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cunningkeith
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PostFri Oct 25, 2019 9:00 am 
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Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington is proposing a new bill that allows the Forest Service to charge people for hiking in "special areas" such as the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Glacier Peak Wilderness (I'm cross-posting from the Oregon hikers website b/c Sen. Wyden is a sponsor in the Senate).

The bill ("Recreation Not Red Tape") has been around for a few years. But there's a chance that it passes this session as part of an omnibus bill to keep the government open. Please write your House rep and Senators and tell them to fix the bill. Here is what I am saying to Sen. Wyden (feel free to borrow):

You might be unaware that the legislation that you are sponsoring "Recreation Not Red Tape" (S. 1967, H.R. 3458) will lock people out of wilderness areas and harm low-income families.

The Forest Service has recently proposed an elaborate fee system for hiking in the Central Cascades. All people (hikers, fishermen, horseback riders, hunters, climbers) will be charged for overnight use across nearly ½ million acres in three wilderness areas. Nobody will be allowed to enter any part of the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, or Mt. Washington Wilderness Areas for overnight use without paying a fee. For my family, a Three Sisters trip that currently costs $0 will now cost $100-$200 if the Forest Service’s plan goes through.

No forest in the country has enacted a fee system that is this elaborate (charging for all overnight use at all trails and for day use at 19 trails). There is a reason that this move is unprecedented. The proposal violates the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA), which prohibits the Forest Service from charging people who simply want to hike and camp. Congress passed the FLREA in 2004 to stop the Forest Service’s previous practice of charging people for hiking, camping, and picnicking.

Unfortunately, “Recreation Not Red Tape,” which amends the FLREA, will make things worse by discouraging outdoor recreation and harming low-income people. I support the bill’s goal of streamlining the permitting process for outfitters. But certain language buried in the bill will allow the Forest Service to begin charging ordinary users who want to take a hike. I am asking you to amend this language. The proposed legislation says that the Forest Service may charge “for specialized individual or group uses of Federal recreational lands and waters, including . . . (C) for the use of— (i) a special area.” If this language is enacted, then cash-strapped land managers will quickly declare numerous regions “special areas.” Do you want to go on a day hike on Mt. Hood or through the Gorge? Get ready to pay a fee to hike in these “special areas.” I can guarantee that many of your constituents will be outraged when the Forest Service takes these obvious next steps.

You can fix this problem in two ways. Ask the Forest Service to end its radical fee proposal (it’s still in the comment phase) and amend “Recreation Not Red Tape” to make clear that the Forest Service can charge outfitters for a permit but cannot charge ordinary folks who simply want to go on a hike.
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thunderhead
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PostFri Oct 25, 2019 9:39 am 
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I like how a "no red tape" bill is nothing but legalese and other nonsensical red tape
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Malachai Constant
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PostFri Oct 25, 2019 10:04 am 
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[ Off topic politics removed by moderator ]

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Schroder
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PostFri Oct 25, 2019 10:43 am 
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Long discussion of that here:
USFS to start requiring permits for 3 Oregon wildernesses in 2020
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Backpacker Joe
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PostFri Oct 25, 2019 4:54 pm 
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How would they possibly enforce something like that?

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Malachai Constant
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PostFri Oct 25, 2019 5:08 pm 
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It is actually pretty easy to enforce. In Oregon unlike Wa or Ca the areas are quite small. In Jefferson Park for example there are at most a few dozen campsites. There is always a ranger there checking permits except midwinter when the trailheads are accessed only by miles of snowy roads. Nearby areas are third or fourth growth with a few mediocre campsites. Nearby resorts are on large fished out lakes. A single ranger Chan easily check everyone’s permit each night.

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kiliki
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PostFri Oct 25, 2019 7:31 pm 
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Quote:
The Forest Service has recently proposed an elaborate fee system for hiking in the Central Cascades. All people (hikers, fishermen, horseback riders, hunters, climbers) will be charged for overnight use across nearly ½ million acres in three wilderness areas. Nobody will be allowed to enter any part of the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, or Mt. Washington Wilderness Areas for overnight use without paying a fee. For my family, a Three Sisters trip that currently costs $0 will now cost $100-$200 if the Forest Service’s plan goes through. 

I'm confused. Are you conflating what has already happened in central Oregon to what "may" be allowed to happen in certain heavily used places in WA like the ALW?

I'm a big fan of charging extra fees for high use areas. I remember paying 20 bucks to get into the Maroon Bells wilderness in CO over 20 years ago. I don't have to reiterate how understaffed these areas are; there isn't enough of anything, from law-enforcement to pit toilets to money to fix washed out trails and roads. I agree it does suck for low income people that live near these areas. I would support folks being able to get passes through their congressperson with a tax return proving income.
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Bosterson
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PostSat Oct 26, 2019 12:29 pm 
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Keith and I were both objectors to the Central Cascades proposal and attended meetings with the FS. The concern here is is not a "conflation" of that plan with future actions - it is an induction based on prior experience that this amendment to FLREA will open the door for more of these fee systems. Note that of all the Central Oregon areas that will now require quota'd permits, only a handful currently reach the quotas being set (ie, are currently "high use"), and then only a couple of days a year on high weekends. This amendment would authorize the FS to create "special areas" where they can charge entrance fees carte blanche to individuals, despite FLREA otherwise barring the creation of entrance fees. The rest of the amendment appears to be an attempt to streamline the permitting process for "special recreation" - for outfitters, guides, other commercial use. This sloppiness creates an opportunity that the FS will surely try to exploit. I sympathize with these times of slashed budgets, however "pay to play" is not the solution we want. Note that for Central Oregon, the FS first said they would try to create an annual pass (which many many commentators requested) - now they are saying they don't think they can do it, meaning you have to pay the extra fee each time you want to hike down there (even if you already paid for a NWFP).

