Bark advocates for social and ecological responsibility in recreation management by the Mt. Hood National Forest Service
Every year millions of people visit Mt. Hood National Forest and recreation use in Mt. Hood continues to increase as the population grows in communities in and around the National Forest. Visitors and the activities they enjoy are more diverse than ever. As a recreation destination Mt. Hood draws people from all over the world. One hears multiple languages spoken at recreation sites in the forest reflecting, in part, the influence of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan population.
Bark recognizes that access to recreation opportunities in the forest is a priority for our communities and the primary way many people develop a bond to special places. People use the forest for everything from foraging and fishing, to camping and hiking, to skiing and biking, to swimming and boating, and beyond. Whether you visit the forest for rest and communion with the natural world or to push your own physical limits by scaling the slopes of Mt. Hood, our public forest lands are an important resource for recreation.
With now more than one million people living within an hour’s drive of Mt. Hood National Forest, the expectations of nearby communities are different than they were in 1990 when the Forest Service adopted the Land and Resource Management Plan (aka Forest Plan) for Mt. Hood. In short, the praxes of the Forest Plan are just as out dated by social and cultural standards as they are ecological, making no mention of climate change; prioritizing commercial extraction over recreation as an economic driver; and neglecting to plan for increasing numbers of people who depended on the forest for clean water for drinking and local agriculture.
National Forest Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) are supposed to be revised every 10-15 years, but Mt. Hood National Forest’s has not been revised in 26 years. To help bring the plan up to date, Bark is exploring opportunities to drive changes in management that will reflect current science and shifts in recreation, public expectations, and the future of communities around the forest.
Barkers are creating new opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, trail running, and bike-packing.
Trails in Mt. Hood National Forest have existed for thousands of years created by the indigenous peoples who lived and traveled throughout the Columbia Plateau. Many of their trails exist today and connect us all to the history of this land. Now, trails are a key element in the recreation experience of thousands of people every year. Trails today are part of the growing recreation economy and access to trails on protected public land is a factor that attracts new businesses and residents to Hood River, Sandy, Portland and other communities.
Bark has been working with allies to identify places where new multi-use trails could be created by converting old, unneeded roads. Waucoma Ridge, north of Mt. Hood and south of the Columbia river is such a place where old roads plus some new trails would become an vast and engaging system of loop trails where mountain bike enthusiasts could enjoy a wilderness-like experience. In addition to providing high quality recreation opportunities, the Waucoma area could also protect water quality and fish populations in streams that flow into the West Fork Hood River and intact, native forests adjacent to the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness Area. Visitors to Waucoma Ridge would be able to enjoy spectacular vistas of Hood, Adams and St. Helens from ridgetop routes or explore forests and streams while traversing lower elevation trails. Proposed new trails in the area, southwest of Hood River, could link to the popular Post Canyon trail system and complement the proposed Oregon Timber Trail a north-south cross state mountain bike route that is in early planning.
Bark works to keep popular trails open and the surrounding forest protected from commercial logging.
Polallie Cooper Timber Sale – This proposed timber sale would impact the popular mountain bike area of Dog River Trail, as well as other hiking trails in the Cooper Spur area.
Potential impacts to recreation in the area include logging near trails, building logging roads that would intersect trails, and serious degradation to the ecological and aesthetic qualities of the area. While the USFS was making plans in 2014 to build logging roads over hiking and biking trails, Bark was showing up to public meetings advocating for multiple road-to-trail conversions in the Polallie Cooper area as well as using both our comments on the timber sale and our recommendations on Mt. Hood's Travel Analysis Process to further push for this type of work.
Bark is working with local recreation groups and residents to oppose the Polallie Cooper Timber Sale. 44 Trails Association is a local volunteer group that maintains the Dog River and other nearby trails who have recommended the Forest Service establish a 200-foot-wide buffer zone (100 feet on each side of the trail) to protect soil moisture. A drier trail tends to be dusty, less fun to ride and harder for volunteers to properly maintain. Bark relies on the experience of people who spend time in the forest to build a comprehensive knowledge of conditions on the ground and included our support of 44 Trails’ recommendations in our formal comments on the Polallie Cooper project. As expected however, the agency proposed much narrower buffers. Bark endeavors to change this proposal by leveraging the many public comments submitted by trail riders and other recreation users. We are working to support other groups in the recreation community around Cooper Spur such as climbers and kayakers to protect these incredible recreation sites and the ecologically intact forest around them.
As a hub of recreation, Mt. Hood National Forest is also home to potential conflicts around recreation. Whether its planning for safe Off-Highway Vehicle access or ensuring that the public has affordable access to the forest, the Forest Service is charged with managing these lands in a way that accounts for recreation access while protecting sensitive habitats. Find details about specific recreation proposals and management through the link below.