Please share your experiences with fees on public lands.
Couldn’t this forest ranger find some useful work to do?
- Recently, I went camping in a no fee area Southeast of Prescott AZ with my friend from work and his family. We were visited daily by the forest ranger. He snooped around our camp telling us to pick up our trash, bury our holes from gold panning, keep our dog on a leash and even passed out a flyer with instructions to read up on the rules of the forest. These patronizing reminders were not based on his invasive observations of our camp, but his assumption that people are the enemy of the forest. My uncle noted that when he was young things were very different. If a forest ranger came into your camp he would share with you a close-by waterfall location that only runs seasonally or mention that you might find arrowheads in another direction. Why is it now that we are made to feel like a trespasser on the forest ranger’s property? It was offensive to my friends and I. I tried to step back from the emotion and see if maybe my pride was the issue. Maybe this is just the way everyone should be treated when they take kids camping. As a municipal police officer, I’ve been accused of harassing lots of people over the years. These contacts have usually been because somebody’s vehicle, clothing or personal description matched that of a suspect we were actively looking for. After you explain it to them they usually understand and are fine with being stopped. I cannot imagine going up to a family relaxing at a city park, snooping around their picnic area, telling them what they can and can’t do and then telling them to read a pamphlet on the rules and regulations. Many hardworking people spend most of their time following the rules of the road. They have their urine tested at work. Their paychecks are whittled to toothpicks by the government’s knife. Please forest service! Let us enjoy one last bit of freedom! Let us enjoy God’s creation as a small respite from the world.
Kicked off public land by a private concessionaire
- I filed a complaint with a National Forest in Arizona about how I was treated in the sinkhole campground by concessionaires. They told me at the end of my stay to “Get out of here, and never come back.” This was the end of a very troubled 3 day stay during which they told me that I would have to move my camp so a larger party could use the adjoining park space. They tried to force me to buy their firewood (I had brought my own from home) They cut my stay from 5 to 2 days because of the forced move of Friday the 21 of Aug. This is a brief rundown of what happened. I filed a complaint with the USFS on 08/25/2012 and just finnished talking to [name redacted] and the outcome was unsatisfactory and less than acceptable. I feel like I am no longer welcome on public lands and that the USFS and Thousand Trails own these lands and are in total control of who is allowed there. P.S. I am dis-abled.
Fees trash the Forests and trash my mind!
- When I was in graduate school in Outdoor Recreation Management my favorite professor drilled into the students the three intrinsic qualities of the Outdoor Recreation Experience.
- Reliving and savoring the experience. (via photos, stories, talking to friends, etc.)
Pretty simple stuff, yet profoundly important.
Like any outdoor person, if I go out into the woods for a day hike or an extended backpack days (or weeks) before I anticipate. I plan the proper equipment, check the weather, consult my walking/hiking buddies, make sure I have my camera, etc. If I arrive at a trailhead and see an ugly Iron Ranger or encounter a big “STOP, Pay here” sign it quite simply RUINS the mental quality of my experience. Instead of feeling buoyant and care -free I am now feeling distinctly put upon unnecessarily by the Federal Govenrnment. I am offended. I am frustrated. My experience is greatly diminished. Since I know that these are my dispersed and backcountry public lands in the first place I am RESENTFUL. In short, my mental experience is pretty much trashed.
As humans living in a stressful and mechanized world we go to the woods to GET AWAY FROM IT ALL. Fees and the ugly signage that go with it ruin what was supposed to have been a leisurely and relaxed outing. The Outdoor experience is all about freedom, spontaneity, and a modicum of joy. Fees are the antithesis of all those positive emotions.
The iron rangers and signs and posted threats of a “violation notice” are visually intrusive and obnoxious. They are a blight on the natural landscape. They are an affront to my mental and visual sensibilites Almost all National Forests have a Landscape Architect. Ask them please about the real and significant visual and sensory impacts of this man-made CLUTTER in the woods.
