Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Greg Walden calls for answers on Cultus Lake closure

June 13, 2017
Press Release

Greg Walden calls for answers on Cultus Lake closure

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) today voiced his concern about the recent closure of the Cultus Lake Campground on the Deschutes National Forest. In a letter sent to Deschutes National Forest Supervisor, John Allen, Walden called for answers on the process for the identification of the hazard trees that led to the closure, and the timeline moving forward for the environmental analysis required to remove these trees and open the lake to the public.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Supervisor Allen,

I am writing to voice my strong concern about the recent closure of the Cultus Lake Campground and Day-use area located on the Deschutes National Forest (Forest).  It is my understanding that the Cultus Campground, Day-use Area, and potentially the area surrounding the Cultus Lake Boat Ramp will be closed for the summer pending the removal of dead and diseased trees.  This last minute closure through September of one of central Oregon’s most popular summer recreation spots is disappointing and has a significant impact on the local community and economy.

I want to be very clear that safety on the Forest must be a top priority.  That said, I found recent comments from District Ranger Kevin Larkin extremely concerning that this issue could have been resolved long before it reached this point.  Specifically, Mr. Larkin said in a news article dated June 12, 2017, “It’s definitely the case we could have caught something earlier.”  That statement is alarming considering the well-known value of Cultus Lake to summertime recreation in central Oregon.  That the Forest Service missed an opportunity to remove hazard trees to ensure the safety of Forest users and allowed this situation to reach the point of closure is unacceptable.

It is my understanding that to now remove these dead and diseased hazard trees, the Forest Service must conduct extensive environmental analysis due to the potential presence of the Northern Spotted Owl habitat. Any removal of any hazard trees must take place outside of the owl’s breeding season, which concludes at the end of September. Even though, as Mr. Larkin pointed out in the same news article, the owls “aren’t likely to be nesting in the campground.”

I would like to meet with you on-site to see what needs to be done, and better understand the process going forward and what steps are being taken to resolve the situation. In the meantime, I would appreciate you providing details as to when these hazard trees were first identified and what the timeline is for completing the environmental analysis. Further, what is being done to ensure this situation isn’t repeated in the future?

Finally, I found it extremely concerning that the Forest Service was unsure whether reservation fees would be refunded to people who pre-booked campsites at the 55 site campground.  It is my understanding that camping fees would be refunded, but it was unclear as to the associated reservation fees.  This is extremely disappointing to hear and I look forward to hearing your rationale behind this process. 

I appreciate your prompt attention to this important issue and look forward to working with you to schedule a site visit.