machnik. Wilderness Permits in the Central Cascades Wilderness are required between the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and the last Friday in September for all overnight use. Some day use in these wilderness areas also requires permits.


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