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Oregonian - Forest managers plan to eliminate fees

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Please pardon my ignorance here, but I'm trying to understand the fee demo issue. The idea is that the USFS is in need of funding because the federal funds (from taxes paid by the outdoorsy and sedentary alike) aren't flowing like they used to. USFS decides that they should start charging fees at sites (trailheads, and where else?) through, e.g., the NW Forest Pass. With such a fee program, the USFS can gauge usage through fee payments, as well as replace "lost" federal funds with funds obtained through the user fees.

At first glance, this seems reasonable: ask those people who use the products of USFS' work (trails, parking lots) to pay for what they're using. Anonymous taxpayer (someone who's never walked a mile outside of a shopping mall) doesn't pay as much for something he or she never uses. Personally, I'm not too bothered paying taxes that are used to fund some things I'll never be interested in, like highways in North Dakota or really bad art, because, well, someone's getting some use out of it, and those people are paying for my highways, too. Share and share alike. Whatever.

Of course, why does the USFS need more money in the first place? Are its funding priorities screwed up? Are they building trails for ATVs with that money mad.gif" border="0 ? I'm sure they have a backlog of trail maintenance, which I don't mind paying for, but how many new trails do they want to build? Are these the issues that people are getting their knickers in a twist about regarding fee demo? Is protesting fee demo a way to affect change in funding priorities?

I'd be pleased if all the USFS ever did was keep roads reasonably drivable, trails accessible, and parking lots available. I don't give a shit about bathrooms, more trails, anything benefiting "motorized recreation", or any new facilities.

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Slothrop,In a nutshell:Fee demo is thought by many to be double taxation. We pay taxes to the Feds and are being asked to pay a fee to an agency that is supposed to be financed by the Feds.

In addition, there is a coalition of outdoor industry businesses that have (and still are)providing major incentive and input into the program. This is seen as an attempt to privatize and therefore commercialize our national forest lands.

There is also a feeling that the other users of public lands (mining and logging interests for example) are not really paying a realistic fee to the forest service compared to what they get out of the land.

BTW, the idea of bathrooms in high-use areas has some merit considering the large quantities of human feces that are "planted" in the ecosystem without them.

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It can also be thought of as double taxation because a certain % of your fee goes to the Forest Service and the rest just goes back to the general fund. That stuff that goes back to the general fund is the tax you are paying on the fee! mad.gif" border="0

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that new dodge durango $25K+ vehicle loaded with video cameras, lights, more light and an assualt weapon are all new for the leavenworth ranger district last year.....

what do they use this super truck for??? writing tickets for non-paying recreationists....good thing they have an assault rifle for to protect our trails.....

i think a major issue with the fee demo program (which you tried to layout) is fairnes// the fact that the usfs's job is to manage the resources that we as US citizens have intrusted them with....so why do they sell lumbar and mining right well below market value?? why do they control the worlds largest and most extensive road system???

another issue to consier is why if this is a good thing are they being underhanded about it?? if it only a demonstration to see if the public will support do they have a gun wielding ranger sitting in the parking lot to issue tickets?? how is that showing my no vote if i have to be face to face with an agressive law enforcement officer that has no legal right to issue me a ticket, when me not buying the demo pass is my no vote?? how can i vote no, if i am being threatend?? are we in zimbabwae??? where is the UN to oversee this process???

if there are any freddies out there, just want to let you know that no way in hell will you ever ever ever ever ever ever ever find me with forest pass or any other type of rereactional fee pass.

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This whole thing stinks!

I find it funny that the Bush Administration, which by and large represents the crowd that advocates endlessly about "taking 'big government' out of everyone's lives" is trying to make this thing a law...paying for using public lands. It doesn't matter that it came into formation under the Clinton Administration, who themselves helped sell out our lands just as bad as Bush is doing now. It's the system that's flawed, and it stinks. We ought to scrap the USFS and start fresh. And the higher fed.gov't needs to quit trying to slip the responsibility to fund the admin. of the USFS off on the public just so money can be directed towards some other bullshit personal political agenda. The USFS runs itself like a private business, but is holding in it's clutches a public trust. This has to stop.

