Explain the forest pass system?

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knote72
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Explain the forest pass system?

Post by knote72 » July 11th, 2019, 11:30 pm

As the title says, I'm hoping someone can explain what the forest passes are for, how are they supposed to work, and where all do I need to have them. Tried looking up the info myself, but the usfs site isn't the greatest at explaining it.

I wanna get into hiking/backpacking, and hopefully within the next year plan a multi-day backpacking/fishing trip to one (or more) of the hike-in cascade lakes (basically within the Willamette NF). I work for the local newspaper (which also prints Salem's Statesman Journal) and saw an article discussing the permit system proposed for hiking the Three Sisters Wilderness area, and started looking into the permit system. Along the way, I started seeing that there are federal level and state level passes (supposedly non-interchangeable), some areas require special permits, etc. I was kinda hoping a few of you experienced with this can elaborate. As some of you might understand, once you pay for things like hunting license+tag, fishing license, parks pass (to get to decent fishing spots within a reasonable drive), etc, all these costs start adding up, so I'd rather not have to buy what I wouldn't need.

johnspeth
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Re: Explain the forest pass system?

Post by johnspeth » July 12th, 2019, 4:33 am

The main pass the forest service demands is the Northwest Forest Pass. It's currently $5 per day (sometimes self issued at trail heads) or $30 annually. Not all trail heads require it. I believe a sign will be at the trail head if it's required. There is the issue of "no amenities = no forest pass" that is discussed on Oregon Hikers occasionally. "Amenities" usually means a toilet has been installed at the trail head. As you mentioned, the gov web sites are poor at expressing where the passes are needed.

Then there are the other required passes, like the Pamelia Lake and Obsidian trail heads. You gotta buy a special pass nearby during business hours which hardly ever meshes well with hiker habits (store 50 miles away opens at 10 am, you wanna start hiking at 8 am). I never buy one of those passes because of that problem.

Then there is the enforcement side. It's my view that budget cuts makes practical enforcement limited to nice weather summer weekends of the most popular trail heads. I sometimes forget to display my annual pass and have gotten a few tickets to which I've never responded. I'm still running free to talk about it. I'm funding the system with my annual pass so my morals are still clean. I'm dubious that my funding contribution is actually fixing roads and clearing trails. Rather, it seems to be financing new toilets, which appears the be the only legal requirement that justifies the parking pass.

Also, the pass gets you paid parking permission within a quarter mile of the trail head. No pass is required further than a quarter mile away. I've never heard of cars being towed for lack of a pass. Doing so would be dangerous. I predict that the FS will go the concessionaire route that they've seemed to favor for campgrounds. The pass is the first step in commercializing public land for recreation.

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jessbee
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Re: Explain the forest pass system?

Post by jessbee » July 12th, 2019, 6:57 am

"Then there are the other required passes, like the Pamelia Lake and Obsidian trail heads. You gotta buy a special pass nearby during business hours which hardly ever meshes well with hiker habits (store 50 miles away opens at 10 am, you wanna start hiking at 8 am)."

I'm not sure this is the case. For special limited entry permits you must go through recreation.gov, the online concessionaire that grants access to limited enter areas. This opens up a whole other can of worms. As far as I know these have long ago sold out for the season, save maybe a few random weekdays in the fall.

This is what accessing 19 trailheads will look like next year for day use and all 79 trailheads for overnight use.
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teachpdx
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Re: Explain the forest pass system?

Post by teachpdx » July 12th, 2019, 7:17 am

This is such a loaded and heated topic, I'm pulling out the popcorn to see where this thread goes!

The annual NW Forest Pass is my go-to... I always display it at every trailhead, even when not expressly required just to be safe and in the habit. It only works in the National Forest... not any national parks or BLM land, etc.

The Interagency Annual Pass is $80 (annual below 62, lifetime above 62), but allows access to FS land, National Parks, BLM land, etc. It's great if you are going to multiple national forests and national parks each year.

The dreaded Discover Pass is incredibly overpriced and is valid for Washington State Parks and Washington DNR land... pretty much required for any recreation site outside the national forest or national parks in Washington.

Oregon State Parks charges day-use fees at many sites, none of the above passes work for Oregon State Parks.

Next year, as you mentioned, some trailheads near Mt. Jefferson will be quota-limited with a special fee on top of the forest passes mentioned here... the specific rules are still being developed.

