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Respect the River/Rio — Forest Programs

Umatilla National Forest

Sign used to promote river conservation

Sign used to promote river conservation


The Pomeroy Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest (NF) adopted the Respect the River program in 2001. The program is being used in the Tucannon Watershed to address the impacts of recreation on the water resources. Several educational signs have been placed in dispersed camping sites in an attempt to educate recreationists on their surrounding environment and the impacts that recreation can have on it. Presentations are given annually to school children while attending Camp Wooten Environmental Learning Center. Each year over 300 children are educated on the recreational impacts that occur on the forest.

In 2004, the Heppner Ranger District started implementing the program. Heppner is working with Morrow County on an OHV Park Rider Education Project. The objective of the "Respect the River/Morrow OHV Park Rider Education Project" is to educate the ATV riders using the Morrow County OHV Park on the importance of the riparian habitat both within the Morrow OHV Park and within the adjacent Umatilla NF lands. The "Respect the River" program emphasizes appropriate recreational use of the resource through education of the user public.


A variety of problems can be found on the Umatilla National Forest. Below are those that are most critical.

Meadow damaged by recreational mudding

Meadow damaged by recreational mudding


Mudding - Throughout the Umatilla National Forest individuals are driving their vehicles off-road causing damage to the soil and vegetation in the name of fun. This activity, commonly referred to as mudding, is a growing problem on the forest. Mudding typically occurs during early spring as the snow starts to melt and roads open up in the forest. It also occurs after rainstorms pass through and the meadows get saturated with moisture.

Unmanaged Campsites in Riparian Areas - Unmanaged campsites are commonly referred to as dispersed campsites. These campsites are built by the user and are very primitive in nature. Unfortunately, these sites pose many problems. Some sites are within the riparian areas of streams. Many users don't dig pit toilets and leave human waste on the surface of the ground where others can step. This poses a couple of problems. First, other humans or wildlife can step in the waste. Second, when it rains that waste could be washed into the local steam where people fish and swim.

Dam built across a stream by recreationists

Dam built across a stream by recreationists


User Built Dams - User built dams are small dams built on a stream to back up water for the purpose of creating a fishing and swimming hole or for horse watering. Most of these dams are associated with campgrounds or dispersed campsites. These dams can affect fish migration and prevent fish from reaching spawning grounds. They also prevent fish from moving downstream after the fish have already spawned. In July 2004, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife crew found a user built dam on the Forest. Impinged in the dam was a dead bulltrout that had spawned and tried to migrate downstream. Bulltrout are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.


The solution to all of these problems is education. Many of the individuals responsible for these problems do not realize the impact they have on the environment.

An anti-mudding video was developed by the Wenatchee National Forest to address the mudding that occurs on National Forest Lands. This video will be used to educate students taking drivers education in the surrounding communities.

Improvements in camping practices can be made through contact with recreationists and explaining the impacts caused by some forms of recreation. Numerous brochures have been developed through the Respect the River program to address these problems. Educational signs have been placed at many problem areas. These signs help educate the public on their natural surroundings and the damage caused by inappropriate use.


Educational sign near a stream

Educational sign near a stream


The Pomeroy Ranger District found it easy to adapt existing Respect the River posters and brochures for use at the Morrow Co. OHV Park. The resulting signs highlight the partnership with Morrow County and depict the streams and habitat within and adjacent to the Park. The brochures and posters explain the function of the riparian habitat and how that habitat is utilized by salmonids and other aquatic and terrestrial life. These brochures are provided to the Park users at the Park entry, Morrow Co. Department of Public Works Headquarters, the Heppner Ranger District Office, and at the Bull Prairie Campground. Morrow County displays the Respect the River posters at information kiosks at the Park Headquarters, the Day-use area, and at the Porter Creek Crossing site.

The "Respect the River" education program is an integral part of the OHV Park Program. At present, the Morrow County OHV Park has 120 miles of developed ATV Trails within the 6,200 acre Park. Since the inception of the "Respect the River" program in May, 2004, approximately 15,000 user days have been recorded at the Park. There have been no instances of violation of Park rules, or of damage to the riparian resource. The actual Park usage, for 2004, is triple the projected use of 4,800 user days.


The future of the Respect the River program is up to the recreationists. This program is always evolving to meet the needs of the environment as new problems arise. As recreationists learn about their impacts on the surrounding environment and develop a sense of stewardship, many of these problems will stop.

Main Contact

William M. Dowdy
Fish/Wildlife Biologist
Pomeroy Ranger District
Umatilla National Forest

U.S. Forest Service
Last modified: April 12, 2012

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