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Most of the Forest Service roads have been built with your $ to subsidize the welfare timber industry. These are your roads, you have already paid for them. Logging industry vehicles are not required to have a Northwest Forest Pass, but we are. [Wazzup]

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In addition to double taxation and subsidizing industry, the fee demo program has the potential to lock the poor out of our public lands, which is complete crap and for the conspiracy theorists could be seen as a way of limiting public support for public land conservation over the long-term.

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Originally uttered by some clueless asshole:
"Ithink more to the point, we need to meet the minimum services the public isexpecting.

WTF? The minimum sevice I expect from agencies managing our public land is to leave it alone so I (and hopefully people who come after me) can enjoy it in a natural (i.e. unlogged) state. I realize that some managment must be done to mitigate heavy use, but I think the best managment policy is often to let the land heal itself. Ironically, this is also a very cheap plan, so USFS shouldn't have to charge me much.

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A few more points:

1) As Winter eluded to, public lands are owned by the public and are an extremely important part of their ecosystems, bioregions and the ecosphere in general. Placing a sign demanding money between the true owner (you) and the caretaker (Forest Circus) makes people feel less interested and less empowered in regards to public lands. People generally feel more responsibility toward something that they own than to something that they pay to experience.

2) The way most of the USFS roads are built is by trading them for free logs. The roads are then often either closed to the public, decommisioned or obliterated for the price of...more free logs! As erik mentioned the timber co.s get these logs at way below market value and we pay them hansomely for the construction of the roads. If they screw up a stream or cause other structural problems we pay to fix that too! These roads we buy don't (usually) lead to anywhere we want to go and they are often closed to us anyway so why should this use of our public lands be paid for by taxes and (our) trees when recreation, which costs nothing in comparison, is paid for (twice) by us?

3) Lastly, the fee demo is being implemented jointly by the USFS and the American Recreation Coalition. There are a lot of clubs, companies and organizations represented in the ARC and the majority of them require infrastructure in order to do their activities (boat ramps, wide trails, multi-colored, labeled photos of the view you're looking at, etc.) that are contrary to the wilderness experience that most of us seek. There are NO climbers, backpackers or other wilderness experience seekers represented in the coalition that is helping the USFS to charge you to walk a trail. At Mt St Helens, for instance, a climber will pay $20 for one day while a carload of snowmobilers with their machines will pay $5.

I'm with erik; you will NEVER catch me paying a fee for a wilderness experience.

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Thanks for the discussion, everyone. This fee demo program sounds like some serious bullshit [hell no] Dammit, it's frustrating knowing that your interests are out-represented by corporations... I know, nothing new there, but it still pisses me off.

What sort of protest is going on June 15th?

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Does anyone know what determines whether land is managed by the USFS (Dept. of Agriculture) versus NPS (Dept. of Interior). Obviously there is land that has to be logged, mined, drilled to support our way of life, I'm just wondering is the only way to completely protect land is to make it a wilderness.

There are a number of wealthy people and groups that buy huge quantities of land in central and south america to protect it from being deforested, protecting byways for animal migration protecting genetic diversity.

So we can protect lands in other countries but not our own? What can be done here besides writing letters to congressman that are probably left unread, at least not understood.

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Below is from Scott--------------------------

Pasted below is a darned important fee-demo article from Sunday's Oregonianthat appeared under a darned misleading headline.

The headline reads "Forest Managers Plan to Eliminate Fees".... but it's notuntil you read the article do you appreciate that forest managers onlyintend to temporarily eliminate a few fees at a few of the more unpopularfee locations. In fact, it's not until you read the article do you realizethat the agency is engaged in a last ditch effort to calm the growingopposition to a program that threatens to burst into flames. And it's notuntil you read the article do you appreciate how critical the next 6 monthswill be for the fee-demo issue or how hard the Bush Administration ispushing to make fee-demo the permanent law of this land.