I feel so strongly about this that if I know a dispersed National Forest venue is an illegal HIRA or bogus “fee site” I simply do not go there if at all possible. In fact I go to great lengths to avoid these areas. Counterproductive and sad—wouldn’t you say? I think a huge majority of Americans seeking to escape for a few hours or a few days have very similar psychic and emotional reactions.
The Fee Garbage in the woods is very much environmental degradation and a visual insult in and of itself, especially if one knows that the whole scheme is illegal.
They won’t take our money!
- The following is from the October, 2010 newsletter of an equestrian organization in a western state. The National Forest involved has been redacted so as not to be accusing any particular Forest, because this could have happened on any Forest!
Well, it’s October, and almost the end of my three years serving the chapter. I have had the privilege of presiding over an amazingly solvent chapter, a president with a unique problem: this year, no one wanted our money.
During last autumn’s brainstorming, the message was as clear as a [western] sky: spend some of our money. So we lined up what we thought were some outstanding ideas, only one of which has yet panned out. …Those that didn’t come to life were frustrating.
First, we let the Forest Service know we’d like to put in horse camping at the XX trailhead. Pens, perhaps, or at least highlines. “Great,” said the FS, “but your ideas are giving us ideas, and ours are bigger. We want to revamp the whole parking and camping area,” they told us, “so thanks, but no thanks. We’ll get back to you.”
Next, we tried to blow up a boulder, which is impeding travel on the YY Trail. A. and S. and J. and a host of other volunteers stood at the ready with time, plans, expertise and the chapter’s money in support. For various reasons, this project didn’t fly, although we will try again next year. You might say our plans got detonated.
And finally, we approached the forest about signage, proposing to underwrite a safety/ etiquette sign at the ZZ trailhead. This project, like the XX parking area, has morphed into different and grander plans that the Forest Service will spend the winter on. “We’ll handle it,” said the USFS. “You just hang on to your checkbook for the moment.”
Our failure to find a welcome for our money during a downturn in the economy is actually pretty funny, when one considers the irony.
Some time soon this Forest will undoubtedly be putting forward grand plans for “improvements” and claiming that it is doing so in response to a public that is clamoring for newer, better, more developed facilities – and they will want to charge a fee for using them!
Not-so-good Friday, 2010
- Mountain High Ski Resort [Angeles National Forest] was a real cluster. Apparently, completely unexpected, like me just about everyone else thought they would spend their Good Friday there, so they were out of parking. There is an official Mountain High sign (w/logo) which says “Park On Hwy 2 At Your Own Risk.” The parking attendant explained to me that it is because you need to have an Adventure Pass to park outside of the resort’s lots (which of course were all full.) He also told me that if I were to get a ticket I could just pay the parking fee later and the Forest Service would forgive the ticket.
I did wait in line briefly to buy a lift ticket. One of the main topics of conversation there was “Are we going to get a ticket for parking without an Adventure Pass?” The general consensus was “No, how can they give us a ticket when their ranger station is closed and we can’t even buy a pass?” I guess they could drive back to Wrightwood to get a pass from a vendor, but well before then all the legal -non-towaway- spots were pretty much gone so good luck in getting your spot back. Another question was “Am I going to be towed away even though the Mountain High attendant directed me to park in a tow away zone along Hwy 2?” – I was one of these people, that’s one reason I didn’t hang around, didn’t want to get towed away.
At about 11:45am I met a Forest Service uniformed employee as he was out in front of the ranger station putting up the flag – they were just opening up for the day. I asked him if I would need an Adventure Pass to park along Hwy 2 then go snowboarding. His response was “I’m not going to tell you no.” I then asked if I would be towed away for parking in a tow away zone, as directed by the Mountain High attendants, his response was “They don’t always have the correct information, use your best judgment.” I also asked him how it could be that someone paying the resort (lift ticket for access to the chairs and the mountain) must also pay the Adventure Pass access fee? He explained that it was because the FS cannot differentiate between people coming to Mountain High and those going to play in the snow (or now that it’s spring, going for a hike.) Since they can’t differentiate, everyone must pay (sound familiar?) By the way, they have no official designated snow play areas. Nonetheless the notice goes on to explain that you must have an adventure pass to park when going to play in the snow.
