Over the past two decades, recreational use of Mt. Hood National Forest has skyrocketed, drawing millions of local residents and visitors each year for a wide range of activities that includes hiking, backpacking, camping, trail running, fishing, picnicking, and skiing. This growing popularity is having a significant economic impact on nearby communities, with the sale of outdoor recreational goods and services produced in the region generating more than $45 million per year.
Unfortunately, the existing Mt. Hood Land and Resource Management Plan prioritizes timber harvests –– which on average generate less than $2 million per year in revenue for the U.S. Forest Service, which actually loses money on most timber sales –– over outdoor recreation and all other uses. This emphasis on timber harvests persists despite the fact that the outdoor recreation industry now contributes three times more to Oregon's economy than the logging and wood products industries, while preserving the forest for public use, instead of destroying it for short-term profits.
However, while recreational activities are far less destructive and far more sustainable than logging, their increasing popularity is also having some negative impacts on Mt. Hood National Forest. The growing number of people flocking to the forest for recreation is putting a strain on visitor facilities, contributing to degraded recreation and heritage sites, harming natural habitat, causing conflicts between users, and spawning a ballooning backlog of urgently needed maintenance on facilities, trails, and roads. Meanwhile, some inappropriate recreational uses, such as off-highway vehicle (OHV) use outside designated areas, are being encouraged by logging operations, which open up previously inaccessible areas to destructive activities.
It's time to prioritize forest uses that generate sustainable economic impact while protecting the environment. That’s why we need a new Mt. Hood Land and Resource Management Plan that realistically weighs the environmental, economic, and social benefits of conserving trees rather than cutting them down –– and which manages recreational activities to ensure that the forest’s growing number of visitors don’t negatively impact forest resources.