Oregon BHA Bolsters Commitment to Backcountry Access

The Oregon Chapter of BHA and our members are dedicated towards maintaining and improving access to some of the wildest and most remote places in Oregon. This commitment is why Oregon BHA has just contributed $2,500 to the Wallowa Mountains Hells Canyon Trails Association, a dedicated group of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who monitor and help maintain trails in Hells Canyon and the Wallowa Mountains.

There are approximately 1400 miles of trails in the Eagle Cap and Hells Canyon Wilderness areas. The Eagle Cap is the largest and most heavily visited wilderness in Oregon east of the Cascades. Visitation recently has been 50% higher than in the past (USFS estimates). Although selected in 2018 under HR 845 as one of fifteen Priority Areas nationwide, where "a lack of maintenance has led to reduced access to public land; increased risk of harm to natural resources; public safety hazards; impassable trails; or increased future trail maintenance costs," the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is only able to field skeleton trail crews of a few people each year.

The result is that there are many miles of trail with deferred maintenance, contributing to the concentration of visitors and hunters in fewer areas and degradation of both the natural resource and visitor’s experiences. There are many trails that have hundreds of trees down or so much brush that they have become impassable to stock and all but the most determined and experienced hikers.

The resulting concentration of visitors and hunters in the few areas that remain easily accessible has created huge issues in terms of tread damage, erosion, water quality, visitor solitude, and almost any other metric you can think of.

WMHCTA’s work is laser focused towards improving access to two of Oregon's premier wilderness recreation and hunting areas, will reduce and reverse degradation of natural resources, and will protect an essential element of this area's natural legacy and economic vitality.

In addition to this financial contribution, Oregon BHA will once again be partnering with WMHCTA in 2023 to organize some volunteer work parties to clear downed trees, cut back brush, and do whatever else is necessary to keep these backcountry trails open and accessible.  If you are interested in helping out, want to meet like-minded people, and enjoy our public lands, keep your eyes and ears open for calls to action or check in on the WMHCTA and Oregon BHA website’s for opportunities.

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