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billcoe

Forest Service fee get's stuffed down FS throat.

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From the Western Slope No Fee Coalition From WWW.westernslopenofee.org

 

"NEWS BULLETIN!

 

 

An important decision has been handed down by Federal Magistrate Judge Mark Aspey in Flagstaff, Arizona. He granted a motion by Sedona resident Jim Smith to have his ticket for failure to pay a Forest Service recreation fee (i.e. have a Red Rock Pass) dismissed.

 

Jim parked overnight at the Vultee Arch Trailhead, a dirt parking lot with no amenities accessed by a rough dirt road. He backpacked into the Coconino National Forest, camped in an area with no amenities, and returned to find a ticket on his car because it did not display a Red Rock Pass.

 

The Red Rock Pass fee program is one of the most notorious in the nation, requiring an access fee for 160,000 acres of federal public land, much of it dispersed undeveloped backcountry.

 

Jim challenged the Forest Service's authority to levy a fee at Vultee Arch Trailhead because the law governing recreation fees specifically prohibits fees for parking, general access, walking through federal land without using facilities and services, camping in dispersed undeveloped areas, or in any location that does not offer reasonable access to six specific amenities: permanent toilet, permanent trash container, picnic table, developed parking, interpretive signage, and security services. The Vultee Arch Trailhead offers none of these amenities - it only serves as a place to park and enter undeveloped backcountry, both of which are activities the law says must be free of charge. The nearest toilet is 7 miles away and the nearest trash can is 10 miles away.

 

Jim represented himself, and he was up against the full might of the federal government, but he won because he proved to the judge that the way the Forest Service is implementing fees in the Red Rock Pass area is not a reasonable interpretation of the law. In fact the decision describes the Forest Service's interpretation as "absurd":

"In addition to the plain language of the statute prohibiting the Forest Service from charging for parking or access or undeveloped camping, and the plain language of the statute prohibiting the Forest Service from charging an amenity fee at a site where specific amenities were not provided, Congressional intent and legislative history indicate that the Forest Service's construction of the relevant statutory section would thwart Congressional intent and result in an absurd construction of the relevant statutory scheme." [decision p. 29]

This is a very important decision, with national implications. There are almost 100 places around the country where the Forest Service has created "High Impact Recreation Areas" or HIRAs. Within a HIRA they have been claiming the authority to charge a fee for any activity at all as long as the six amenities exist somewhere in the HIRA, no matter how scattered or how far away. This interpretation has resulted in visitors being charged fees to access millions of acres of dispersed undeveloped backcountry.

 

Judge Aspey says nix to all that.

 

Among other things, this decision renders moot the signs in the Red Rock Pass area that say you have to buy a pass to park anywhere on the National Forest, and makes it unlikely that the Coconino - or any other National Forest - can ever again successfully prosecute someone for not having a pass at trailheads or dispersed camping areas.

 

You can read more about the case, including all the legal briefs and the judge's decision, at our website. For a direct link to the decision

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"was up against the full might of the federal government"

 

 

LOLOLOL I'm sure they pulled out the big guns for this one. I bet the AG himself was handling the case!

 

OMG! DAVID AND GOLIATH DOUBLE RAINBOW!!!

 

 

Anyway, glad for him. Does that mean the government will give me my money back for not having a pass at the ingalls th? Maybe I'll have this guy represent me.

Edited by rob

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That explains why the Forest Service seems to have taken a great interest in installing fancy new pit toilets at every trailhead and parking lot.

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ha, in some ways it's great that they upgrade all the trail heads because then ... almost-free camping in the parking lot with all the amenities of a campground if you have the $20 pass!

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ha, in some ways it's great that they upgrade all the trail heads because then ... almost-free camping in the parking lot with all the amenities of a campground if you have the $20 pass!

 

Are you a federal employee or somethin'? The NW Forest pass and the other fee programs set up under HIRA are a load of BS. Yes, they fill important funding gaps, but that filler should not be coming from user fees for public land. The emphasis is on "PUBLIC" here people!

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ha, in some ways it's great that they upgrade all the trail heads because then ... almost-free camping in the parking lot with all the amenities of a campground if you have the $20 pass!

 

If Larry the Tool has his way, they'll be busting people for bivying overnight at the trailheads (right now you're prohibited from bivying at popular trailheads in some Natl Parks... Paradise, Cascade Pass...). I've yet to see any fee from the Forest Pass go into trail maintenance. More likely it's going into law enforcement / electronic / surveillance equipment, which was apparent the last time I saw Larry's SUV.