In a internal USFS memo dated 1/4/02 local forest managers were instructedby the Washington DC Office (and I quote) to "put out hotspots". The memoexplained to these managers that unless they quiet/silence the growingopposition to fee-demo, the future of this program is threatened. And thismemo specifically pointed to the Pacific Northwest as one of those criticalHOTSPOTS!

You can read this internal USFS memo at:http://www.sespewild.org/usfsmemo.html . In fact, as informative as is thearticle below, if you truly want to experience the pressure being applied tolocal forest managers for them to, at least temporarily, create the illusionthat the public will tolerate fee-demo, you'll find no better document thanthe one linked to above.


PS.... Please join us on June 15th to protest fee-demo and to urge Congressto restore adequate funding to maintain appropriate levels of recreationalinfrastructure on, and provide adequate protection of, America's publiclands.

PPS.... Speaking ONLY metaphorically --- June 15th is a day to cause thosefee-demo hot spots to burst into flame. We can't do it without your help.June 15th will be a National Day of Action. Contact us for details!

---------- begin quoted -----------


Forest managers plan to eliminate fees - 03/10/02MICHAEL MILSTEIN

National forest managers expect to eliminate recreation fees at sometrailheads and other lesser-developed sites in the Northwest in a finalattempt to hone public support for the federal fee program that led to thedebated Northwest Forest Pass.

The program now faces its toughest test because President Bush's 2003 budgetproposes making the federal recreation fees, which were imposed on anexperimental basis since 1996, a permanent fixture on public lands nextyear.

Both moves suggest this will be a make or break year for the Recreation FeeDemonstration Program, created to underwrite repair of popular butdeteriorating trails, restrooms and other facilities in national forests andother public lands by charging people who use them.

Supporters in Congress say permanent authorization of the fees is a toppriority in 2002, although some have set conditions for how the chargesshould be levied in the West.

Fee opponents, who fear fees will lead to commercialization of public land,plan to step up their fight with nationwide demonstrations in June.

This is the first time a president has pushed to permanently enactrecreation fees, now set to expire in 2004. The proposal has led to meetingsbetween land agencies and leading lawmakers in Washington, D.C., andfine-tuning of fees in the field to address nagging public criticisms.

The Northwest has long been a center of opposition to public land recreationfees. Last year, the Oregon Legislature called for an end to the NorthwestForest Pass, required at many national forest trailheads and other sites.Pass sales generated about $6.5 million last year.

The staff of the U.S. House Resources Committee, which would likely take alead role in authorizing fees, told the U.S. Forest Service late last yearit must "get the heat turned down" in Oregon, Washington, Idaho andCalifornia before Congress will impose fees permanently, according to aForest Service memo.

The Forest Service's priority "should be to put out 'hotspots,' " the Housestaff members told forest officials.

The National Park Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish andWildlife Service also take part in the fee demonstration, but the ForestService has applied fees most prominently in the Northwest.

Surveys of land users suggest that those who pay fees want the money to fundvisible repairs and other benefits at the sites where they pay, andlawmakers have stressed the same point.

In the Northwest, the Forest Service is addressing that point by reviewingthe more than 1,100 sites where the Northwest Forest Pass is required tomake sure they feature enough improvements to justify a fee.

The Northwest Forest Pass, which costs $5 a day or $30 a year, is usedmainly as a parking permit and must be displayed at marked trailheads,turnouts, picnic areas and similar sites in Oregon and Washington forestsand North Cascades National Park.

But the sites can vary widely, officials said, because individual Northwestforests originally designated them without clear criteria.

"Currently we've got sites that are nothing more than a wide spot in theroad, to sites with paved parking lots with stripes, toilets and bulletinboards," with fees charged at both, said Mark Christiansen, recreationprogram man- ager for Oregon's Deschutes National Forest.

