Homeless camps notified to clear out of West Eugene Wetlands

EUGENE, Ore. - Homeless camps in the West Eugene Wetlands have been put on notice that they have until the end of the month to clear out.

Signs started going up Tuesday around the perimeter of the area.

Law enforcement officers will also post closure signs at individual camps, along with information about local social service agencies.

Later this month, crews will clean up garbage and begin a habitat restoration project.

The area will reopen to the public - but not to illegal camping - in mid-August.

That's the plan set out by the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 1,300 of the 3,000 acres in the West Eugene Wetlands.

BLM manages the area both to protect threatened and endangered species and for human recreation, but not camping.

In recent years, illegal camps and trails have taken hold in the wetlands, causing ecological damage, BLM reports. Human waste and other garbage, like needles, are a hazard to both human and environmental help.

BLM also reports cases of people being harassed by illegal campers have been on the rise in the last 6 months. Some education groups no longer feel safe taking students out to the wetlands, according to a BLM report.

And fire remains a danger: campfire are illegal, but still happen. In 2008, investigators suspected illegal fires or even arson in a series of fires in the area.

After the enforcement of the camping ban, BLM plans to clean up the garbage and perform environmental restoration on the site. After that, the agency will complete a cultural resources survey. Public land management agencies employ archeologists to inventory any historic or prehistoric human activity in the area.

BLM has managed land in the West Eugene Wetlands since the 1990s as part of an agreement with the City of Eugene.