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Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

Back Country Horsemen Concerned about Proposed User Fees  

 

June 2008 Issue

 

The Back Country Horsemen of Colorado are concerned about a proposed user fee — a bridle tag fee — for horseback riders in the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois.

     They believe that “if these fees are enacted, not only is it punitive, but could have far-reaching ramifications regarding equestrian access to all public lands and trails.”

     A Shawnee National Forest press release discusses the Forest ’s proposal to “charge user fees at eight national forest day-use recreation sites and for bridle tag fees on designated trails. The proposal is based on the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act,” enacted in 2004 and signed into law by the President.

     “The Shawnee proposes to charge $5 per person, per day for equestrian use of the designated trail system. A $50 annual bridle tag would also be available. Riding on the Forest where cross-country use is authorized would continue to be free.”

     A spokesperson for the Shawnee National Forest answered a couple of questions for RMR. 

Are horseback riders the only recreational group targeted with an imposition of a fee?

     The fees are being proposed in certain areas only. There is a proposed fee of $5 per day per car, and this fee would cover all people in the car for hiking on trails and use of developed areas. No ATV use is allowed in the forest, except to people with disabilities who can get a special permit; and no trails are open to mountain bicyles.

What will the fees be used for?

     Before the new act of 2004, all fees charged in a national forest went back to the U.S. Treasury’s general fund. Now, 95% of the fees can go directly back to the forest where they originated. Fifteen percent may be used for administrative purposes, and 80% is guaranteed to be “spent on the ground.”

     Therefore, fees collected from horseback riders for trail use will go back into further trail development; and fees collected from use of developed recreation areas such as boat ramps, picnic areas, and campgrounds, will go back into those facilities.

     A spokesman in Region One of the US Forest Service (north Idaho , Montana , and North Dakota ) told RMR:

     “I have not heard of any such proposals in Region One. Our situation differs somewhat just because of our limited population (comparatively speaking). This seems to be the way Congress is pushing us, “Pay as you go.” Although I certainly do not wish to go this way, it is not a big step from charging parking fees for grooming ski trails, which we already do, to charging a fee for almost any type of use. Again, I’m not aware of any proposals for this type of fee for recreational stock use in Region One.”

     The Back Country Horsemen of Colorado is asking “all supporters to write the Shawnee National Forest and voice your strong opposition to these bridle fees.” The deadline for comments is June 30, 2008.

     Letters may be mailed to Hurston A. Nicholas, Forest Supervisor, Shawnee National Forest, 50 Highway 145 South, Harrisburg, IL 62946.

     To email comments, go to www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/shawnee/ and click on the “Contact Us” link on that page.

Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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