One guy I spoke to told me that he had gotten a $30 ticket for not having an adventure pass while parked on Hwy 2 and snowboarding at Mountain High. Other people I spoke to told me that both the FS and the LA county sheriff were the ones doing enforcement.
What a wasted day!
Who is the criminal here, anyway?
- I was ticketed by the US Forest Service for parking and hiking on public lands in the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest last Memorial Day weekend. I was familiar with the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act passed by Congress in 2004 that contains significant restrictions on where recreation fees can be charged. I was parked at an undeveloped trailhead where no fees should have been required.I challenged my ticket and had it dismissed, even though there were no clear instructions on the ticket for how to do so. It took me several months of letters and phone calls to even get a trial date. Once I did, I had both an Assistant U.S. District Attorney, and, at one point, the head of the District Attorney’s Criminal Division in Spokane working to prosecute me. Unable to afford an attorney, I defended myself against a ticket I should never have received. But I was disgusted by the process.At least the judge in my case did her job well. Case dismissed.
Extortion Boxes Are Still There
- I recall that, due to “overcharges” and “some sites having fees that shouldn’t” several Deschutes National Forest sites were to have their little extortion boxes removed. What happened? After the anouncement we heard nothing. Where’s the rug that this was swept under? That anyone could be surprised by the downturn in use is funny. I’ve seen no changes to make any site more user friendly, no “improvements” over what has always been, and it has always appeared to me that this is an underhanded way of seeing that only those who can afford it, can use “our” public lands.
Forest Service to the public: Shut up.
- Last Wednesday at the Forest Service’s Regional office near San Francisco, officials there gave a presentation of the Sequoia National Forest’s recreational fee program. I took some time off from work to make the 11+ hour roundtrip journey to find out exactly what this was all about. These are some things that I learned:
– Forest Service officials are sorry about the March 22 pictures of their filthy Lake Isabella fee campgrounds that were released to the press.
– The February 2, 2009 power point presentation that Sequoia officials gave to the public in Kernville is in fact not the real power point presentation they meant to give at all. Rather, the real one – with unexplained added categories, changed dollar amounts and arithmetic that at least this time around would be acceptable to a 5th grader- can now be found on the Sequoia’s website.At this meeting I also learned that Forest Service officials are unable to reconcile fiscal year budgets with their calendar year budgets. At one point it was not so cryptically pointed out that members of the taxpaying public who expect this sort of reconciliation are in fact quite bothersome to the agency.
Oh yeah, remember the $24,200 accounting program that Sequoia officials have been touting to Kern Valley residents for the last year, the one that was promised to bring about “transparency” (and paid for with recreation fee money)? Well, this is in fact not an accounting system at all, but instead it is a web based program that serves exclusively to track the sales of their Southern Sierra Pass (you know, the $50 thing that will allow you to gain entrance into one of their “HIRAs.”)
The Kafkaesque San Francisco Bay Area afternoon wore on. At one point the sixteen or so meeting participants somehow stumbled into a discussion -of all things- the question of how to improve Forest Service public outreach. The general consensus seemed to be that there is a need for better communication along with enhanced public relations.
As the only public-at-large meeting attendee I politely and quietly listened as I had done for the entire day. You see, I was informed at the meeting’s beginning, with no uncertain terms, that other than the ten minutes I was given at that time I would not be allowed to speak thereafter unless spoken to first. I was never spoken to again.
Paying more, getting less. Is this the legacy we want to leave?
