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Forest Service 14er Fee

Colorado 14ers access and fee issues only, please

Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby Bean » Fri May 14, 2010 2:38 pm

Kojones wrote:October 16, 2010 is a Saturday. This is the day after the proposed fee period ends. I say that would be a great time to go!

Kojones

The proposal will not be in effect this year.
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Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby DaveLanders » Fri May 14, 2010 3:48 pm

I just read through the Forest Service's Questions and Responses document. What a crock [-X

I'll just mention some of the worst errors:

The Forest Service tries to take credit for the summit trails, and the restoration work on Humboldt. The
trail work was done by the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI), working with CFI. I was one of the volunteers on
Humboldt in 1997 and 1998. There was no visible Forest Service involvement while I was there. The paid
trail crew was working for RMFI. The base camp manager in 1998 was a Patagonia employee who got time off
from her job, but still got her Patagonia paycheck (thanks Patagonia =D> ). The food was mostly donated.
And there were many volunteers.

The Forest Service cites a need for trail maintenance as a justification for the fee. The trail maintenance
needs are fairly minimal (we did a good job on the Humboldt trail!; there aren't constructed trails to the actual
summits of either Crestone Needle or Peak.).

The Forest Service cites search and rescue costs as a justification for the fee. This is completely bogus.
Search and Rescue is the responsibility of the Custer County sheriff. The COSAR card program is a state program.

Using the perceived economic value of climbing a 14er as a justification for the fee is dubious at best. An
economist friend of mine did an analysis of Eldorado State Park many years ago which tried to show that its
economic value to rock climbers was $50 per day. Even he didn't try to then claim that the admission fee to
Eldorado should therefore be $50.

Longs Peak is mentioned as an example where it costs $20 to climb, because of the Rocky Mountain National
Park admission fee. This is wrong, because the Longs Peak trailhead is accessible without paying the Park
admission fee.

Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby Bean » Fri May 14, 2010 4:08 pm

So we've got USFS officials spreading lies and misinformation covertly as well as through official channels. Anyone know how to get people like this fired?
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Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby DaveLanders » Fri May 14, 2010 4:10 pm

Does the Forest Service care what we think of this fee proposal? Probably not. However, they do care about
what Congress thinks, because Congress controls the money. I believe that the Crestones are in John Salazar's
district. I would suggest that anyone who lives in John Salazar's district should send him a copy of any comments
that you send to the Forest Service. (This is an election year after all.) Also there may be a Colorado representative
on the House Agriculture subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the Forest Service. Getting that person involved
would also be good.

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Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby JE242 » Fri May 14, 2010 4:38 pm

Bean wrote:So we've got USFS officials spreading lies and misinformation covertly as well as through official channels. Anyone know how to get people like this fired?

Covertly?

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Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby kaiman » Fri May 14, 2010 4:44 pm

BillMiddlebrook wrote:
JE242 wrote:
BillMiddlebrook wrote:Wow, this thread was active while I was away today!

And there's even a bunch of USFS employees watching the thread. :wink: That's probably a good thing.

Look man, You have got to stop with this FS paranoia. They are not your enemy. No one is "watching" 14ers.com. I simply worked as a ranger for a while. I hike, climb, fish, hunt, bike, camp, just like everyone else here, and most likely JUST LIKE YOU! think about it. :idea:


Huh??
I have great respect for the USFS and their work. What you've mistaken for "paranoia" is the opposite - I WANT the USFS to be reading these threads. I think it's healthy for them to see these debates as they take place in the public. And, yes, there were a number of USFS people reading these threads today. That's just a fact - not paranoia. Again, I want them to see this stuff; We are the ones that are impacted by these changes.

I applaud almost all of their work but, yes, some things (like the Mt. Evans issue) cause even me, a strong supporter of the USFS, to take issue.

BTW, I also happen to be on the CFI Board and work with the USFS on 14er-related issues.

