U.S. Forest Services hopes to curb homeless camping in Oregon forests

EUGENE, Ore. — The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a ban on camping in some areas of eastern Lane County where homeless people gather in the summer.

More than 100 people set up seasonal camps in popular and easily accessible areas near McKenzie River, Cougar Reservoir and Terwilliger Hot Springs, and they leave behind human waste and garbage, agency officials told the Eugene Register-Guard.

The proposed ban applies to areas outside developed campsites. It would extend some areas where what’s called “dispersed camping” is already banned.

The agency says the goal is to move the camping away from streams.

“These camps tend to occur close to fresh water, mainly the McKenzie River and the south fork of the McKenzie River,” said Dave Sanders, a planner with the McKenzie River Ranger District. “These are very sensitive watersheds. They are renowned for clarity and water quality, but there is evidence that the rivers are used to dispose of garbage and fecal waste.”

The agency is accepting comments on the proposed ban until May 17.

People camping illegally are subject to a $100 fine.

“We do a lot of educational contacts where we ask compliance, but do not necessarily fine the person,” said Katie Isacksen, a spokeswoman for the Willamette forest. “This is especially true when a new order is in place. However, whether or not a fine will be issued is up to the discretion of a forest protection officer or law enforcement officer.”

The agency already bans camping for longer than 14 days in one spot, whether in developed sites or outside.

“After that, you are asked to leave because then it becomes more of a matter of lifestyle than camping,” Willamette forest spokeswoman Katie Isacksen said. “Then it becomes an issue of how you are dealing with your waste and your trash. It can become unsustainable because the impacts can make it difficult for vegetation to recover.”


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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