The U.S. Forest Service is under fire for skirting laws on public land access and recreation fees. In some places, the agency charges fees just to park and hike on public lands, but federal law requires that a certain level of service and specific amenities be provided for the fee. BOB BERWYN PHOTO.
Durango group claims Forest Service skirting fee laws by allowing private companies to charge for sub-standard facilities
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The trend toward private management of U.S. Forest Service facilities isn’t popular with the public, according to a new study released by the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition.
The Durango-based group, which opposes recreation fees on public lands, analyzed 4,000 public comments on a recent Forest Service plan to cut senior discounts at campgrounds run by private contractors.
“Times are tough, give us a break,’ was the closing sentence on one of the comments publicized in the report. Nearly all the comments were critical of the plan to cut senior discounts and many took issue with the creeping privatization of public lands and the appearance of recreation fees.
A handful of comments favoring the proposal came from people associated with the private companies that manage campgrounds as Forest Service permit-holders. In one case, the vice president of a Utah-based company that operates 32 facilities in 11 states (totaling 375,000 campground overnights) said the Forest Service should reimburse private companies to make up the difference from discounted camping fees.
The Forest Service says it depends on partnerships with private companies to keep camping and recreation facilities open and that budget realities prevent the agency from managing those facilities without partnerships.
In Summit County, a huge national company called Thousand Trails was awarded control of most major Forest Service campgrounds years ago with little public notice and input. The Forest Service says the partnership, under agency supervision, ensures a high level of service for campers.
In related news, the Dillon Ranger District also plans to eliminate parking and day-use fees at the Cataract Lake trail head, near Heeney, as part of its plan to revise the fee structure at Green Mountain Reservoir. (more…)
Filed under: recreation, Summit County Colorado, US Forest Service | Tagged: camping, national forests, public lands, recreation fees, Summit County, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, U.S. Forest Service, White River National Forest | 1 Comment »