Fragosa vs. USFS – Adventure Pass

Fragosa et. al. vs U.S. Forest Service – Adventure Pass Lawsuit

forest_adventure_passDespite a clear and emphatic ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that fees merely for entering, parking in, traveling through, and general access to undeveloped areas of our National Forests are illegal, they have continued in many places.

One of the worst examples is the Adventure Pass program, where a fee has been required since 1997 just to park anywhere on four southern California forests to access trails, rivers, lakes, and dispersed camping areas. The Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino have all required display of an Adventure Pass anywhere on nearly 400,000 acres of public land. Signs continue to intimidate people into paying fees that the court has clearly said the Forest Service does not have authority to charge.

Forest Service spokespeople have continued to tell the media that the appeals court ruling does not apply in southern California.

That’s nonsense. Of course it does. But in order to force the Forest Service to comply with federal law, four California hikers had to resort to filing a civil lawsuit.

The case was heard in California Central District Court, and in April 2014 the judge handed down a decisive ruling in favor of the hikers. No one who does not use facilities and services can be required to buy a pass just to park on or enter a national forest.

The Forest Service immediately announced that they planned to appeal the District Court’s ruling. At the same time, one of the hiker plaintiffs had also sued the Sequoia National Forest over their fee program implementation, and the court in that case found partially in favor and partially against him. He announced plans to appeal the portion of the case in which he did not prevail.

After much negotiation, a settlement deal was reached in June 2016 that withdrew the appeals in both cases. In the settlement, the Forest Service agreed to stop charging for parking everywhere. Instead, they will only charge a fee for use of sites with certain legally required amenities. If the amenities are located at a trailhead then there must be free parking available within 1/2 mile for hikers, horseback riders, and other trail users who do not use the amenities and only access the trail.

A list of 66 specific sites that have both the required amenities and a trailhead is included in the agreement, and at each of these sites the Forest Service will post signs indicating where the fee area boundary begins. Those who park outside the boundary are not required to pay a fee or display a pass. Alternate roadside or other parking is available within 1/2 mile at each of the listed sites. The Forest Service will begin installing the fee area delineation signs in the summer of 2016, and it is our understanding that there will be no fee enforcement at these sites until the signs are in place.

We will be monitoring closely to ensure that the Forest Service lives up to its obligations under the settlement agreement, and we invite anyone who sees a situation they think is in violation to contact us so we can follow up.

It’s wonderful that southern California hikers will once again be able to access undeveloped forest areas without paying a fee – it’s just too bad it took years of litigation to get them to comply with the law.

Fragosa et. al. vs USFS – Adventure Pass Lawsuit Legal Filings
01-Adventure Pass Complaint
05 Plaintiffs Motion For Summary Judgement
03-Defendants Response to MSJ
04 Plaintiffs Reply
05 FS Response
06 Order on Summary Judgment
07-Final Judgement

Settlement_Agreement with signatures_final

Fragosa et. al. vs USFS – Adventure Pass Lawsuit Media
News Release – Adventure Pass Lawsuit
E&E News 24 October 2012
Courthouse News 25 October 2012
Ventura County Star 26 October 2012
Summit County Citizens Voice 26 October 2012
Pagosa (CO) Daily Post 26 October 2012
Santa Barbara Independent 31 October 2012
2014 04 29 Judge Ends SoCal Forest Fees
2014 04 30 Fee Foes Claim Victory
2014 04 30 Judge Strikes Down Parking Fees
2014 04 30 Judge Nixes SoCal Forest Fee
2014 04 30 LA Times Judge Rules Against SoCal_Forest_Fees
2014 05 03 Ruling Undercuts Fees
2014 05 05 Orange County Register Judge Rules Against Parking Fees
2014 05 07 Judge Limits Adventure Pass
2014 05 11 Changes coming to Forest fees?
2014 05 12 Head For The Hills
2014 05 18 LA Times Editorial
2014 05 22 Response to LA Times Editorial
2014 07 04 Final Judgement Against Adventure Pass Entered
2014 07 10 FS Loses Landmark Case
2014 07 09 Judge Takes Chunk From Adventure Pass
2014 10 01 Adventure Pass More Like A Donation
2015 11 05 FS Still Charging For Parking In Humber Park

Settlement of Adventure Pass Lawsuit Media