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Recreation and outfitter/guide permits for the Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River Grasslands will have new time frames for the proposal process, beginning in August 2013.
For recreationists who utilize the Ochoco and Deschutes National Forest and Crooked River Grasslands, some changes are in the works for Special Use Permits.
A Special Use Authorization is a permit, term permit, temporary permit, lease, or easement that grants rights or privileges of occupancy and use that are subject to specified terms and conditions on National Forest land. The occupancy and use may be for a one-day event such as a wedding or bicycle race, or for up to 40 years such as a ski resort permit.
The biggest change is the time frame for which the Forest Service accepts proposals. Currently, people requesting Special Use Permits must submit a proposal 60 days prior to the event or activity.
The primary goal of the open season system is to provide timely and reliable service to people requesting Special Use Permits. Currently, proposals and permits are submitted throughout the year, which creates inefficiencies in the permit review process. The new time frames will have a specific window, and each permit has a specific time frame that will need to be adhered to.
“What this does is concentrate the dates with which they can apply or submit a new proposal,” commented Staff Officer Karen Brand for the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service.
She said that currently, this is difficult if a proposal is submitted in the middle of the summer during fire season. She added that it can be difficult for them to respond in a timely manner under these circumstances, so these time frames will help applicants to know when their permit proposal will be processed.
Brand said that the permits include recreation residence permit holders who want to submit a new proposal for major modifications to the outside of their residence, and modifications for a cabin more than 50-years-old on Forest Service land. There are several of these residences in the Deschutes National Forest, but there are not any of these kinds of structures in the Ochoco National Forest. The window for these permits is Aug. 15 through Nov. 15, for planned work in the next field season.
Other permits involved in the process are those for recreation events and outfitter/guide permits. Outfitters or guides on National Forest lands and Grasslands provide specialized knowledge, skills, experience, and equipment that general recreationists might not otherwise possess. The policy of the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forest, as well as the Crooked River Grasslands, is to limit the number of permit holders offering similar services to the minimum needed to serve the public demand.
Kate Goossens, spokesperson for the Ochoco National Forest, indicated that in the Ochoco National Forest, the primary outfitter guides are involved in hunting, hiking, and horse guiding.
She clarified that the time windows for outfitters/guides are Oct. 1 through Dec. 1, for the following summer activities, and Feb. 1 through Apr. 1, for the following winter activities. The 60-day time frame is still in effect for the upcoming summer until Aug. 1, 2013.
“The current process is 60 days in advance,” she said. “If you are going to be doing interpretive tours, you would want to apply for a permit during those (new) times.”
The new time windows also include recreation permits in Crook County. Applicants submitting a new proposal for a recreation event must submit a complete proposal 90 days before an event or planned activity.
Goossens said that an important objective for the Forest Service is to improve their own response time to applicants.
“That is what this process does. It kind of forces us into a time line, so that applicants will know that they can expect an answer or response from us within 60 days of the time they submitted their event proposal — whether it has been accepted or declined,” she noted.
She said it was more open-ended before, and the new timelines set some parameters and internal expectations, and what the members of the public who want to plan an event can expect.
“There is not this question mark, ‘When are they going to get back to me?’ They will know they are going to hear from us in a certain amount of time,” said Goossens. “It’s really some positive changes that we are making — to be more responsive to applicants.”
Brand said that they are trying to get the word out, and over time, they will have the process implemented fully.
“It is going to take a year or two,” she said. “It is definitely a change, but it’s not so major of a change, I don’t think people can’t work through it.”
For more information, contact Karen Brand at 541-383-5300 or go to www.fs.usda.gov/goto/centraloregon/special-use-permits
New proposals will be accepted or denied within 60 days from the date of submission. Proposals would not be accepted outside the highlighted time windows after August 2013.