- We first discovered the beauty and glory of Stanley Lake Idaho in 1957. Since then we have vacationed there every year and raised seven children and grandchildren to enjoy its grandeur. We were outraged when they first confiscated our land and turned it over to private interests to allow them to practice extortion and gouge us with “fees” for very little added value returned. Those fees started out at about $4.00 with senior citizens allowed 50% discount. This July when we visited our favorite site we found deteriorated facilities, dangerous pump water, and arrogant, officious “hosts.” And the fee was $26.00 per day with no senior citizen discount. And there is no indication that this extortion will slow down or stop. It is illegal, and morally wrong. We have written protests to Forest Service officials, Congressmen, and our fellow campers. All to no avail. From the Congressmen we get canned file letters telling us how poor the government is etc. etc. I am delighted to see your efforts on our behalf. I am 81 years old and just about out of the camping scene but hope you will keep up the good work for my grandchildren.
Advisory Committees Nothing But Rubber Stamps
- I attended one of the earliest Recreation Resource Advisory Committee meetings, in the spring of 2007. Even though off road & other outdoor groups were represented on the RRAC committee, at that meeting it appeared to me that it was no more than a rubber stamp meeting. The one thing that really got my goat, was the statement “we need to at least recover our costs.” The one project that clearly comes to mind was the rental cabins scattered throughout the forests. They wanted to raise the fees, if I remember correctly it was around $125 a night to recover the USFS costs. Bear in mind this is in alignment with private rental cabins. the FS cabins in most cases have no utilities they are primitive. They are maintained by volunteers, pay no property taxes, are not insured for anything, were obtained thru various conditions like land swaps, abandoned mining claims etc, no advertising, & no taxes on income. Their only costs is either a desk clerk or reservation company doing the reservations & some materials used by volunteers for maintenance. The motion to increase fees passed unananimously. A few of the fee increases proposed at the meetings were sent back to the agencies for more info. Another fee increase was on popular areas along the river where 2 separate areas faced the same increases in fees. Problem was one area actually had no upgraded amenities but was close enough to use the facilities of the other area. The parking areas at a popular off road riding area were being upgraded. Only part of the area was usable to a handful of visitors the rest was unfinished. One fee was charged for day use an additional fee was charged if they stayed at the site overnite. The way the parking fees were being charged along with the overnite fees presented a problem, so it was continued to the next RRAC meeting where no public would be present. At least that was my feeling.
The Incremental Approach To Fees
- Count on me to join the fight against access fees. I am sure [my local Forest] is planning to implement wilderness access fees next year and are keeping it under wraps. The guy I talked to knows all the inside information. He was a ranger in the 60’s but is now retired and spends all his time hanging around the ranger stations and socializing with the Rangers when he is not backpacking.I knew that once they implemented reservation fees for wilderness permits that it was just a step towards full blown access fees. However, for a while they were actually kind of nice because if you planned a trip in advance it would guarantee you could get a permit . The present system is fair and I don’t mind the $5 reservation fee but in truth I should have fought that because it was just their way to seduce us into getting accustomed to fees. Now there will be no wilderness access without a fee, whether you have a reservation or not. You can count on me if you guys need any help.
Freedom Of The Press?
- I write a column each month for our local Farm Bureau newsletter called Sophie Says and have been pretty outspoken against fee proposals by our nearby National Forest. It is a tongue in cheek, yet informative column…..that has had only one reader up in arms, the Forest Supervisor’s wife. She threatened to drop her membership and insurance with Farm Bureau if my column was not immediately pulled. Well, I told the newsletter editors to do a little publicity stunt and pull my column for a month and see if they get any letters of inquiry as to why it was pulled. They received over 60 letters wanting to know where is Sophie!
The supervisor’s wife was then informed that if she feels so strongly about this, they would be happy to accept her termination. Needless to say, when her husband found out about this, he hit the ceiling and was quite embarrassed.
