PUBLIC LANDS -- The fees forest visitors have been paying to access trailheads in some national forests may be history following a federal court ruling.
The Ninth Circuit Court of appeals recently ruled the U.S. Forest Service "Federal Lands Access Enhancement Fees" are not legal. Essentially the court said the agency couldn't charge fees under the program for hiking, walking, hunting, fishing, picnicking, parking, four wheeling, boating, horseback riding and other uses on undeveloped federal land.
Read the story in today's Los Angeles Times.
The Forst Service began charging access fees in 1996 on some forests, such as the Wenatchee, Okanogan and Umatilla. Other forests, such as the Idaho Panhandle National Forests did not adopt the fee program.
"Everyone is entitled to enter the national forests without paying a cent," wrote Judge Robert Gettleman for the unanimous three-judge panel.
The Forest Service is studying the ruling, and has 60 days to request a rehearing.
I have not yet received answers from my request for comment from affected forests in Washington.
"For now the recreation fee program remains unchanged in the Pacific Northwest," said a spokesman from the Forest Service Region 6 headquarters in Portland.