October 16, 1997 in Idaho

Congress Delays Fee Hike For Forest Leases Craig Provision Would Phase In Huge Increases For Cabin Sites

Associated Press
 

House and Senate negotiators have agreed to delay huge increases in land-use fees facing many people who own cabins in the national forests.

The Forest Service is appraising cabin sites for the first time in two decades, and officials say rents for some oceanside or lakefront locations may rise 500 to 2,000 percent.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, inserted a provision into an Interior Department spending bill that would delay imposition of the higher fees for a year. After that, hikes exceeding 100 percent would be phased in.

A House-Senate conference committee has agreed to leave the provision in the bill’s final version, Craig spokesman Michael Frandsen said Wednesday.

Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest was the first to be reappraised. “Huge and sudden increases in the amount people are required to pay will only serve to drive middle-class owners from the land,” Craig said.

The Forest Service does not oppose the move. “It is a phase-in, it’s not a blanket stop to it,” spokesman Chris Holmes said.

There are 15,600 such permits nationwide. All will be reappraised in the next five years.

Cabins typically date to the 1920s, when the government started offering sites to stimulate interest in national forests. The sites remain government property, and cabin owners pay annual fees for use of the sites.

Environmental groups say it’s unfair for cabin owners to put off paying higher rents.

“These aren’t poor people who own those” cabins, said Ben Beach of The Wilderness Society. “Quite frankly, they should be made to pay.”

In the Sawtooth forest, some fees are set to increase 40-fold, from $200 to nearly $9,000 a year.

The Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota recently notified cabin owners that fees would go up an average 115 percent.

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