King Range Wilderness Fee On Hold


Lost_Coast_TrailThe Bureau of Land Management in Arcata, California, has proposed charging visitors to the King Range Wilderness an access fee of $5 per person per day for the Lost Coast National Recreation Trail and other trails within the designated Wilderness.

The minimum overnight trip fee would be $10 per person (for two days). The average trip length in this Wilderness is 3.5 days, so for most people the fee would be $20. The fee would apply to children as well as adults.

Reservations to secure a permit for a future date would be handled through the privately operated for-profit service, and would add $4.00 to $6.50 per person, depending on whether the reservation is made by phone or internet.

The BLM wrote a “business plan” for this proposal in July 2012, but we have been unable to find any evidence that they released it to local or national media, or to the public, at that time. A Press Release was finally issued dated August 2, 2013 but not actually posted until August 8. Public comments were accepted until October 18, 2013; the comment period is now closed. In the business plan you’ll see that one of the main justifications for these fees is “to protect wilderness character.” Though not explicitly stated in this document, it has been stated elsewhere that the imposition of access fees is being done with the intention of creating a barrier to use so as to discourage visitors and divert them into lesser-used areas.

It is important to note that BLM has always had full authority to limit and allocate use through permits in order to “protect wilderness character.” But their authority to charge a fee for permits is solely through the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which authorizes them to charge a fee for permits only when the permit is for a “specialized recreation use.” Hiking, backpacking, or horseback riding through a designated Wilderness by private, noncommercial individuals is decidedly NOT a “specialized” use!

After WSNFC issued an Action Alert, the BLM received almost 300 public comments, and they were overwhelmingly opposed to any access fee for the Wilderness. We’ve obtained copies of all of them through the Freedom of Information Act, have read every one and produced a tally and summary of comments of the main issues raised.

The BLM state office for California reports that the Arcata Office is reviewing the comments and considering what changes, if any, to make to their plan. We intend to continue to do everything we can to prevent any fee from ever being imposed for access to the King Range Wilderness.

Read details of the proposal, media coverage, and the summary of comments below.

King Range Business Plan
Although dated July 2012, it was not actually announced publicly until August 2013.
King_Range_Business Plan July2013

King Range Wilderness Fee Press Release and Media
The press release is dated August 2, 2013 but was not actually posted until August 8. It gives the deadline for comments as September 9, 2013. That was nearly two weeks AFTER they planned to present it to, and expected to receive approval from, the California Recreation Resource Advisory Committee. After our inquiries, BLM pulled the proposal from that agenda.

King Range Fee RRAC Federal Register Notice
Notice published August 13, 2013 that the King Range Wilderness access fee would be on the agenda of the August 29, 2013, meeting of the California Recreation Resource Advisory Committee. That was nearly two weeks before the end of the comment period. This rubber-stamp committee is supposed to assure that any fee has general public support – how can they do that when the comment period is still open? BLM later pulled the proposal from the agenda.

King Range Wilderness Fee Public Comments