Settlement addresses pesky Adventure Pass fees on 4 Southern California national forests
A long-running and stubborn battle by activists against the spread of public lands access fees has paid off once again in Southern California, where the U.S. Forest Service agreed to designate and mark free parking areas for hikers who aren’t using developed facilities.
The court-sanctioned deal stems from yet another legal battle over federal recreation fees. Public land agencies started charging for access to plug alleged budget holes; public lands advocates have been trying to limit the spread of the fees and make sure they’ve only levied in the places specifically authorized by Congress — namely at developed recreation sites, and not just for general hiking access. Continue reading “Court deal a win for fee-free public lands access in SoCal”→
District court judges nixes Southern California Adventure Pass
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — The see-saw legal battles over public land recreation fees took another twist last week, as a judge in California decided that the U.S. Forest Service can’t continue selling its Adventure Pass for heavily visited recreation areas in Southern California national forests.
According to the judge, the pass violates federal law — specifically the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act — because it makes visitors pay to use public lands even if they’re not using any developed facilities.
Court says private concession companies don’t have to meet agency standards for recreation fees on public lands
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — One of the legal efforts to try and check the recent proliferation of public land access fees was rebuffed by a federal court in Washington, D.C. last week. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled that private companies running recreation facilities on federal lands don’t have to follow the same regulations as agency managed facilities.
In a worst-case scenario, the ruling could open the door to more widespread fees for trailhead parking and other types of access that have traditionally been free, said Kitty Benzar, president of the West Slope No-Fee Coalition, a group dedicated to eliminating fees charged for access and recreation on undeveloped public lands.
Court-ordered settlement ends hiking and parking fees at Mt. Lemmon Recreation Area in Arizona
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Hikers in Arizona will get a break from pesky Forest Service recreation fees this summer, as a federal judge last week approved a settlement that ensures free access to the trails and backcountry of the Mt. Lemmon Recreation Area, near Tuscon.
Agency’s Resource Advisory Council to meet March 6-8 in Montrose
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY —A federal plan to raise day use fees at two popular Upper Colorado River recreation sites doesn’t sit well with the state’s river rafting industry, which questions whether planned improvements are really needed, and if any fee hikes are a good idea during tough economic times.
At issue is a Bureau of Land Management proposal to up the daily fees at the Pumphouse and Radium sites from $3 to $5 per vehicle, as well as a small hike for commercial users, who make up the bulk of the use at the sites, from $1 to $1.25 per day.
“The river is popular because it’s affordable,” said Dave Costlow, executive director of the Colorado River Outfitters Association, explaining that a half-day run down the relatively gentle waters of the reach costs about $45 per person. “If you have a family of five, it all adds up,” Costlow said, describing it as a 25 percent increase that will be passed on to consumers. The BLM already gets 3 percent of every ticket sold, he added.
“I wonder if we could just manage to the money that we have. It’s a bad time to raise prices. The money people spend on rafting is discretionary spending,” he said. “Maybe they could cut elsewhere to find money for the new boat ramp.”
The increase is one of the agenda items at a March 7-8 meeting of the agency’s regional Resource Advisory Council in Montrose. The statewide Resource Advisory Council will also meet in Montrose (March 6-8) to consider other matters.
Regional review identifies sites where area-wide fees may not be consistent with the legislation that authorized them
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Day use charges at Green Mountain Reservoir and Cataract Lake may be eliminated, while camping fees could go up, as the U.S. Forest Service considers changes to a sometimes controversial recreation fee program that requires visitors to pay for access to sites with developed amenities.
The proposed changes resulted from a region-by-region review of the fee program, with the Green Mountain/Cataract Lake sites identified as a place where the area-wide fees should be dropped, while continuing to charge site-specific fees for campgrounds with developed amenities. A stakeholder group that included fee program critics, local businesses and users of the area came to a similar conclusion years before the agency review.
Any changes are at least a year away, pending review by a recreation advisory committee. According to White River National Forest recreation staff officer Rich Doak, the review is required under the legislation that authorizes fees — a “gut check” to determine whether the existing fee structure at various sites is the best way to manage the areas for the benefit of the public. Continue reading “Forest Service eyes changes to recreation fees”→