Forest Service drops recreation fees at some picnic areas, trails |

Forest Service drops recreation fees at some picnic areas, trails

WASHINGTON – The Forest Service is eliminating $5 and $10 recreation fees it charges at about 500 picnic areas and trailheads after outdoor enthusiasts and Western lawmakers complained.The move includes 13 sites in Colorado, none of which are located in Summit County, according to White River National Forest spokesperson Sue Froeschle.The Forest Service will continue to charge fees locally at Green Mountain Reservoir and through the Christmas tree permit program.”One thing that’s unique about our region is that 90 percent of fee money goes right back to the site where money was collected,” Froeschle said. “It goes to maintaining the campground and the toilet facilites and providing information to visitors. Some of fees do go toward collection, but it’s not as siginificant as most people think.”The fees also could disappear at other recreation areas among thousands operated by the government but will remain at those with parking lots, restrooms and other amenities under a law Congress passed last year.The new law “raises the bar for sites to qualify for charging fees so the public can enjoy more amenities,” said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth.Nationwide, 61 percent of more than 16,000 sites operated by the Forest Service will be free of charge, officials said. That is an increase from 58 percent that are already free.A law pushed by the Bush administration and signed by the president in December granted longterm authority for the once-temporary fees at recreation sites, but set standards under which they could be collected. It immediately set off a storm of protest, particularly in the West where much of the land is controlled by the government.The fees generate about $170 million a year for the Forest Service and three Interior Department agencies: the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Officials use the money to maintain restrooms, collect trash and provide other amenities.

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