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Are you a federal employee or somethin'? The NW Forest pass and the other fee programs set up under HIRA are a load of BS. Yes, they fill important funding gaps, but that filler should not be coming from user fees for public land. The emphasis is on "PUBLIC" here people!

 

nope I'm self employed, disagree with the FS pass, and avoid paying for camping at all costs. I was just envisioning my habit of sleeping in the car at trail heads, coming late/leaving early. We have seen camp grounds charging up to $35 for a lousy patch of dirt....yeah, if given a chance, they'll probably start busting people for bivying/sleeping in the car at trail heads that too. :( Aren't there more important things for them to worry about?

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Sounds like Holcomb Valley Pinnacles at Big Bear here in the San Bernardino Mountains of California. It's a great climbing area, but the roads are unimproved, the trails are unimproved and there are no bathrooms or other amenities whatsoever. Nonetheless we are expected to display a trail park permit. They ticket religiously. You can count on it.

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good on you Bill for being in the know. not sure on this but I do not believe many TH have: permanent toilet, permanent trash container, picnic table, developed parking, interpretive signage, and security services. you want security? go buy a blanket! as a famous writer once said, anybody can write, just edit,edit,edit

Edited by oldlarry

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We need more Jim Smiths and Judge Mark Aspeys.

Here's another winner, this time a Washingtonian who parked at the Billy Goat Trailhead by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. http://westernslopenofee.org/index2.php?display=yes&pageid=36

 

"THE CASE: Tom Halpin of Twisp, Washington, arrived at the Billy Goat Trailhead on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on August 20, 2010. The trailhead area contained only one of the six amenities (a toilet) and Tom engaged only in activities for which fees are prohibited. He parked his car (fees are prohibited "solely for parking"), entered the Forest (fees are prohibited for "general access"), and camped for six nights in a designated Wilderness Area (fees are prohibited for "camping at undeveloped sites").

 

Tom returned to find a federal Violation Notice affixed to his windshield charging him with "Failure to pay established parking fee." After reading the FLREA and considering his options, Tom decided to contest his Violation Notice on the grounds that the Forest Service had exceeded its authority by charging a fee at that location and for those activities.

 

He drew inspiration from the outcome of U.S. vs Smith, a nearly identical case in Sedona, Arizona that was dismissed by a federal magistrate judge. Representing himself, and with advice from numerous people experienced in recreation fee law, Tom wrote and filed a Motion to Dismiss with the court. He looked forward to being able to bring his case before the judge and have the legal issues decided.

 

The Forest Service, however, does not want the legal issues decided, presumably because they are unlikely to prevail. A loss in court could throw their whole trailhead fee program out as not in compliance with the law. They did not even respond to Tom's motion. Instead, they pre-empted him from having his day in court by dropping the charges against him, saying they had "discovered" that there was no picnic table at the Billy Goat Trailhead at the time he was charged. They claim to have since installed a table, and they contend that puts them within the law to go on requiring a Northwest Forest Pass at that location.

 

The Forest Service did not address any of the other issues raised, such as the continuing lack of other required amenities, or the fact that regardless of amenities there are some activities for which fees are prohibited, period. It appears that, come the 2011 hiking season, they will continue their program of intimidation, issuing tickets that they know they cannot successfully prosecute. This cowardly behavior is unworthy of a federal agency charged with managing public lands in accordance with federal law.

 

The Forest Service should be ashamed.

 

You can read the documents in U.S. vs Halpin HERE." http://westernslopenofee.org/index2.php?newsdisplay=yes&newsid=32

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ha, in some ways it's great that they upgrade all the trail heads because then ... almost-free camping in the parking lot with all the amenities of a campground if you have the $20 pass!

 

Are you a federal employee or somethin'? The NW Forest pass and the other fee programs set up under HIRA are a load of BS. Yes, they fill important funding gaps, but that filler should not be coming from user fees for public land. The emphasis is on "PUBLIC" here people!

 

There is no way that this fills important funding gaps.

 

Someone should pull the Freedom of Information Act on these jokers. I am pretty sure that you would find that the NW Forest Pass is a losing proposition for all of us.

 

There is just no way that the amount of money they collect each year can possibly cover all of the expenses it takes to run this thing....printing and selling passes, handling the tickets, wages for more employees to enforce the program, I bet they purchased more vehicles for this, making and installing signs at trailheads...no way does it pay for all of this stuff.

 

This is costing us all more money for a negative benefit.

 

All this is doing is creating more money and power for certain management types in the Forest Service.

 

The Northwest Forest Pass is a some sort of a sick joke being played on all of us.

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