As far as the SC Lakes proposal, here's my stance:
I'm not flat out against the use of fees. Bet you didn't see that coming. Anyway, in a case like this, I think fees should only be considered if they are absolutely vital for the USFS to maintain a sensitive area AND I think 100% of the fees need to go to that area, not somewhere else in the district. Also, I don't think fee dollars should be used to build unnecessary structures on public land (especially an area like the SC Lakes road), resulting in the need for more fee collection. I also feel the USFS should reevaluate fee areas on occassion to determine if the fee is still necessary, not just keep fee going in perpetuity. An example of this may be a large restoration/trailhead project that has mostly one-time costs but future maintenance costs are much lower and can be covered under normal USFS operation, not user fees.


I agree with Bill on this one, the FS in many ways does a decent job and some compromise and middle-ground needs to be reached on this issue...

I also think that the anti-government/anti-tax rhetoric of some posters in this forum is disrespectful and inconsiderate of the people in USFS and the hard work and dedication that they have to keeping vast areas of public lands open to all kinds of recreation. Come on folks, lets be respectful, no matter what your views on the whole anti-tax/big government thing. The fact of the matter is they are just doing their jobs... I personally thank them and applaud their efforts =D>

In regards to the South Colony Lakes issue, in my opinion they ought to both close the road and charge a small fee. That fee should go back into the fund for the SC area for trail maintenance, campground infrastructure, roads, etc.

Some people will probably disagree with me, but I think the model that is being used here in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness Area, particularly the Maroon Creek Road is a good one and could be applied (in some respects) to the Crestone area.

For those of you unfamiliar with it: Right now during the summer months (Memorial Day to October) the road is open to car traffic during early morning hours (until 8:30 AM), after which they offer a bus service to Maroon Lake (this allows them to collect a fee and cuts down on the amount of traffic/maintenance/costs on the road) and provides money to maintain the infrastructure around the Maroon Bells (paths, trails, bridges, camping spots, etc). During the winter the road is closed to all vehicles, but can still be access via snowmobile, skis, snowshoes, etc.

The result is: For those who want to spend a casual day hiking, taking pictures, and basking in the scenery it's great. For those who want to hike, climb, or enter the wilderness via Maroon Creek, the fee they pay gives them a 5 day pass to the area. For those who don't want to pay a fee or want a more remote experience but still want to see the Maroon Bells, they can still access the area for no fee from no less then 10 trails (Conundrum Creek, East Maroon Pass, Triangle Pass, East Maroon Creek, West Maroon Pass, Frigidaire Pass, Fravert Basin, Schofield Pass, Rustler's Gulch, East Snowmass Creek, Buckskin Pass, West Snowmass Creek, Gothic, etc., etc., etc.). Plus it saves cost on road maintenance and cuts down on traffic, etc.

It seems to me that just leaving the whole South Colony area unmanaged, closing the road, or just charging a fee does nobody any good and doesn't solve the issue. I would suggest that they close the road and charge a small fee. The fee would go into maintaining/expanding the parking areas, adding camping for people to stay at before/after their trips into the Sangres, road maintenance to the closure, etc. For those who want quick access to the Crestones they could get there this way and pay the fee, for those wanting a "back country experience" or not wanting to pay a fee they could take the myriad of other routes to reach the area and nobody would be the wiser...

Just my 2 cents,

kaiman
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Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby ClimbandMine » Fri May 14, 2010 5:26 pm

Since "rjsfun" disappeared, I'm reposting this for AlpineHigh or JE242 to answer because I really want to know.

The USFS is flagrantly violating the law currently at Mt. Evans and soon in the Crestones. Please explain why the Mt. Evans toll booth requires (as of at least last year) an armed LEO to intimidate drivers into paying the fee. If it was legal and legitimate, a large (overweight?) armed LEO behind the toll collector should not be needed.

Happy paying "costumers" refered to by rjsfun are not the issue. The legality and legimaticy of the USFS to charge fees under the law is. The press release for the Crestone fee refers to the defunct Fee Demo program, replaced in 2004 by the FLREA. If the USFS doesn't even know the law they are supposed to be following why should we trust you to use fee dollars for what you claim it will be used for? Why should we trust anything you say? FLREA is your law (well, Ralph Regula's law) but you get the point. It's pretty clear cut.

