Eugene Weekly, Letter to Editor
On July fifth of this year; several local backcountry skiers and I climbed Mount Shasta. On Mount Shasta all terrain above 10,000 feet is considered by the Forest Service to be wilderness area and the public is requested to obtain a climbers permit to access this terrain. The cost of this permit is fifteen dollars per individual. Intent on fresh tracks rather than an overnight stay above 10,000 feet, as is the case with most climbers starting below 7,000 feet, we did not purchase the permits and were above 10,000 feet for about four hours. While at or near the summit three of the four rangers on top of the mountain that day approached me and asked for my permit. Two of these rangers seemed obligated to issue me waning notices which read, among other things, "there is no penalty" for not obtaining the climbers permit.
Five weeks later I received a citation by mail from the Mount Shasta Forest Service district office demanding my appearance in federal court in Redding, Ca. for the offense of climbing Mount Shasta without a permit. With no option of fee payment or monetary penalty the citation states that non-appearance constitutes a violation which will result in issuance of a federal warrant for my arrest.
Rather than bemoan my fate, my intent in this letter is to alert the public to the necessity of acting soon to assure the freedom of access to our wilderness areas. These areas were set aside for us in perpetuity by the years of effort made to realize the dreams of people like John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Bob Marshall, which were to guarantee free access to these special places of our national heritage. Part of our annual tax burden is allocated to maintain these areas and access to them.
Perhaps the over zealousness of the current protectors of the National Forests reflect a trend which is also being followed by the trail fee program to prop up the rapidly decaying infrastructure of the Forest Service. As massive sell-offs of our resources by the Forest Service to support itself are no longer possible due to environmental concerns, the intent now seems to be to exploit the public pocketbook.
Access to wilderness areas and other federal land is our right. Because our status as individuals seems ineffective, we can only hope that some person of the stature of those aforementioned farsighted individuals will come forth to aid us before the wilderness areas become inaccessible to those of us with limited budgets for special entry permits and parking fees.