News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

USFS shares work and future plans

The Sisters Ranger District, led by District Ranger Ian Reid, was on full display at the Sisters Fire Community Room last Wednesday before a crowd of 70 people who came to hear what the district accomplished in 2022 and what the plans are for 2023.

Reid began the evening by quoting the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Gifford Pinchot who said, “A public servant is there to serve the public, not run them.” Reid and his staff take that philosophy to heart.

The district staff shared highlights of last year’s projects, including vegetation management completed on 250 acres at Suttle Lake as well as the CCC shelter restoration at Cinder Beach on Suttle Lake.

Working with Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and the Heart of Oregon Corps, they completed a swamp restoration project on lower Black Butte Ranch that will hopefully bring beavers back to that habitat.

Other activities included management of the Fly Creek and Big Canyon fires near Lake Billy Chinook, which were started by lightning.

Prescribed burning of underbrush (1,500 acres) and piles (863 acres), as well as mowing of 1,626 acres helped reduce the risk of wildfires. In past wildfires, prescribed burns have proven to be a key in anchoring both the Milli and Green Ridge fires. The plan is to conduct prescribed burns on over 2,000 acres this year, conditions permitting. Reid announced that the nationwide ban on prescribed burns, which was instituted last year, has been lifted. Prescribed burns reduce fire fuels while increasing tree vigor and health.

Special use permits were issued in Camp Sherman to Central Electric Cooperative (CEC) for fuels reduction under powerline rights-of-way and for the First Net tower on Black Butte.

Central Cascade Wilderness day-use permits will become available for reservations on a 10-day and two-day rolling window in advance of the hiking date, beginning June 5, 2023, at 7 a.m. The first day for the permit season is June 15, which runs through October 15. A digital PDF permit on a mobile device is acceptable for showing proof of permit.

There are two types of permits available for visiting the Central Cascades Wilderness areas of Oregon – day-use and overnight permits. Because more than 40 percent of the day-use permits sold last year were not used, the USFS changed the way the day-use system works, not allowing permit purchases before the beginning of the hiking season and no more than 10 days in advance.

For example, if 45 day-hikers are allowed to enter the wilderness at a trailhead every day of the permit season, on any given day, 27 permits would be available 10 days before the day-hikers would be entering the wilderness and the remaining permits would be released two days prior.

Overnight campers can still purchase permits ahead of time, beginning on Wednesday April 5, at 7 a.m. They will only need a permit for the day they enter the wilderness. Quotas will be based on the day they enter.

Day-use and overnight permits cost $1 and $6 respectively and can be purchased at Recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

This year, 2023, is seeing the construction of the new 4,000-squre-foot USFS warehouse, the first phase of the District administration site upgrades. Reid hopes to break ground on the new headquarters building no later than 2024. When complete, the building will be able to house all 90 full-time, part-time, and seasonal staff under one roof. The facility will include a large meeting room available for use by local groups.

This spring, Forest Road 16 (Three Creek Lake Road) will be closed for five weeks from the snow park to the lake to allow for some road work. Crews will return in the fall to do some patching. Also this spring, the 1230 road to Jack Lake will be receiving pulverized asphalt. Other Forest Service roads will be bladed under a public works contract.

Numerous improvement projects are planned, including corral repairs, new trail planning, new vault toilets in three locations, Indian Ford watershed restoration, and Cougar Rock vegetation restoration. CEC will be conducting right-of-way maintenance between Sisters and Black Butte Ranch as part of wildfire resiliency planning. Trees that are taken down will be used for stream restoration work.

The three main programs used to improve wildfire resiliency include suppression when a fire starts, with summer lookouts posted on Black Butte and Green Ridge. Prevention of fire is encouraged by posting signage, and public education events. Fuels management includes prescribed burns, mowing of underbrush, and mastication of vegetation. Work is generally done from the wildland urban interface out into surrounding national forest.

According to District fire maps, half of Sisters Ranger District has burned, and Sisters is in the middle of an active area for fires.

The forecast for this spring is for seasonal temperatures and moisture through June, which should preclude early potential for large fires in May and June. There is minor improvement in the drought conditions with an above average snowpack this year, but more than one good snowpack year is needed to make a major difference.

A volunteer information night will be held April 4 by Discover Your Forest in Bend.

 

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