Forest Service to Drop Fees at Most National Forests
The U.S. Forest Service plans to grant free access to nearly all national forest lands, scaling back unpopular recreation fees that have raised the ire of hikers but also sent millions of dollars to Southern California’s heavily used forests.
The agency proposes eliminating fees for three-quarters of the forest areas where they are now imposed, including 19 in Southern California. The charges in the Southland take the form of the regional Adventure Pass, which costs $5 a day or $30 annually.
Many trail heads, day-use sites and general forest areas where fees are now in effect in the region’s four national forests will become free, said Tamara Wilton, a California Forest Service manager.
Adopted as part of a demonstration program in 1996 and later modified by Congress, the national recreation fees have been extremely controversial. Hikers greeted them by slapping bumper stickers on their cars declaring, “Can’t see the forest for the fees.”
Liberals said they kept poor families from public lands and conservatives complained that the charges amounted to double taxation.
“It’s been so detested for so long,” said John McKinney, the author of 25 hiking books, including several Southland guides. “The program never had any political support…. [It] ended a 100-year tradition of free access to public land.”