Forest officials are now evaluating each site to determine whether itsfacilities -- such as restrooms or picnic tables -- equal a minimuminvestment of $5,000. Those that meet the threshold will continue as feesites, while those that don't will be either removed from the program orimproved so they meet the standard.

Typical trailhead restrooms cost more than $5,000.

"What we're really trying to do is tighten up the program so there's a levelof consistency across the region, where the public can expect a certainlevel of service when they pay a fee," said Jocelyn Biro, the ForestService's regional fee demonstration coordinator. "They either come up tothe standard or they come out of the program."

No changes are likely during the coming summer season, she said. But theForest Service will likely drop fees at some sites next year -- it's unclearhow many -- while beefing up facilities at others where fees continue.

"I would say we'll lose some sites, but not the majority," Biro said. "Ithink more to the point, we need to meet the minimum services the public isexpecting.

For instance, the Forest Service must provide restrooms at heavily usedlocations to meet environmental and sanitation rules and prevent damage tothe landscape, she said. Without fees to provide funding for suchimprovements, the agency cannot meet those obligations, she said.

But Scott Silver of Bend-based Wild Wilderness, a longtime foe of recreationfees, said the new investment threshold for Northwest Forest Pass sites willlead forest managers to build up wildlands simply to justify charging fees.That will leave the Forest Service better known for its facilities than itsland-management role, he predicted.

"The Forest Service is seeing to it that its main point of contact with thepublic is the toilet seat," he said.

In meetings with Forest Service officials, congressional leaders have saidpermanent approval of fees would likely come with certain conditions. Manyvoiced concern about "nickel and diming" of the public by confusing layersof different fees at different sites and said any continuing fees must havetight controls.

Although backing permanent status for recreation fees, Rep. Scott McInnis ofColorado outlined a series of mandates in a January letter to the ForestService. McInnis, a Republican, heads the House Subcommittee on Forests andForest Health and is likely to exert strong control over new feelegislation.

Among his conditions:

Fee revenue must stay at the site at which it is collected.

Fee money must go toward projects that directly benefit the public, withlimits on personnel and administrative spending.

Recreation fees should not be charged in undeveloped, backcountry settings.

Sites should levy one fee only, not a series of fees for different uses.

Fees should not be used as a tool to limit use of public lands.

Congress should limit the number of fee sites.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., has been a primary opponent of the FeeDemonstration Program and aims to defeat any bills that would enact feespermanently, a spokeswoman said. The issue is likely to get a more completehearing in Congress this year than it has in the past, when fees weretypically tacked on to appropriations bills, she said.

DeFazio argues the fees turn public lands into a "king's domain,"discouraging lower-income families who cannot afford the charges.

Forest Service officials counter that a mix of fee and free sites, plusspecific days each year when fees are waived, provide broad access. Theyexpect the public to support fees as long as the proceeds go toward publicfacilities.

"I think it would be nice if federal lands were all paid for by thegovernment, but I see why the fees are necessary," said Tim Kutscha, a pastpresident of the Ptarmigans hiking club in Vancouver, Wash. "I think it'sprobably a fact of life."

You can reach Michael Milstein at 503-294-7689 or by e-mail atmichaelmilstein@news.oregonian.com.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Scott SilverWild Wilderness248 NW Wilmington Ave.Bend, OR 97701

phone: 541-385-5261e-mail: ssilver@wildwilderness.orgInternet: http://www.wildwilderness.org

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material isdistributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest inreceiving this information for research and educational purposes.

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I've said it before, but it seems the strongest statement you can make is to be caught w/o the pass, refuse to pay the fine, and take it to court to establish case precedent. Every case I know of has been dismissed. However, I'm not clear if this would be attached to your criminal record or not, or if it would be an issue if you wanted a government-funded position later in life. And many people do not have the time, energy, or finances to deal with a court case.

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