Central Cascades permit fees announced

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bobcat
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by bobcat » October 11th, 2019, 11:12 am

Speaking directly to Splinter, Bobcat, Peachy..
Peachy and I are no longer members of the TKO Board, so I have already submitted my concerns to the USFS as a private citizen, hiker, and trail volunteer.

This discussion has been enlightening to me and helped me to phrase my comments. Whether the TKO Board is willing to establish a platform on the issue I cannot say. I hope they do. It is definitely within the organization's mission statement to do so.

I would note, however, that the discussion in this thread is probably not representative. I've discussed this particular issue with different hikers at different times. It is not a given that all hikers are opposed to these restrictions. I've met quite a few who are not and who feel that wilderness restrictions, fees, etc. are justified in many cases.

At least TKO provides these Forums - their maintenance and cost - to host discussions such as these. I am strongly in favor of TKO providing a lead in activism throughout the state even though no position the organization takes is going to please everybody. The Oregon hiker community in general needs such a voice.

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cunningkeith
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by cunningkeith » October 11th, 2019, 12:12 pm

Does the public understand that "recreation.gov" is not run by the government but by a private firm?

If I go on a solo backpack, the private firm will make $6 for a "processing fee," but if I go on a day hike it will make $1 for a "processing fee." Those overnight permits sure must be a lot more work to "process."

My kids and I do a family backpack with another family each summer. If the eight of us (five kids, two of whom are under 12 years old) do the Three Sisters loop in four nights, that will costs $126--quite a price hike from the current charge of $0.

As far as suggested comments, I would suggest two basic points. First, the fee is illegal under the FLREA, so it should be set to $0 (see below). Second (assuming the fees are going to happen), all reservations should automatically cancel the night before the hike and return to the pool for others to obtain unless users "confirm" their reservations and print their permits. This will help solve the problem of people reserving slots six months in advance and then not using them.

To the first point (FLREA), the argument is pretty straightforward. The law prohibits the FS from charging for

"general access" to a wilderness 16 U.S.C. § 6802(d)(1)(B)
"hiking through" a wilderness 16 U.S.C. § 6802(d)(1)((D) or
"camping at undeveloped sites" 16 U.S.C. § 6802(d)(1)(E)

The proposed fees violate these prohibitions. There are only three exceptions to the prohibitions of fees listed above, but these exceptions don't apply. The FS can charge a standard amenity fee (not the case b/c no amenities are provided); expanded amenity recreation fee (same); and a special recreation permit fee.

See the comments above as to why charging people to walk in the wilderness is not "special recreation."
Last edited by cunningkeith on October 11th, 2019, 1:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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retired jerry
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by retired jerry » October 11th, 2019, 12:55 pm

"all reservations should automatically cancel the night before the hike and return to the pool for others to obtain unless users "confirm" their reservations and print their permits"

yeah, many campgrounds are like that

from the perspective of the collector of fees, it doesn't matter, they get their fees regardless

it's a shame to have public facilities go unused. There's a shortage of spots given growth of users. They should optimize use, not just optimize fees collected.

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Water
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by Water » October 11th, 2019, 1:54 pm

Keith,

What about this:
§ 293.3 Control of uses.
(a) To the extent not limited by the Wilderness Act, subsequent legislation establishing a particular unit, or the regulations in this part, the Chief, Forest Service, may prescribe measures necessary to control fire, insects, and disease and measures which may be used in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons or damage to property and may require permits for, or otherwise limit or regulate, any use of National Forest land, including, but not limited to, camping, campfires, and grazing of recreation livestock.
Do you think they are using this to shoehorn in under special user permit? By pointing to 'damage to property'?
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cunningkeith
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by cunningkeith » October 11th, 2019, 2:58 pm

Water wrote:
October 11th, 2019, 1:54 pm
Keith,

What about this:
§ 293.3 Control of uses.
(a) To the extent not limited by the Wilderness Act, subsequent legislation establishing a particular unit, or the regulations in this part, the Chief, Forest Service, may prescribe measures necessary to control fire, insects, and disease and measures which may be used in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons or damage to property and may require permits for, or otherwise limit or regulate, any use of National Forest land, including, but not limited to, camping, campfires, and grazing of recreation livestock.
Do you think they are using this to shoehorn in under special user permit? By pointing to 'damage to property'?
Good question. I honestly don't think the FS has put much thought into the legal basis for doing any of this. I personally don't see how this qualifies as an "emergency" (the basis cited in the reg) but who knows? Even if the reg somehow applied, it authorizes the FS to "limit or regulate, any use of National Forest land," which sounds like quotas to me, not fees.

The FLREA speaks to fees and is very limited in the number of circumstances where fees can be charged.

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Water
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by Water » October 21st, 2019, 11:18 am

From: http://www.pctoregon.com/forest-service ... -cascades/
Where and How to Get Permits
How the permit system will work is not outlined in the brief, two-page Fee Proposal, so we reached out to Matt Peterson, Recreation Program Manager at Willamette National Forest, to help fill in some of the missing details. According to Peterson, 100% of the Three Sisters, Mount Washington and Mount Jefferson wilderness permits will be available via the recreation.gov website. At present, the agencies are considering (but have not settled on) making 60% of overnight permits available for advance reservation, with the remaining 40% available for day-before or day-of availability. The reservable permits for the entire 2020 season would become available on April 1. For those who may not have access to the reservation website, walk-up permits (if available) could be obtained at area ranger stations during normal operating hours.

