Residents near Five Rivers in south Lincoln County are increasingly frustrated with the illegal encampment that developed on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land.
A large RV sits on Five Rivers Road in the Siuslaw National Forest, along with two vehicles and a boat. A hose runs from the creek down to the camp, and laundry hangs on a line drying. There was an electronic tablet with power on nearby, but those inside chose not to answer a knock on the door.
Down below the road is evidence of many more people living in the forest: a washing machine with a generator, a makeshift toilet, pots and pans, even potted plants.
The RV has been there since the Burtons moved into a house nearby Aug. 23.
“We did have to evacuate because of a forest fire,” said Bobbi Burton of the blaze that started on the evening of Labor Day while the area was still under fire restrictions. The cause of the fire was determined to be manmade, likely the result of an illegal campfire, said Burton.
“We have people who try to live on the forest every year,” said USFS Central Coast District Ranger Michele Jones of the Siuslaw National Forest. "We have our law enforcement contact them … and they work with them to get them off of national forest and somewhere else.”
"We do have a 14-day stay limit because you start seeing resource damage,” added Jones, explaining that often, when asked to leave, people will simply go to another place in the forest or to private land, where the damage to resources might go undetected.
"Our law enforcement officers try to work with them to get them somewhere else, and that seems to be a better approach than just demanding that they leave,” said Jones.
USFS Law Enforcement Officer Felicia Sloan first made contact with the group in another location in May. Most recently, she contacted them at their current location on Sept. 20.
When asked if there was progress made, Sloan said, “Progress is a relative term,” and referred additional questions to USFS Captain Chris Sakraida, who was not available for comment as of press time on Tuesday.
"We do have a law enforcement challenge,” Jones said. “We’ve had vacancies this summer that have really impacted us,” though she said the district has made a new hire.
"Our relationship with Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office is very strong, and they have been a big help with their forest deputy.”