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Forest Service explains winter road closures

In response to puzzlement over automatic winter closures of some roads in the Mt. Hood National Forest despite the absence of snow, the U.S. Forest Service issued a press release explaining the rationale.

Public Affairs Officer Laura Pramuk explained that many of the forest’s roads lead to remote locations prone to snow and ice with little Forest Service presence in the winter.

“This creates a conundrum for the Forest Service,” she wrote. “If these routes remain open and then a winter storm strikes how are we to know whether or not someone is stuck or stranded in the woods?”

She added that high elevation search and rescues are risky for responders and expensive.

Pramuk emphasized safety is a key concern for road closures, as many roads are narrow or steep and “difficult to navigate even with a four-wheel drive during the summer.”

In addition, the closures provide human-free habitat for deer and elk to find food and security during the difficult winter months.

“If disturbed, deer and elk may be forced out of native winter range and move onto private land and into inferior habitat where conflict occurs with the public, vehicles and the agriculture industry,” Pramuk wrote. “This is neither good for the animals or the public, and necessitates seasonal winter range closures.”

Pramuk said that visitors may walk, ski or snow shoe on roads that have been closed to motor vehicles.

Pramuk advised visitors to bring maps and not to rely solely on GPS devices and to bring extra clothing, flashlights, food and water in case of getting lost or stranded.

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