We also asked about any limits that may be imposed to prevent permit hoarding (and/or scalping), what the cancellation policy will be and how those permits will be added back into the availability inventory, and whether there will be a system in place to deal with no-shows, in order to ensure that as many hikers as the quota allows will actually be permitted to hike. Peterson says that those are all topics that they are continuing to review, and the districts will be addressing those issues as the process gets fine-tuned through the public comment period. Peterson also confirmed that permit holders would not need to display a Northwest Forest Pass, and that new permits would include a trailhead parking pass. (Trailheads not included in the quota list will still require a Northwest Forest Pass where applicable.)

...
Representatives we spoke with from Trailkeepers of Oregon, Travel Oregon and Access Fund share some concerns about the new Fee Proposal and are still considering their positions. We will post updates when they make their comments public.
Last edited by Water on October 21st, 2019, 11:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Water
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by Water » October 21st, 2019, 11:25 am

From a letter sent to objectors (Reference) Emphasis mine.
The seven (7) items listed below were identified during the objection process as important components to be included in the implementation of the Final Decision. These items are outside the scope of the NEPA decision. As part of the implementation process, these items will be further developed and presented to the public as part of the fee determination phase of the project, scheduled to begin in May 2019. The public will have the opportunity to learn more about and comment on each of these items as well as the proposed permit fee during the summer of 2019 (June through September):

• We will propose an annual pass option;
• We will create a volunteer pass, to recognize individuals who invest a substantial amount of time in support of wilderness stewardship;
• Kids 12 and under will not be required to pay the wilderness stewardship fee;
• We will work with partner organizations to make passes/permits available to underserved communities;
• For both day use and overnight permits, a portion will be reservable at the beginning of the season, and a portion will only be made available the day before;
• We will continue to engage with partners to expand education efforts around Leave No Trace and wilderness ethics;
• The Deschutes National Forest will continue to explore options for new high elevation trails outside of Wilderness to accommodate increased use on nearby public lands. Potential locations include Tumalo Mountain, Mt Bachelor.
The only item addressed at this point is: • Kids 12 and under will not be required to pay the wilderness stewardship fee;
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poppacouch
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by poppacouch » October 21st, 2019, 12:07 pm

What is the best method to voice meaningful opposition to this plan?
Is it hopeless at this point or can we rally enough support to prevent a plan that increases cost of visiting the wilderness?

As others have posted, it is frustrating to consider the cost (skyrocketing) of taking a group of kids out for a backpacking trip - something I've just begun to really enjoy, and my family and friends value these outings. I mean, kids under 12 can have great fun on short trips, but I'm just beginning to realize the idea of longer, more rigorous trips that can happen with the older kids.

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Water
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by Water » October 21st, 2019, 1:00 pm

pappacouch,

The comment period ends November 25th so if you can wait, I at least will figure out my response and share it here.

I think the best luck will be objecting to the fees under the grounds of FLREA:
(h) Special recreation permit fee
The Secretary may issue a special recreation permit, and charge a special recreation permit fee in connection with the issuance of the permit, for specialized recreation uses of Federal recreational lands and waters, such as group activities, recreation events, motorized recreational vehicle use.
I don't know where a lay person would find this to be clarified into final detail. The law as I read it just says "such as:...." But clearly doesn't intend to be exhaustive. I mean they apply this to climbing a volcano.. Mt. Adams, I guess that's specialized use. Frankly that doesn't seem like the intention of the law but that is what the FS is interpreting.

---
On the feasibility of this, there's a hope the fees can be thrown out which would largely neuter this and I believe you'd see a significant change of approach from the FS. They want less people, less use, less work for themselves, and increased revenues. I can't see how you would look at this any other way.

I can't say for certain but given the FS spokesperson is on record verbatim saying it is unprecedented, and this was agreed upon by the Forest Supervisor at the time (John Allen, now retired), I think there's a chance the bigger picture gets shot down.

This is done under Special Use Permit, and within that couched as 'providing a wilderness experience'. I believe it's the same way Pamelia, Obsidian, Enchantments, and other areas have more or less operated, but those are much smaller. I think grounds to contest will fall under the FS's interpretation of that Special Use Permit being applied to such a large area.

I really don't understand what the process is if the FS is acting outside the law, or taking a liberal interpretation of it, but has not given you a ticket or something, how you can 'fight' them on it. I think you need standing to show you've been harmed or have grounds to challenge, which a ticket would suffice to do.

---
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Bosterson
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Re: Central Cascades permit fees announced

Post by Bosterson » October 21st, 2019, 1:06 pm

Thanks for the reminder, Matt. That's a good opportunity to comment that the FS failed to present us with a proposal for the rest of the details of the permit fees (like the annual pass they said they would create), thus it's very difficult for us to actually respond. Their complete failure to address hoarding, scalping, and unused permits is also disheartening.

To the TKO people who are listening here :roll: will there be an official position on this?

To Poppacouch - the permits/quotas are a done deal until someone sues the FS. However the fees are open for comment until 11/25/19. If you read through this thread, it looks like a lot of us will be commenting that 1) the FS has previously said they would have a fully fleshed out proposal for the fees, including addressing annual passes and uncollected reserved permits, and they have totally failed to do this, and 2) their contention that FLREA authorizes them to charge entry fees to reduce usage is not supported by the actual text of the law, so as entry fees are otherwise prohibited by FLREA, they cannot charge for these permits and the "fee" must be zero.
Will hike off trail for fun.

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