It seems like rjsfun doesn't know the law - under the FLREA you are allowed to drive through recreation areas that do have legal fees if you don't stop and use amenities. So he did not need to pay the fee under the law.


I don't think those opposing the fees are against the employees of the USFS who are doing good and meaningful work - fighting fires, keeping our forests healthy, and so on. We just want our peers, our kids, and our grandkids to be able to enjoy the wilderness, not have to pay a fortune to do it, and not be harassed in the process. We also don't want our wilderness developed unnecessarily in the name of "protection" when we all know its really only a self-fulfilling tax collection mechanism.
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Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby AlpineHigh » Fri May 14, 2010 5:32 pm

Bean wrote:So we've got USFS officials spreading lies and misinformation covertly as well as through official channels. Anyone know how to get people like this fired?


As far as the proposal in which the Forest Service claimed credit for trail work that they did not do, I won't defend them in any way. The USFS and climbing/hiking community owes nothing but the most respect for volunteers (who get the majority of the hard work done!), but as far as myself and other USFS employees writing in this discussion, what specifically did we lie about? As far as I can tell from reading the material on here, posts by USFS employees have been nothing but opinion based on personal experiences.

Disagreeing with opinion is one thing, but calling personal opinion a lie is crossing the line. You not only just lost any credibility with me but look like a jackass for your unwavering hatered for a land management agency that ultimately does some positive things for our environment (whether you care to acknowledge them or not). Have you ever worked for a land management agency be is a Gov't run one or private one? Do you have any idea how difficult it would be to make every single person happy all the time? They do what they can with what they have. Ultimately policy that is put into place in Congress or the Supreme Court or what-have-you dictates the rules and regs that become problems or solutions.

Before you start bashing individuals, take a look at your own one-sided opinion. This conversation started off as polite and respectful and you are not pushing it back in that direction. Why don't you take your negativity some place else?
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Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby coloradokevin » Fri May 14, 2010 6:12 pm

lordhelmut wrote:Elitch Gardens charges too, which I guess is unfair. We, as Americans and lovers of the outdoors, should have the right to go down waterslides into piss infested pools without paying a daily fee.


Elitch Gardens is a privately owned enterprise, on private land, that has developed an expensive amusement park to provide thrills to paying customers. Obviously they charge a fee for those services, and clearly they have a right to under any form of capitalism.

I fear the day that the USFS starts to follow the amusement park model in determining what development should be done at these sites, or how fees should be assessed (seems like we might be heading that way, though). Leave the land as it was, and the problem will solve itself! Tourists flock to areas with ammenities, and rangers telling them what to do. Compare the Mt. Goliath area with the Beartrack Lakes area in the same wilderness... HUGE difference in visitation, as would be expected!


Lordhelmut wrote:Good point on closing the road towards the bottom. Save your car, exercise your legs, live a little longer, enjoy the great outdoors.


I'm fine with that idea. But, again, my feelin is as follows:

The ammenities bring the crowds, the crowds bring the problems, the problems bring the outcry, and the outcry brings the fees... which in turn bring more ammenities, more rangers, more tourists, and more fees! Keep nature natural, and the system will take care of itself better than we give it credit for



lordhelmut wrote:IPW charges a fee, I don't recall anyone having a problem with that? Besides Brainerd Lake gate closures, I've always viewed it as a relatively efficient system. Basically a Nat'l Park that allows dogs.


I have an issue with that system, and can once again apply it to my theory regarding wilderness use. The IPW gets a lot of use, but also provides for easy and simple access for tourists (areas like Brainard Lake). Take the walk to Lake Isabelle this summer, and look at the type of trail that has been developed in that area (I could practically drive my Hyundai Accent up there... in a wilderness area!). Plus, just outside of the wilderness there are signs, rangers, toilets, toll booths, and other ammenities to attract tourists.

Despite the initial crowds in that area, the herd thins out dramatically as you approach Pawnee Pass, or other areas that are more than a couple of miles from the TH, on trails that are less than 8ft wide.

