Joined: 07 Aug 2008
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Last year Gifford Pinchot National Forest proposed an array of new fees (Hummocks TH, June Lake TH, Falls Creek Falls TH, Middle Falls TH, Snowgrass TH, Siouxon TH, Chambers Lake, Lower Falls Campground, Mount Margaret Backcountry per-person-per-night fee, etc) and increases in fees (Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams Permits, Johnston Ridge Observatory, etc). They collected public comments in the summer and early fall.
Based on those comments they developed final proposals which can be viewed here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/giffordpinchot/recreation/?cid=fseprd1006730
The Gifford Pinchot Secure Rural Schools Resource Advisory Committee (SRS RAC) will review these proposals and any new public comments/questions on them on 3/9/2023 from 8:30AM-12PM https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/giffordpinchot/workingtogether/advisorycommittees
This meeting is open to the public both via Zoom and in person in Vancouver, WA. If you would like to speak for 3 minutes at the start you must request this by 3/6/2023 as well.
Please submit any written comments for the SRS RAC to see or request to speak to by emailing comments/request to firstname.lastname@example.org by end of day on 3/6. Gala Miller is the Designated Federal Officer (DFO) who has responsibility for convening the Gifford Pinchot SRS RAC.
In repeated email communications engaged with the FS seeking the final proposals throughout the start of the year, I was told in mid-January final materials would be available by the end of the month. At the end of January I was told by materials would be available by the first week of February. Final proposals were made publicly available on 2/27/2023 but distributed it to the SRS RAC members on 2/9/2023, 18 days earlier. The asinine excuse for this 18 day delay was the need to make PDFs 508 Compliant before sharing with the public. But apparently it was fine to share these materials with SRS RAC members before the public. For comparison the Hood-Willamette SRS RAC materials were emailed to me the same day they were provided to the RAC and posted the next day. Whether this is by intention or ineptitude of GPNF I cannot say.
Topics to consider if you are not in support new or increased fees, or wish you had more time to respond are as follows. If you submit questions like these to Gala Miller, the hope is at least some of the SRS RAC members will ask the FS these questions at the meeting. If there aren't good answers maybe they will pause on giving recommendations.
|"Will building new infrastructure/facilities help reduce the existing maintenance backlog or make it bigger?"
"Please ask the Forest Service how building new facilities such as at Snowgrass TH, Hummocks TH, June Lake TH, Siouxon TH, Falls Creek Falls TH, Chambers Lake, Middle Falls TH, and Crest Camp TH (and other new fee areas currently lacking required amenities) will help reduce the existing $6-10 million backlog of deferred maintenance?" — The FS is misguided in building new amenities and committing to services to them when they have already demonstrated with numbers in the millions they are unable to address upkeep existing infrastructure."
"The Forest Service has had 20 years (including fee demo) to implement and charge fees at sites they maintain but still has a huge deferred maintenance backlog, yet they want to continue to build. The public is seeing more fees and more permits every year and they are tired of it. It's like corporations with upcharges and hidden fees, charging for anything they can. But these are public lands for the public to access. We've had enough fees."
The Gifford SRS RAC should be aware the Hood-Willamette SRS RAC declined to recommend 9 previously free trailheads for inclusion for new fees, based on equity concerns and the idea that we should keep simple hiking trailheads free for as many people as possible to prevent barriers to entry. Please realize you can decline to support any new fees or fee increases, if the FS has not made a sufficiently convincing arguments it is necessary. Obviously they are functioning without them at present and they have not discussed closing any of these sites if fees are not approved. There's already a lot of fee trailheads, do we really need more? The SRS RAC to the South said no and the FS did not protest that decision or argue about it with the RAC members. The Gifford Pinchot RAC is fully empowered to decline any aspect of the fee proposals unless the FS has provided sound and persuasive arguments. In times of inflation when citizens already pay taxes, does the public really need new fees? This just seems like corporations raising their prices because they can."
"Does the Forest Service have any example of voluntarily dropping a fee from a site in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, since the inception of FLREA? While they say that there are still fee-free places, we have seen a proliferation of new fees across the Forest. It would appear the entire GPNF is on track to be a pay-to-play playground. Public lands should be free for the public."
"Red Mountain Lookout was restored by Passport in Time volunteers in 2010. Lots of work was put in by volunteers to make it available as a rental. The FS squandered these efforts and the site now has a $67,623 deferred maintenance backlog and needs $23,000 to develop it to standards. Can they explain why? The FS says Burley Mountain Lookout needs $175,000 of development costs, in addition to $56,000 of deferred maintenance. They expect to make $10,000 a year in revenue from each. At that projected revenue rate rate it would be 23 years before Burley Mountain Lookout costs are covered. If the FS can get $201,000 in funds up front to for development to standard of two sites, clearly money is available to them for projects. They might give a complicated and wandering explanation about money from different allocations can only be used for certain things, but maybe they should try to streamline that on the administrative side before forcing new fees that won't go away on the public."
"Why is the FS using a Secure Rural Schools Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) to review FLREA fee proposals? When FLREA has a whole section on Recreation RACs? Does the FS have a good reason why they have not put together a Recreational RAC in over a decade (last met in 2010) when one previously existed? Please get a real answer and do not accept a vague answer that the FS is 'working on it', for 12 years. "
"Why hasn't the Forest Service disclosed the junk fees that get added to prices for permits and reservations made for facilities on rec .gov? Why do they not clearly explain these extra, non-refundable junk fees go to the for-profit federal contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton? There's a federal lawsuit about this now and I think the FS is not actually being transparent in total costs the public pays to create, modify, and cancel access to public lands and facilities"
"Why did it take 18 days for the FS to make these final fee proposals public on 2/27 despite SRS RAC members receiving them on 2/9? Is this the usual timeline? It has negative affected public comment and unnecessarily compressed the time the public has to review these extensive fee changes"|