Heart Ache On Father’s Day
- On Father’s Day of 08 my family and I were at Baker Lake in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. We were celebrating my 53 year old father being alive after a completely unexpected heart attack and a surgery to put seven stents in his heart not even a week earlier. We were driving from campsite to campsite stopping to take in the sights and for a little fishing here and there. It was great weather for once(Northwest Washington) and there were very few people around and almost nobody was camping or boating. We thought this was unusual for an unusually sunny weekend in this unusually rainy month of Juneuary in Springter. While this might be explained away by people having dinner with their dads at home, I think some of it might have been from events like what happened to us next. We stopped in an ugly lumpy parking lot near a boat launch, which was just a gravel ramp into the water, to fish. We ignored the fee sign because we thought that the parking pass we each got when we purchased our fishing licenses let us park here, after all the fishing licenses allowed us to fish in the lake. We started fishing and reminiscing about how we almost lost our boat years ago because my father didn’t change the ball on the hitch to the right one even though I asked him about it at home (I was about 5 or 6 at the time). We weren’t there very long when a man came down to us and told us “If we were going to be parked there very long we had to pay the five dollar fee.” No hello no nothing, just that. He said that this is a national forest and the permit was for state land. My dad has been up and down all of these mountains in the county at one time or another when he was younger and hated the state fee system that didn’t exist “back in his day”. When he found out that the pass he already ranted about and hated wasn’t even enough, he wasn’t too pleased to say the least. We left quickly before his heart exploded in this guy’s face. A happy day of celebration ended instantly. Not much was said on the way home. I have grown up in this pathetic era of fees, so normally this wouldn’t faze me much, but not this day. This guy was from a company called Hoodoo that runs the campsites. Send the IRS, send the Police, or at the very least, send the Forest “Service” people to come kick us out!!! We got kicked off “public” lands, the “peoples” lands by someone from some company!!! So, when did we sell our national forests to corporate America and where is my cut?
Ripped Off By The BLM
- Roughly halfway between Denver and the San Luis Valley is a little pullout the BLM calls the Collegiate Peaks Overlook. For years I’ve been stopping on my way through and enjoying the view, and about 8-10 years ago the BLM installed toilets. I was glad to see my tax dollars being put to good use, where they benefit the taxpayers who gave the BLM the money. Rather than visiting the roadside, the overlook became the designated rest area. Then about 2 years ago, I found that the BLM was demanding payment for the use of the toilets, and way more than anyone should be forced to pay for an outhouse. Then I thought about what the BLM always says. “People will pay $20 for dinner and a movie, so what’s wrong with a few bucks for a toilet?” So I decided to test their theory. A mile down the road is Johnson Village, with restaurants, a gas station, and yes, toilets that actually flush. Nobody stopped me at the restroom door demanding payment. There was water to wash my hands, and a mirror to comb my hair. On the way out, I spent a little in the shop, actually got something for my money, and still walked away with dollars in my pocket. So now it’s either that or back to the roadside. And I hope the BLM is OK with the latter.
Don’t Take Pictures On The National Forest
- Just heard on the radio that the Forest Service is having a free day in honor of Trail Day, however they are still charging at the [name of High Impact Recreation Area withheld]. I was also told by the head of the concessionaire that the rules are different where there are concessionaires. This was the same time she told me I couldn’t take pictures back there as the Forest Service doesn’t like it. All in all I am glad to see that there is some action being taken against the people who think they are elitist and own our public lands. And to be honest I don’t even go into this part of the Forest anymore because of constant harrassment.
A Rancher Calls For Fee Repeal
- My husband and I have lived in [name of town withheld] for 40+ and 35+ years, respectively. In all these years, we have seen the USFS change from being friends with all the local property owners or residents to being our dictators! You’d think that they personally own each and every foot of the forest and roads. Where we used to be able to park our vehicles or even campout for a few days, now we have “NO CAMPING/PARKING” signs … or, FEE AREA! The time has come for all of us to revolt! We’ve seen the USFS burn down our forest, and I say this from first hand knowledge after having several hundred firefighters staying here at our ranch last summer for almost three months. Most all out of state USFS employees are used to putting out fires and mentioned that the [name of forest withheld] was notorious in burning theirs down and either backfiring or just watching it burn. They were at a loss as to what they were even doing here. However, I will give praise to the hardworking crews that diligently backfired our ranch prior to the fire arriving and saved all our structures. Some of our trees were lost, however, this because of a Type 1 team that intentionally set fire to a piece of our land as they had no knowledge of it being private property!!
