Forest fee enforcement in Northwest

dwheeler at my-deja.com dwheeler at my-deja.com
Sat Jan 27 18:56:36 EST 2001


>From The Oregonian, Jan. 27, 2001, p A1

Forest fee enforcement will intensify in Northwest
The Forest Service is expanding a trial program that may be entering a
make or break season

By MICHAEL MILSTEIN, The Oregonian

	Hikers and other visitors to the Northwest's national forests will
have to pay fees at more trail heads and other recreation sites this
summer and will face stiffer penalties - including fines - if they don't.
	The stepped-up enforcement is part of a push by the U.S. Forest
Service to show that its trial fee program works before Congress decides
whether to make recreation fees, such as the regionwide Northwest Forest
Pass, a permanent fixtures on the nation's public lands.
	The Northwest Forest Pass costs $5 a day or $30 a year. It is
required at more than 1,000 trail heads and other recreation sites in
Oregon and Washington national forests and in North Cascades National
park. The pass raised $2.1 million last year and is the broadest regional
test of the nation that hikers, boaters, picnickers and others who enjoy
public lands can and should pay their way.
	Federal land recreation fees have generated millions for maintaining
trails, campgrounds and other visitor facilities since Congress in 1996
gave agencies permission to try them. But public surveys have raised
nagging doubts about whether the public is willing to pay for some
activities, such as hiking.
	Congressional Republicans and Democrats, including Rep. Peter
DeFazio, D-Ore., have tried to kill the fee program. An attmept last year
by former Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., to enact permanent recreation fees
also failed, and Congress later temporarily extended the trial fee
program until September 2002.
	Lawmakers must decide by then whether to make fees permanent or to
extend them again, so this summer could be a make or break period for
agencies such as the Forest Service that have come to rely on fees for
facilities and operations once financed by Congress.
	A memo issued last week to national forest supervisors in the
Northwest urges them to "keep in mind the long-term view" when charging
fees and to promote public support by making clear that fees pay for the
upkeep of recreation sites. The memo also outlines plans to increase use
and enforcement of the Northwest Forest Pass this summer:
	- The number of regional "free days," when visitors can use forests
without buying a pass, will drop from four to one. Indiviual forests can
designate other free days.
	- Less-visited national forests that have not made use of the pass,
such as the Malheur and Ochoco forests in Eastern Oregon and the Fremont
in Southern Oregon, will mandate it in some places this summer.
	- The Forest Service will encourage privately operated faciliites
such as marinas to honor the pass in place of their own fees.
	- Forests that already require the pass, such as the Mount Hood
National Forest near Portland, will mandate it at new locations so it is
used more consistently within each forest. Some sites will remain free.
	- Instead of leaving reminder envelopes so people without passes can
pay by mail, forest officers will issue warnings to any vehicle without a
pass and record its license plate. Officers also could issue a citation
carrying a $50 fine.
	Last year, officers issued about a dozen citations throughout Oregon
and Washington to people who failed to pay fees, said Jocelyn Biro, the
Forest Service's recreation fee coordinator for the Northwest. Officials
estimate that 30 percent to 80 percent of those using fee sites in the
region paid the fees, with fewer paying at more remote locations.
	Tougher enforcement this year probably will lead to more citations
but should keep some people from dodging the fees. "It's not fair for one
person to pay and then see six other cars that haven't paid and have
gotten away with it," Biro said.
	But drawing a line could amplify opposition to the fees. A public
survey conducted for the Forest Service in the Northw4est found that
although most people are willing to pay to use developed campgrounds,
boat ramps and off-road vehicle areas, they are unwilling to pay for
picnicking, hiking or stopping at viewpoints.
	"You're going to see more signs, more development and more people in
uniforms as they try to tell people they should pay and then make them
pay," said Scott Silver of Bend, founder of Wild Wilderness, an anti-fee
group. "It's changing the whole character of what our national forests
look like."

Comment by poster: As noted in previous posts, those who have private
forests near larger population centers may have a guaranteed clientele if
they open their lands to hikers, bikers, for-fee fishing and other uses
normally considered "recreational use" of national forests. There could
even be separate fees imposed for things like mushroom harvesting, plant
collecting, as well as the existing options of private fishing rights,
hunting rights, and leasing land for commercial mushroom harvesting.

I attended a company picnic last year at a site in Washington. It had
modern or semi-modern facilities located within a forested setting, and
included such options as swimming, canoeing or boating, hiking (about 4
miles of improved trails), and several concessions. Your entrance fee
also paid for food and snacks. An interesting concept, and certainly one
that sat well with larger businesses. At least 300 people were using the
park the day I was there. Another potential use for forested land!

Posted as a courtesy by:
Daniel B. Wheeler
www.oregonwhitetruffles.com


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