Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Apple Valley, ca
The U.S. Forest Service’s Adventure Pass, which has been under criticism by local residents for the past 14 years, has been declared an “injustice to Americans” by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a unanimous decision this month. The decision written by Judge Robert Gettleman stated, “Everyone is entitled to enter National Forests without paying a cent.”
Currently, under the Adventure Pass fee program, it costs $5 a day, or $30 for a year, for a pass to park and visit the forest. This entitles the user to park a vehicle in most designated parking areas in the forest. Many mountain residents have refused to pay the fee for the opportunity to hike in the forest and have piles of notices of Adventure Pass non-compliance tickets in their glove boxes. The tickets issued, although very federal and official looking, are requesting voluntary compliance with the Fee Demonstration Program that began in 1997, suggesting the fee should be mailed-in within 30 days.
The court decision came in a case brought by four hikers who wanted to hike in an Arizona forest, but objected to paying a fee to hike and visit unimproved areas of the forest. The reasoning behind the decision was that, since the forestland had been purchased by tax dollars, making users pay for an Adventure Pass to visit it was considered a case of double taxation. “Just setting a foot on the forest land should not incur a charge,” said attorney Mary Ellen Barilotti, who has been suing the Forest Service over the Adventure Pass requirement for over a decade.
However, the court did state in its decision that a developed area with amenities, such as picnic tables, permanent toilets, garbage cans and running water, could have a use fee attached. However, just parking a car should not incur a charge, according to the decision. Anyone who walks in the forest or camps at undeveloped site in the national forest, “without using facilities and services should be able to do so without incurring additional expense.” The fee violates the 2004 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, the decision implored.
What does this mean to the San Bernardino National Forest? USFS Public Information Officer John Miller told The Alpenhorn News on Monday, “The U.S. Forest Service is reviewing the decision. This decision is bigger in scope than just the San Bernardino Forest. Locally, we have not been directed to make any changes.” That means that Adventure Pass tickets given out for not having an Adventure Pass and parking and using forest facilities will still be issued. Many of the parking areas in this forest are next to developed areas, which may still have fees assessed for usage.
The 9th Circuit Court decision is binding on all western states. The US Forest Service has a 90-day period in which to appeal the court’s decision to the US Supreme Court. It is unknown at this time if an appeal will be filed.
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