Officials at the U.S. Forest Service say they have a problem in the Central Oregon Cascades with too many visitors in the wilderness. The Forest Service plans to limit access by restricting the number of permits available to would-be visitors.
The Forest Service is working to come up with a system that keeps wilderness available, though cuts down on use in many areas. It will likely include having some permits available by reservation, some on relatively short notice and charging a fee. It’s now asking the public to comment on what it’s come up with.
Unfortunately, the agency does not say what the permits will cost. That makes reasoned public comment on its proposals difficult.
How can the public be expected to endorse a quota system without knowing the cost? Would it be OK if it were $5 per person, $10, $20? What about $50? The cost helps shape whether the proposal is fair.
But before Forest Service could do that at the same time it presents the structure of the quotas, there would need to be a change in the law.
Congress should do just that, and there should be no party-line bickering about the matter. If it expects the Forest Service to include the public in its planning for such things, it must give the agency the tools the public needs to understand what’s being proposed.