Outdoors blog

Court tells Forest Service fees to take a hike

Myles Heistad, left, and Scott Wolff hike the trail along the North Fork of Asotin Creek before buds have opened on trees and plants in the foothills of the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington. (Rich Landers)
Myles Heistad, left, and Scott Wolff hike the trail along the North Fork of Asotin Creek before buds have opened on trees and plants in the foothills of the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington. (Rich Landers)

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.

Stay tuned.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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