WILDERNESS ACCESS FEE IN WYOMING ON HOLD
“The Bighorn National Forest, Powder River Ranger District, will begin charging a $10.00/vehicle per day use fee for parking at the existing developed trailhead, West Tensleep Trailhead.”
We immediately contacted the District Ranger to remind him that the law prohibits fees for parking on National Forests. In response he cancelled that Federal Register notice and on December 23, 2009 published a revised one. The revised notice said,
“The Bighorn National Forest, Powder River Ranger District, is proposing to charge a $10.00 per vehicle fee (Standard Amenity Recreation Fee) for use of the site amenities at West Tensleep Trailhead.”
Those revisions did not satisfy our concerns because in addition to prohibiting fees for parking, the law also prohibits fees,
“(C) For dispersed areas with low or no investment . . .(D) For persons who are driving through, walking through, boating through, horseback riding through, or hiking through Federal recreational lands and waters . . .(E) For camping at undeveloped sites that do not provide a minimum number of facilities and services . .”
[16 U.S.C. 6802(d)(1)]
The West Tensleep Trailhead – or any trailhead – is not a place that people visit in order to “use the site amenities.” As the most popular trailhead into the Cloud Peak Wilderness, it is used to access a dispersed area. Visitors park there so that they can walk or horseback ride through Federal recreational lands and camp at undeveloped sites. The Bighorn National Forest’s proposal ignored these prohibitions in the law.
The Forest asked for public comments about the plan. WSNFC sent out an Action Alert that mobilized people to send in their comments. At the close of the comment period, we obtained all of them under the Freedom Of Information Act, and summarized them. The results showed 38 people opposed compared to 7 in support. You can read the details here.
We took those results to a meeting of Wyoming’s Recreation Action Team (REACT) and explained our concerns. REACT recommended that the Forest continue taking public comments, which they did for several more months.
After that, the proposal quietly faded away. Should it ever be revived, we will sound the alarm again.