Issue of: May 13, 1998
To pay or not to pay?
That is the question
By E.D. ALEXANDER
The U.S. Forest Service used a banner across Main Street in Ketchum to remind people that buying a user pass is the thing to do.
In its inaugural year, the Forest Service user pass system was a mystery. People were asking, "What is a user pass? Is it mandatory? Do I even want one?"
Now in the second year of a three-year test period in the Sawtooth National Forest, the agency is trying to lift the clouds of confusion.
Funds generated by the $5-a-year user pass will be spent locally, said Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson.
Nelson also said the passes are required of anyone using the national forest for any amount of time, and enforcement this year would be more aggressive.
Congress has authorized Forest Service officials to fine violators up to $100. Citation fees in this neck of the woods will fall between $40 and $50, Nelson said.
Passes are sold at 25 private vendors around the Sawtooth National Forest, in addition to the 15 Forest Service offices in the area.
Despite promises to use fees collected locally for local improvements, not everybody is sold on the idea.
Some, like the chairman of the Blaine County Recreation District Bob Rosso, are in favor of paying $5 to access and recreate on local tracts of public land.
Another contingent is uncomfortable with the notion of a required permit to access public land, but will purchase the pass in the name of "paying their fair share."
Others, like Wood River Valley lifer Bill McDorman, oppose the user fee and will protest the system because they believe that asking a user of public land to carry a permit in the woods is downright criminal.
"The whole focus is to get people to work with us on this," Nelson said.
Only some are feeling cooperative. The statements below are excerpts from conversations the Idaho Mountain Express had with Rosso and McDorman last Thursday.
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