The James Peak Wilderness is also heavily used (at least from the tunnel), and has thus far remained fee-free. But, there don't seem to be too many problems in this wilderness. Sure, you'll see more hikers on the weekend, but the "soccer mom" crowd is generally kept to a minimum due to a lack of facilities (no bathrooms, a primitive trail, etc). It is my honest belief that the dedicated hiking crowd is also the crowd that is dedicated to not leaving trash behind on the trail, or putting themselves in stupid positions that require the assistance of full-time rangers to overcome. So, I recommend leaving our forests in a state of minimal development, which will lead to reduced use, and thereby place them in less need of expensive "routine maintenance and patrol".


Just my $.035

Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby Bean » Fri May 14, 2010 6:24 pm

AlpineHigh wrote:
Bean wrote:So we've got USFS officials spreading lies and misinformation covertly as well as through official channels. Anyone know how to get people like this fired?


As far as the proposal in which the Forest Service claimed credit for trail work that they did not do, I won't defend them in any way. The USFS and climbing/hiking community owes nothing but the most respect for volunteers (who get the majority of the hard work done!), but as far as myself and other USFS employees writing in this discussion, what specifically did we lie about? As far as I can tell from reading the material on here, posts by USFS employees have been nothing but opinion based on personal experiences.

Disagreeing with opinion is one thing, but calling personal opinion a lie is crossing the line. You not only just lost any credibility with me but look like a jackass for your unwavering hatered for a land management agency that ultimately does some positive things for our environment (whether you care to acknowledge them or not). Have you ever worked for a land management agency be is a Gov't run one or private one? Do you have any idea how difficult it would be to make every single person happy all the time? They do what they can with what they have. Ultimately policy that is put into place in Congress or the Supreme Court or what-have-you dictates the rules and regs that become problems or solutions.

Before you start bashing individuals, take a look at your own one-sided opinion. This conversation started off as polite and respectful and you are not pushing it back in that direction. Why don't you take your negativity some place else?

A USFS employee claiming to be an ordinary recreational user is a person who is lying, and I absolutely reject your call to call it an "opinion." Your assumptions about my views on all USFS employees are baseless and outright wrong. You are the one taking things off the deep end; my disdain is for a few individuals who are lying and misrepresenting facts, not for all of them.

Perhaps you should go somewhere that it's ok to lie and misrepresent yourself and every single fact relating to a situation, without any risk of being called out on it.

Furthermore, while I haven't worked for a land management agency, I currently work for an agency that faces countless complaints from the public, and I'm forced to do far more than would be thought reasonable given the resources available to me. Since you deem it relevant, I'll be working 55+ hours a week at night all summer long, serving the public, way understaffed, and I'll be doing it for about 60% of what I should be getting paid. Get off your high horse.
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Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby AlpineHigh » Fri May 14, 2010 6:31 pm

ClimbandMine wrote:Since "rjsfun" disappeared, I'm reposting this for AlpineHigh or JE242 to answer because I really want to know.

The USFS is flagrantly violating the law currently at Mt. Evans and soon in the Crestones. Please explain why the Mt. Evans toll booth requires (as of at least last year) an armed LEO to intimidate drivers into paying the fee. If it was legal and legitimate, a large (overweight?) armed LEO behind the toll collector should not be needed.

Happy paying "costumers" refered to by rjsfun are not the issue. The legality and legimaticy of the USFS to charge fees under the law is. The press release for the Crestone fee refers to the defunct Fee Demo program, replaced in 2004 by the FLREA. If the USFS doesn't even know the law they are supposed to be following why should we trust you to use fee dollars for what you claim it will be used for? Why should we trust anything you say? FLREA is your law (well, Ralph Regula's law) but you get the point. It's pretty clear cut.


I do understand the anger as far as the law goes - the Forest Service cannot charge fees for use of the National Forests, yet they ask for a fee to drive up Mt.Evans. I would agree that the fee is ambiguous, confusing, and even not explained well. The fees charged are for use of the Forest Service facilities (and county facilities at Summit Lake). For those people wishing to drive the road, you are not obligated to pay the fee. You can kindly tell the fee collector that you are only going to be driving the road and not making use of the facilities and you should be allowed to proceed. The road is a county road and the fee is not so that you can drive it. I am very sorry to hear about the LEO at the fee station. Please keep in mind that he is armed because he is a Law Enforcement Officer and it is for his safety on the job. If he was sitting there attempting to intimidate people then I would say he was not doing his job which is to patrol the entire ranger district enforcing laws. As far as I remember last year, he spent the majority of his time patroling the district, not trying to intimidate visitors on Mt.Evans. That being the case, I am disappointed and sorry that that is the experience you had.