Also, not to get too political, contending that low income people should have to get their tax return vetted in order to qualify for a subsidized permit is the worst kind of classist marginalization. Let's create fewer hurdles for people who want to go outdoors, especially those for whom there are already hurdles. No one who's trying to make sure they have enough money to feed their kids is going to bother sending their taxes to a Congressperson (not to mention the USFS is Executive branch, not Legislative...?) just to qualify for a pity pass. Public lands are supposed to be free and open to everyone, not just the wealthy who can easily pay to get in.  shakehead.gif

If you do oppose more fees, please contact your congressperson(s) with your concerns about getting this bill fixed.

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water
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PostSat Oct 26, 2019 1:19 pm 
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Malachai Constant wrote:
It is actually pretty easy to enforce. In Oregon unlike Wa or Ca the areas are quite small. In Jefferson Park for example there are at most a few dozen campsites. There is always a ranger there checking permits except midwinter when the trailheads are accessed only by miles of snowy roads. Nearby areas are third or fourth growth with a few mediocre campsites. Nearby resorts are on large fished out lakes. A single ranger Chan easily check everyone’s permit each night.

Completely incorrect, always a ranger checking permits except for midwinter? I guess you just revealed you've never been there... First of all this new fee program covers 430,000 acres, the entirety of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, Mt. Washington Wilderness, and Three Sisters Wilderness.

They were so remiss, incompetent, and incapable of managing the 'few dozen' campsites in Jeff Park that they think they can expand this wilderness wide for all over-night stays from the Friday before Memorial Day through the last Friday in September. They were entirely unable to keep people from making fires and camping in adhoc camp areas on the 5-7 max use weekends of the year, and you think they can cover an entire wilderness area. Please again tell me how easy it is to enforce.

PS: I appreciate your characterization of the recreation in Oregon. Fantastic reverse psychology narrative!

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water
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PostSat Oct 26, 2019 1:35 pm 
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kiliki wrote:
I'm a big fan of charging extra fees for high use areas.

Me too. I hope they would be expensive enough you could never afford to go to a high use area again.

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RandyHiker
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PostSat Oct 26, 2019 2:22 pm 
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I skimmed through the text of the bill.   From what I'm reading this bill changes the rules for "special permit fees" that are required of commercial guiding and activities like organizing a race.   I didn't see a section that would affect individual recreation on federal land.  What section of the bill affects individuals????
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Bosterson
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PostSat Oct 26, 2019 3:20 pm 
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Randy, it's confusing as currently written because the house bill first amends the definitions section of FLREA as follows:

Quote:
(9) by inserting after paragraph (12) the following:


“(13) SPECIAL RECREATION PERMIT.—The term ‘special recreation permit’ means—

“(A) with respect to the Forest Service, an outfitting and guiding special use permit;

...which does make it sound like it would only affect guiding and outfitters.

But then right after that, it also amends FLREA section 3(h) about the special recreation permit to read as follows (emphasis added):

Quote:
“(h) Special Recreation Permit And Fee.—

“(1) SPECIAL RECREATION PERMIT.—The Secretary may issue a special recreation permit for specialized individual or group uses of Federal recreational lands and waters, including—

“(A) outfitting, guiding, or other recreation services;

“(B) recreation or competitive events, which may include incidental sales;

“(C) for the use of—

“(i) a special area; or

“(ii) an area in which use is allocated;


“(D) motorized recreational vehicle use; and

“(E) a group activity or event.

Hence the loophole to create special use areas that will require entry fees for individuals.

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Joey
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PostSat Oct 26, 2019 3:38 pm 
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@Bosterson - Good job of parsing the legal-speak.
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Cyclopath
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PostSat Oct 26, 2019 7:12 pm 
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What an Orwellian name for this bill.  What do you mean when you say the comment period is now?  Other than emailing our representatives, how do we comment?

I have a lot of sympathy for the fact that USFS has to spend more and more of its budget on firefighting.  But I think it's seriously wrong to charge people to use land they own in non-destructive ways.

I'm also sympathetic to how this would affect people with fixed and/or low incomes.  It's stressful not having money in today's world, and nature is incredibly theraputic.
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Pahoehoe
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PostSat Oct 26, 2019 8:43 pm 
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I dont want more fees.  I really dont.  I also do not want more taxes, but something needs to give.

High use places need toilets, clean up, rangers patrolling enough that it's possible someone who can give a fine for an illegal fire or unsecured food might show up..

Increased population and increased popularity of outdoor activities means we need more access points, and existing access points need improvements for higher use.

More use and more people should equal more funding.

Tax outdoor equipment 1 percent? to go to public lands?

Lobby for a bigger piece of the current pie for public lands?

More permits, passes, entry fees?

A little of all of the above?

I think high use places that are higher cost should maybe require a permit fee to cover those costs... ie, toilets that need moved/maintained.

I also think that with the number of people recreating on our public lands... all those cars parked on 8 mile, etc we should be able to fund our public lands.
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