Keep Waldo Wild
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Our Campaign to Permanently Protect the Threatened Lands Surrounding Oregon's Waldo Lake
The Oregon Sierra Club has launched a campaign to secure greater protection for nearly 80,000 acres of wild, roadless forest in the Waldo Lake-Maiden Peak area in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Why? It may surprise you to know that most of the area to the east and south, including the 14 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, have no permanent protection from logging and other human intrusions. We want to change that. Keep reading to learn why you should join us in this effort.
Waldo the Beautiful
See Waldo's Best Places
Click a link to open a page of photos from one of our favorite places.
As the second largest natural lake in Oregon, Waldo Lake is one of the purest bodies of water in the world, whose water, it has been said, is more pure than laboratory-grade distilled water. This amazing purity stems from the fact that two-thirds of the lake’s water is direct precipitation, with the remaining third from snowmelt and subsurface water flowing from old growth Mountain Hemlock forest sloping up to the Cascade crest. Until 1972 Waldo Lake was entirely primitive, accessed only by a single rough dirt road from Little Cultus Lake some 13 miles to the northeast. At that time Waldo was surrounded by over 250,000 acres of roadless old growth forest, home to threatened species such as Spotted Owls, Pine Martins, Pacific Fisher, and possibly Wolverine. Human use of the area was very light due to the difficulty in getting there, with just a few primitive trails penetrating the surrounding forests.
A Little History
In 1972 the Forest Service built a paved road into Waldo Lake from Highway 58 to the south, and developed three campgrounds with boat launches, toilets, water spigots, and improved campsites on the eastern shore of the lake. Later, a gravel road was built from the Cascade Lakes Highway to the northeast corner of the lake. As a result, the once unbroken wilderness was now bisected from the south and east, and the amount of human access has increased exponentially. Roadless areas outside the designated Three Sisters and Waldo Wilderness Areas are managed by the Forest Service as primitive areas with no motorized vehicle access through administrative rulings, however, these rules can be modified at any time. Currently, automobile and snowmobile access is allowed on the developed roadways; mountain bikes, equestrians, ultra-marathon runners, hikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoe-ers use the trails through the roadless and old growth areas.
Forest Conservation Areas
There are seven areas proposed for additional protection as Forest Conservation Areas, encompassing about 76,000 acres. While a new concept for National Forests, Forest Conservation Areas are adapted from the National Conservation Area model used extensively for Bureau of Land Management lands. This model provides tailored protections for areas while also allowing compatible recreation use. The Waldo Lake Forest Conservation Areas will protect the areas from logging and motorized vehicle use, while continuing to allow use of the area's trails by mountain bikers and ultra-marathon trail running groups. In addition, Forest Conservation Areas can contain some pristine areas designated as Wilderness Areas under the 1964 Wilderness Act with all the protections afforded under that act. We describe eight such areas below.
The seven proposed Waldo Lake Forest Conservation Areas are:
- Cultus Conservation Area - Adds 5,454 acres of protection on the western and southern shores of Cultus Lake to Forest Road 640 on the south, to the existing Three Sisters Wilderness boundary on the west.
- Charlton Butte Conservation Area - Adds 10,257 acres of protection, bounded by Forest Road (FR) 600 on the north, FR 2031 on the west, FR 4290 on the south, and to the vicinity of Lemish Butte on the east.
- Middle Waldo Conservation Area - protects 2,753 acres between the Waldo Lake shore to the Waldo access road from the Shadow Bay campground on the south to Islet campground on the north.
- Maiden Peak Conservation Area - Adds 37,326 acres of protected forest lands, much of it old growth Hemlock, bounded by road 5897 on the west, road 4290 on the north, Highway 58 on the south, and a north-south line running parallel to and about 3 miles west of Cascade Lakes Highway.
- South Waldo Area - Will add 15,717 acres of protection south from the existing Waldo Wilderness to Highway 58, and east to Forest Road 5897 (Waldo Lake access road). The proposed addition also wraps around the southern boot of the wilderness and extends west to include Mt. David Douglass, “Hell’s Half Acre,” and the Verdun Rock area.
- Marilyn Lakes Conservation Area - A 772 acre area surrounded by Highway 58, the Waldo Lake access road, and the Gold Lake access road. Though a small area, the Marilyn Lakes is mostly old growth that surrounds two scenic lakes.
- West Waldo Area - Adds 3,470 acres of mid-elevation old growth forest and important wildlife habitat along the western boundary of Waldo Lake Wilderness. This area hugs existing wilderness and will prevent further encroachment by logging and mechanized recreation. Past logging was conducted right to and, in some cases, over the wilderness boundary.
