Forest Service details future plans
Last updated 4/19/2022 at Noon
With over 60 people filling the Sisters Fire Hall community room, the U.S. Forest Service Sisters Ranger District Open House on Monday, April 11 was loaded with relevant information on all the Forest Service activities and projects already undertaken and those planned for the coming year.
Sisters District Ranger Ian Reid said the purpose of the first in-person open house in two years was to inform the public about proposed projects and get feedback from the attendees. Reid hoped to achieve a two-way information flow to promote understanding of how tax dollars are spent locally by the Forest Service.
Highlights of 2021 activities were plentiful, all undertaken to improve the surrounding forest environment and reduce wildfire risk. Reid reported that during last year’s fire season, the Forest Service and all their partners developed a cohesive strategy to work together as a division. He pointed to the quick unified response to the Grandview Fire, which could have had a much greater catastrophic result if not caught early with an organized response.
Other highlights reported on by district staff included the Suttle Lake Vegetation Management Project, partnering with the Oregon Department of Forestry utilizing the Good Neighbor Authority for the first time to sell log decks, ribbon grass treatment along the Metolius River, aquatic invasive species removal at Lake Billy Chinook, Glaze Meadow restoration working with the Heart of Oregon Corps, and the decommissioning of roads at First Creek.
Reforestation in the Milli Fire burn scar was begun and the underburning program in the spring and fall was reinstated. Last summer the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit system was instituted and improvements have been made for 2022.
Reid said it is rare for the Forest Service to have a parcel of land that is disposed of through a public sale.
Of the 80 acres surrounding the district office at the west end of town, 70 have been and are currently being sold to local developers for workforce housing and a light industrial park and to the City of Sisters for developing a mobility hub at the East Portal.
The money from those sales will help finance the building of a new district office and warehouse on the remaining 10 acres.
The new office will allow the entire district staff to be housed under one roof.
Reid showed a drawing of the new headquarters by Steele and Associates, which is at the 100-percent design phase.
Phase 1 will be the construction of the new warehouse to be completed this year.
After 25 months of having the front doors closed due to the COVID pandemic, Reid announced that as of April 12 the district office is again open to the public.
Of his district staff, Reid said, “I have never worked with a group of such great professionals in my 22 years with the Forest Service.”
Questions from the audience were far-ranging, starting with what can be done about campers on public lands over 14 days, the current limit in one location. (See related story, page 1.) Reid said the Forest Service works with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Deschutes County Behavioral Health to identify and inventory the campers. Forest protection officers can issue citations, but the Forest Service can’t trespass them. A magistrate is the only one who can vacate them. Reid referenced a recent paper by a social scientist dealing with non-recreational campers.
Someone else voiced concerns about visitors and non-recreational campers having fires during high fire risk periods. Reid explained they use various methods to inform the public about fire risk. They put reader boards along the highway, increase their patrols of public use areas, increase detection flights over the forest, and add more signage in areas like North Pine Street. They are instituting burning restrictions earlier this year. He reminded everyone that although campfires may be banned, propane burners are legal to use.
Hikers and equestrians on the Pacific Crest Trail covering more than 500 miles must obtain permits from the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Information is available online. Updated signage will inform hikers.