At the same time, they were denied access to staying in the campgrounds as the USFS had just completed renovation and didn’t want them disturbed. They successfully defended both from fires, with the exception of a few trees lost but had to do it without having men stationed there. When no public could have access to use it, it sure would have been nice for a group of them to be able to stay there and defend it however this wasn’t to happen.
All the areas where we have in past years parked and camped for picnics, etc., are now fee areas. A family intent on spending a weekend in the forest must have ready cash to use any of these areas and it’s gotten to the point of being ridiculous! Even areas on [a nearby highway] now require a parking fee!
Please, please, repeal this Fee charge! It is in the best interest of all taypaying citizens who enjoy using the National Forest!
White Mountain National Forest Parking Fee: Is This Legal?
- On Sunday, I returned to my parked car at a trailhead in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, only to find on my windshield a reminder, with payment envelope, saying, “You have parked your vehicle at this fee-required site, and your White Mountain National Forest Parking Pass is either absent or invalid.” Planning to ignore it, I tossed it in my car. Not a minute later the Forest Service ranger-on-duty drove by, stopped, backed up, and started asking me questions. I was cordial and conversation and told her that I did not have cash or cheques on me (the truth) and could I mail in the payment. She said that I could and wrote the address on my reminder. She also asked my name and address, which I provided. This evening, I reviewed the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and realized that the trailhead, like most in the White Mountain National Forest did not meet the conditions laid out in Section 3(f)(4), so I will not pay the $3 fee. My Arizonian brother recommended that I alert a local anti-fee action group to this incident, but a quick google search provided none. Do you know of any anti-fee groups in the Northeast that I should be in touch with? I did post to a popular climbing bulletin board (Viewsfromthetop.com) pointing out to people that the fees were illegal in most instances. Thank you for your help.
Fees Are A Double Tax On Working Americans
- Here we are in the midst of a growing recession, and as it becomes more and more difficult for working families to pay for necessities like food and fuel, let alone “luxuries” like enjoying our public lands, it is only logical that visitation to these new fee areas will rapidly decline. When visitation drops to these fee areas, they will quickly be on the feds’ chopping block per the new “use it or lose it” policies. Suddenly, our public lands will be completely closed to the public – you know, all of us working folks that pay taxes each year for our public lands in the first place! (It sounds like double taxation to me.) Soon working class Americans will be paying for something that they can’t even access. Imagine if you paid rent for an apartment each month, and suddenly the landlord told you that you must also pay an “entrance fee” each time you unlock your front door after a hard day’s work. Would you tolerate that? Certainly not! Keep our public lands (which we already pay for!) free and accessible to all Americans.
From A Forest Service Retiree
- Privatization and consolidation in the US Forest Service over the last fifteen years has not worked for the benefit of the taxpayer. Campgrounds that used to be taken care of by college kids and future potential Forest Service employees have been converted to unfriendly places where you pay a fee to have a garbage truck noisily pick up your trash. Just like at home. You go to the campground to get away from that, and you pay taxes for the construction and maintenance of these campgrounds. The young people who used to take care of them were proud of what they were doing and did a good job. Now the campgrounds are run like a KOA except the caretakers have no incentive to be nice or friendly to attract new business because they get paid the same whether the campground is full or empty. A lot of the proud professionalism has gone out of the Forest Service during the last fifteen years of privatization.
