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Congress sets hearing on public lands ‘pay-to-play’ fees

Summit County hiking Colorado

Congress will take input on the controversial federal pay-to-play program this week.

Critics say loopholes enable federal agencies to charge illegal fees

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The federal pay-to-play program will get a once-over in Congress this week, as a House subcommittee hears from agency officials and citizens before the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act expires next year.

At issue are how the fee program for access to public lands is being implemented by federal agencies. The hearing is set to start at 10 a.m. EDT and should be available as webcast via the House Committee on Natural Resources website.

The access fees started in the late 1990s as the so-called fee demo program, enabling federal land agencies to charge fees as long the money was used to improve the area where it was collected. Continue reading

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Fourteener fees in Colorado?

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing $10 to $20 fees for climbing peaks in the Sangre de Cristos Colony Basin.

Public comment wanted on plan to charge for access to peaks in the Colony Basin area of the Sangre de Cristos

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service is considering charging $10 to $20 for climbing a group of popular fourteeners in the Sangre de Cristos in order to help pay for trail work and restoration of damaged alpine tundra. For now, the proposal is only aimed at summer users.

“Relying on recreation use fees appears to be the best option for providing future high quality backcountry experiences and protecting the natural environment in South Colony Basin,” Forest Service ranger Paul Crespin wrote in a May 12 letter announcing the proposal.

While the agency claims it needs the money to help manage the area, groups opposed to the fees say the plan a first step toward widespread hiking fees on fourteeners. A better option would be to adopt a free first-come, first-serve permit system, according to the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition. Continue reading

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