Less climbing to the top

  The Mount Hood National Forest has traditionally been a weekend haven for many Oregonians, but it might not be for long. The three wilderness areas that lie within the forest have eight times as many visitors as they did 10 years ago, and an average of 900 hikers crowd the Mount Hood Wilderness Area during a typical summer weekend. Forest officials, concerned that solitude in the wilderness is hard to find and popular spots are getting trashed, have proposed a drastic reduction in the number of people allowed on 20 of its most popular trails. Some reductions would be as much as 90 percent to ensure a "primeval" experience as mandated by the 1964 Wilderness Act. Opponents have already spoken up. "I haven't heard of many people supporting the proposal," says Doug Wilson of the Mazamas, a Portland-based group of hikers and climbers. "We are very much in support of wilderness, but we feel this is unreasonable."

Forest officials say they are listening. "We are looking at this in terms of a floor and a ceiling," says Glen Sachet of the Mount Hood National Forest. "The floor is resource damage the forest cannot tolerate, and the ceiling is limiting use for solitude. We are looking for a decision somewhere in between." The final plan should be released later this year.

For more information or a copy of the proposal, contact the Mount Hood National Forest at 503/668-1700 or write 16400 Champion Way, Sandy, OR 97055.

* Juniper Davis

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