Passes for Pamelia Lake can be obtained online from recreation.gov ... no need to buy locally anymore.

The Olympic NF website has a good overview, beyond even my description: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/olympic/ ... rdb5352358

We can debate the legality and the use of our pass dollars all day, but this is the gist of the requirements.

knote72
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Re: Explain the forest pass system?

Post by knote72 » July 12th, 2019, 1:19 pm

Who woulda thunk it was so complicated to go for a walk in the woods.

I've always criticized the "powers that be" for putting in public-use recreation amenities that only waste money and justify them for charging extra fees (I'm with johnspeth on that one), but I digress. It sounds like I'll have to pick & choose where I do my big hikes at, that Inter-agency pass is a bit pricey on top of other outdoors expenditures. Since the local area I hike is totally free BLM, and most of the scenic areas I wanna hike are in the Willamette NF area, I might as well go with the one pass for that. At that rate, I might as well get the annual, stay 6 days and you've basically bought the annual anyways (pretty messed up how they set that up).

I'm not deterred, just picking and choosing what I will and won't do. Stuff gets kinda spendy when you're on a budget. Wish the state agencies would learn to be better a funding management (and learn how economics work). Then again, if I really wanna plan it out I can just take the bus from town (Lane transit has a route that goes all the way up to Mckenzie bridge, route goes past my friends house https://www.ltd.org/system-map/route_91/)

johnspeth
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Re: Explain the forest pass system?

Post by johnspeth » July 12th, 2019, 1:31 pm

knote72 wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 1:19 pm
At that rate, I might as well get the annual, stay 6 days and you've basically bought the annual anyways (pretty messed up how they set that up).
I think your annual pass plan makes sense. It works for me 99% of the time (Portland resident hiking mainly NF land in WA and OR). For the 1% that it doesn't work, I proceed as a law breaker and ignore it. Like you, I think the pass system should be simplified from a user point of view.

squidvicious
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Re: Explain the forest pass system?

Post by squidvicious » July 12th, 2019, 2:04 pm

I also like to tell myself that displaying the annual pass helps sends a message to car clouters, "Hey, I'm not a tourist, I hike here all the time and get how this whole trailhead theft thing works. I absolutely do not have all my luggage, electronics, and road trip spending money hidden in the trunk, so please move along and smash up that car over there with the out-of-state plates."

Aimless
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Re: Explain the forest pass system?

Post by Aimless » July 12th, 2019, 2:09 pm

knote72 wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 1:19 pm
Wish the state agencies would learn to be better a funding management (and learn how economics work).
The only Oregon state agencies you might end up paying fees to would be ODFW for a hunting or fishing license, or possibly Oregon State Parks if you hike in a day use fee area such as Silver Falls Park. That other hodgepodge of fees and passes are all federal, courtesy of Congress, which has been heavily pushing fee-based services ever since the Reagan administration.

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teachpdx
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Re: Explain the forest pass system?

Post by teachpdx » July 12th, 2019, 2:31 pm

I do a lot of hiking and backpacking, so the annual NWFP makes the most sense for me.

The only other pass I have ever considered is the Discover Pass for all the non-FS lands up in Washington, but I still haven't been able to justify the $11.50/day or $35/year expense to myself. And they seem to be actively ticketing users without the pass, much more so than on NF land. But being from Eugene, this probably isn't an issue for you.

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Water
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Re: Explain the forest pass system?

Post by Water » July 12th, 2019, 8:53 pm

Did someone ask about permits? :o :shock: :lol: :roll:

Well, take a seat, I've just got one quick thing to say..


Hahahahaha. Freaking permits... To go walk in the woods. I used to think maybe there was something to it, I was doing my part, it helped something... But it's literally busy work/making something out if nothing. Capital investments in Trailhead facilities that require daily/weekly upkeep, and annual maintenance, and of course repairs when things go sideways.

One of the very cheapest activities is maintaining trails, just the basics. Go look at any reports, Americorps crews cost relatively nothing in the scope of income and expenditures. But while Willamette National Forest tries to restrict access, out the other side of their mouth they've actually decommissioned numerous miles of trail over the years, including recently. That BS doesn't jive to me. I don't bother with any stinking permits, passes, or the self-entry pieces of trash at trailheads with broken pencils and Scantron bubbles, the data within that is only used against hikers access interests.
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