Forest Service Supports Float Plane Ban on Waldo Lake

Register-Guard op-ed by Meg Mitchell

Waldo Lake and the Charnelton burn (J. Johnston)

On Jan. 31, the State’s Aviation Board will take public testimony on a new policy to allow floatplanes on Waldo Lake. At that hearing, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service, I will explain why we continue to support the state’s previous policy that banned the use of Waldo Lake by floatplanes.
Waldo Lake is one of those spectacular places that makes Oregon a special place to live. Located high in the Cascade Mountains, it’s the second deepest lake in the state and has incredibly clear waters.
The American people recognized the remarkable value of this area when Congress designated the land on three sides of the lake as wilderness. Oregonians followed suit by designating the lake itself as a scenic waterway — the only lake in all of Oregon with this honor.
This lake has a passionate following among people seeking a quiet place where they can spend time with family and friends camping, paddling or sailing its pristine waters, and hiking or biking its shores. Waldo Lake is a unique setting, and the tens of thousands of visitors over the years have kept it this way for a very long time, simply through their voluntary behavior and an informal good neighbor policy.
The Forest Service manages the lands surrounding the lake in support of these public expectations. We no longer allow chainsaws, generators and other motorized uses in the undeveloped areas around the lake.
This summer, we will begin talking with visitors about limits on the use of generators and chainsaws in our developed campgrounds around Waldo Lake — something unheard of anywhere else. Most visitors to this area, even in the developed campgrounds, do not want to hear the sounds of motors.
The lake surface itself is managed by the state of Oregon. Last spring, the Oregon State Marine Board reaffirmed the social expectations of a non-motorized experience at Waldo Lake by banning the use of internal combustion motors on boats. Time and again, public policy has reflected public expectations that Waldo Lake is unique and it deserves a unique set of policies to protect what makes it special — the quiet experience that visitors to Waldo Lake have experienced for decades.
Until a few years ago, there were very few landings on the lake because pilots themselves avoided the lake. Most disturbing is the increasing conflict between people at Waldo fueled in part, by this debate itself. One plane landing last summer produced threats of violence from both “sides.”
I would like to personally appeal to the floatplane pilots to continue that practice as they did before, and come to Waldo Lake by automobile. There are only a handful of licensed floatplane pilots in Oregon, and through their social networks, they can continue to avoid landings on this lake.
Over 100 years ago, the first chief of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, charged the agency to seek the greatest good for the greatest number, over the long run.
In the Waldo Lake area, we believe that the greatest good will be preserving the quiet experience that the visitors themselves expect and help make happen.
Meg Mitchell is supervisor of the Willamette National Forest.
Note from Cascadia Wildlands:
We agree with Meg Mitchell, Supervisor of the Willamette National Forest—No Float Planes on Waldo Lake!  Add your voice to this debate about noise, safety, serenity and alien invasive species by making a 2 minute statement in front of the Oregon State Aviation Board at the Willamalane Center, 250 South 32nd Street, Springfield, Oregon 97478 on January 31, 2013.  Statements from the public will be accepted from 6-7:30PM, come early and get a number.