Ultimately, any tickets issued on Mt.Evans for failure to pay the fee (and still using USFS facilities) cannot be enforced! And ultimately I don't think they should be issued. The number of people who don't wish to pay is so minuscule compared to the number that happily pay that it is a mute point. I do however think that it is misleading for there to be an official looking citation for something that cannot be enforced - an example of miss-information on behalf of the USFS that I will happily acknowledge and gratefully regret (as I have a high level of respect for the majority of FS employees).

Money collected on Mt.Evans supplements the Clear Creek Ranger District budget (as far as I know). The district is largely under-funded (as well as the entire USFS). Out of their budget they have to cover many expenses that I won't attempt to list before then can even consider Mt.Evans. As far as the mountain goes, they staff the fee station, pay for Interpretive Rangers who provide informative and might I label them "entertaining" programs, regarding wildlife, history, and other topics. Rovers go up and down the mountain assisting visitors in distress (medical and vehicle issues), provide water to those who do not have enough (mostly cyclists who bring less then a liter!) clean bathrooms and stock them with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and on occasion hand out citations.

I really do agree with you that collecting a fee for use of public lands such as National Forest is not legal. The way the fee is being collected makes it seem mandatory and therefor illegal. I would happily see the whole thing change so that it was a suggested donation to help maintain facilities and provide visitor assistance and not made to appear as a mandatory charge.

The difficult part revolves around the fact that when an area of a forest reaches a level of extremely high use, the originally budgeted money for the district that the high-use area happens to be in all of a sudden does not have cover the expense required to keep an area pleasant and maintained (otherwise trash piles up, human waste becomes an issue, people pretty much do what they please, etc.). Volunteers could potentially bridge some of the gap that forms, but for an area that sees over 200k visitors a year (Mt.Evans for example), volunteers can only do so much. In this case the idea of proposing a small fee seems somewhat reasonable to me, especially if it is suggested and not required. I know I usually am more happy to donate money to an area that I enjoy then fork it over because of a mandatory fee. In the case of a fee, if it is reasonable, most people will happily pay it, some won't. This is to be expected and although some people end up being unhappy, most are in fact fine with it.

Not to stray to far from the point, but ultimately I would hope that fees could be avoided whenever possible. I really don't like the thought of paying to use land that is publicly owned that my tax dollars fund (although more of my taxes are routed to the illegal "war" oversees and other programs that I dislike then to the USFS). I hope fees are not proposed in new areas and I especially hope they are not put into place if they would be illegal. My question to you would then be, how do you deal with the issue of overuse if volunteerism is not enough to cover the lack of funding? I suppose legal action to ensure better funding for the USFS and other land management agencies would be a good course, but unfortunately when it comes to government spending, we all appear to be in the minority for wanting more money for parks, forests and wilderness areas.
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Re: Forrest Service 14er Fee

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Fri May 14, 2010 6:52 pm

AlpineHigh wrote:Money collected on Mt.Evans supplements the Clear Creek Ranger District budget (as far as I know). The district is largely under-funded (as well as the entire USFS).

This is the part that irks me the most about the Mt. Evans issue. If they are under-funded, I still don't think it's right to use the Mt. Evans fees for the rest of the district. It's unfair and (to me) borderline dishonest. The tourists that "happily" pay the fee don't know this.

Having owned a company, I can offer advice for the under-funded thing... Lay off employees (really), cut back, reduce expenses, cut back more, etc. When times were tough in my business, we didn't maintain the status quo and simply raise our rates for existing clients.

I just don't see how it's fair to make all of this money from the road and use it to fund the rest of the district. Unfair at best.

Oh, and the sign about driving the road for free was added recently after years of fee collection for ALL cars. Very few people ever questioned the fee until the details became public about ownership of the road, etc. Again, unfair.
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