Nickled and Dimed
- I just spent two months on a business/recreation trip that took me to National Parks and monuments in the Southwest and some other fee sites. We camped the first night going south along the Columbia River in a Bureau of Rec free site. A woman with three children were the only other folks there. They left in the late evening in an old, worn and worn out compact car. I assume she was a poor, single mom taking her kids fishing and picnicking. Even a minor fee would have probably meant another afternoon/evening parked in front of the tube for the kids. In Cottonwood Canyon, Arizona, we were turned away from a forest service parking and picnicking site after presenting our America the Beautiful annual pass. The FS employee in the toll booth told us the ATB pass and the Red Rock Pass were not adequate for the site. He said our pass was an access pass for National Parks and didn’t cover costs at campgrounds and other FS sites, such as the one we were at. Incredible. I believe it was one of the areas administered by contractors. The fellow in the booth didn’t tell us we could get in for half price because of our ATB pass.
Free Mt Lemmon
- I have lived in Tucson for over 30 years, and the Santa Catalina mountains have always been my refuge. In nature I am able to find creation again; that is my idea of recreation, not something you can charge money for like a carnival. Our nation must start finding value in land that goes beyond raping and scraping this beautiful, unique desert in order to put yet another strip mall, parking lot, or tract housing development. Tucson is pathetic for what it has for available parks, and access to the Catalinas has become more and more restricted over the years that only the rich can afford to go there, and then only during banking hours. Ever since they started charging for access, I either ride my bike so I don’t have to pay, or I go somewhere else. Congress should allocate more money to public lands, so taxpayers, who already own the public lands, don’t have to pay to access them.
Pay to Pray
- The so-called “Adventure Pass” and anything like it, is an unconstitutional abridgement of my religious freedom and rights. I am a Native First Nations traditional and have used the mountains, forests and deserts for spiritual practices ever since I was a child. My father also did the same thing and all of our people used the land for spiritual purposes. For foreign invaders to come to this land and set up an oppressive government and now to use that government to try to extort money out of not only our people… but its own people as well… is an abomination! I do not need anyone’s permission or need to fork over money to anyone to practice what is protected and garanteed under the U.S. Constitution and several treaties! I have never paid the Forest Circus a dime to use the land – and never will! What if any of you went to go to church on Sunday – and found a cop with his gun and badge and his hand out demanding money to go into the church? You’d be very angry indeed! No one could blame you! Well – it’s the same thing here! Bear Butte in South Dakota is the holiest place to the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota peoples. For millenia, they have gone there to sweat, cry for visions, and many other sacred rites. All the trees and bushes have thousands of prayer flags and tobacco ties attached to the branches to prove this. The Forest Service actually tried to put an adventure pass type fee on the place! How many of our Holy people were denied access to the most sacred spot on Earth by what everyone else gets for free! Even in the prison system, they let our incarcerated men and women practice our religion! Not on the so-called “Public Lands”! It’s “Pay to Pray”!
No Napping on the Umatilla NF
- The first time I encountered the fee program was in 1998 on the Umatilla National Forest in eastern Washington state. I was driving from Seattle in August, and after a long hot day of driving, I was looking for a place to sleep for the night. Not really camp, just lie down and close my eyes for 8 hours or so, and maybe take a short hike to stretch my legs and restore blood flow. I stopped in the small town and looked at a forest map, and it didn’t say anything about having to pay a fee. So I scribbled some notes on how to find the forest boundary, then drove down the dirt roads towards the forest. When I got there, I found a sign that said I was supposed to get a forest pass at the local ranger station. But it was 50 miles and an hour and a half drive away, in the wrong direction, and would be long closed by the time I got there. So let’s see. 100 miles round trip to visit the ranger station, ($35 at 35cents/mile) plus 3 hours of my time ($60+) just to pay a $5 fee. Absurd. 2 days later, I couldn’t afford to pay the entrance fee at Yellowstone, since I needed the money to buy gas to get home. So much for checking out the Park 10 years after the fires of 1988. I don’t ask for much from my public lands. But apparently that doesn’t matter, the Forest Service and Park Service want me to pay more.