Fee Would Be Required For Access To Sangre de Cristo Wilderness
In 2010 the Pike-San Isabel National Forest proposed charging daily and overnight general access fees at South Colony Basin in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. South Colony is the main route for climbers hoping to summit four of Colorado’s fabled “fourteeners.” About 80% of visitors to South Colony are there to climb one or more of the peaks, so this amounts to a “Fourteeners Fee.” If it were to succeed, there would soon be access fees to many more – maybe all – of Colorado’s 53 peaks above 14,000 feet.
The fee proposed was $10 per day per person, $20 per overnight trip per person.
Up to that point, there had been 10 years of volunteer effort – 40,000 volunteer hours – invested in rehabilitating South Colony Basin, along with $1 million in mostly non-federal funds.
The Forest had already taken several sensible steps to mitigate the impacts from the high use this area gets: the trailhead was pulled 2.5 miles downhill, campfires were banned, and camping was restricted to designated sites. The WSNFC supported these measures and argued that they should be given a chance to prove themselves. If impacts in the Basin were still unacceptable, then a system of limited permits may need to be used, but permits should be available on a fair and equal basis to all, not on the basis of who is able and willing to pay. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. Such systems have a history of being well accepted and supported because they protect natural resources while still maintaining the tradition of public lands as places where everyone has access and is welcome.
General access fees, on the other hand, represent the opposite of our tradition of public lands that are owned in common and available to all.
WSNFC representatives met in the fall of 2010 with the Commissioners of the two counties adjacent to the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. Many people also responded to our call for written comments to these two elected bodies. As a result, Custer County and Saguache County both sent letters to the Forest Service asking them to take back the proposal and completely re-work it, including holding scheduled public hearings.
After that, the proposal quietly faded away.
Read documents about this proposal and the county letters below.