We are also proposing eight new Wilderness Areas that will be contained inside the proposed Forest Conservation Areas.
Four of these areas are contiguous to existing Three Sister or Waldo Lake Wilderness Areas, and will become additions to those Wilderness Areas:
- Cultus Wilderness Addition - Adds 2,227 acres to the Three Sisters Wilderness, extending it to the western edges of Little Cultus Lake and Deer Lake.
- Betty Lake Wilderness Addition - Adds 1,729 acres to the Waldo Lake Wilderness, extending it out to the Waldo Lake access road and including Betty Lake and several other small and pristine lakes.
- Deer Camp Lake Wilderness Addition - Extends the Waldo Lake Wilderness Area to the southwest to include the Deer Camp Lake roadless area.
- West Waldo Wilderness Addition - Adds the 3,469 acre Waldo Salmon Creek roadless area to the Waldo Wilderness Area
Four other proposed new Wilderness Areas will protect old growth Hemlock forests along the Cascade Crest and Pacific Crest Trail:
- Charlton Wilderness - Creates a 5,612 acre Wilderness Area extending south from the old Waldo Lake Road, excluding the Taylor Lake developed campground, to the base of Charlton Butte. This area is old growth Mountain Hemlock and is currently designated roadless area.
- Johnny Lake Wilderness - This adds 3,418 acres of wilderness from the Metolius-Windigo Trail eastward to the edge of the designated roadless area, appoximately three miles west of the Cascade Lakes Highway.
- The Twins Wilderness - Adds 7,999 acres from The Twins southeast to the Bobby Lake trail and the edge of the roadless area.
- Maiden Peak Wilderness - Adds 9,028 acres south from the Bobby Lake Trail to the Maiden Peak trail and east to the edge of the roadless area.
You can also open the map above in Adobe Acrobat for the easiest printing experience by clicking on this link: Keep Waldo Wild Proposed Conservation Areas and Wilderness Areas Boundaries Map. Use "Landscape" and "Shrink to Fit" for best results.
A Roadless Old Growth and Wildlife Haven
The area is administered by the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests, with roughly 65% of the land area in the Deschutes National Forest and 35% in the Willamette. From a landscape perspective, this area represents a "missing link" of unprotected land on the Cascade crest and is a critical core habitat for deep forest dwellers such as Pileated Woodpeckers, Spotted Owls, Sooty and Ruffed Grouse, and the mid-sized carnivores mentioned above. Likewise, the Pacific Fisher is considered “rare and possibly declining” in the Deschutes National Forest, but the Forest Service has no management plan for them.
This area is also a possible migration corridor for Wolverines which have recently been photographed in camera traps on Mt. Adams in Washington, and to the south in the Sierra Nevada in California. Wolverines have shown up sporadically in the Oregon Cascades over the years, but no resident population is confirmed in Oregon. They are listed as threatened by the state but have no federal protection due to political roadblocks and budgetary constraints. Wolverines were considered extinct in California since 1910 until one showed up in a camera trap in 2008. Similarly, they were thought to be extirpated in the Cascades south of Mt. Rainier until one also showed up in a camera trap on the flanks of Mt. Adams in 2006, roughly 40 miles north of the Oregon border.
Clearly, the roadless areas around Waldo Lake are core habitat for deep forest dwellers that do not tolerate noise, sustained human incursions, roads, logging, cars, snowmobiles, ATVs, and other inventions of man. They need undisturbed roadless habitat, plain and simple, and these areas provide it beautifully. In addition to wildlife concerns, this area has the largest old growth Mountain Hemlock stand in the state, beautiful lake basins, mountain meadows, streams, several peaks over 7000 feet, and the quiet solitude that is only found in true wildness. Fourteen miles of the Pacific Crest Trail pass through the area. Current threats to the area are encroaching edge effects from the east and south, logging, ATV and snowmobile use, and increased human pressure.
The Maiden Peak/Waldo Lake roadless area is approximately 100,000 acres in size, is a primitive old growth forest with no roads or other human improvements past trails and a few primitive shelters built in the '30s and '40s. With over 100 lakes, several streams, and countless meadows, it is primarily in the same condition as it was when Lewis and Clark first arrived here in Oregon some 200 years ago. Clearly, the Maiden Peak/Waldo Lake roadless area needs to be protected in perpetuity.
Join Our Campaign
To join in this preservation campaign, contact our Waldo Preservation Coordinator, Dave Stowe.
Note that our brochure has not yet been updated to reflect the Forest Conservation Areas and Wilderness Areas proposal. You can print our new map shown above by opening the Keep Waldo Wild Proposed Conservation Areas and Wilderness Areas Boundaries Map in Adobe Acrobat.