For the week of April 28, 1999  thru May 4, 1999  

Forest Service launches trailhead user fee


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

In the hope of gaining more public acceptance for its User Fee Demonstration Program, Sawtooth National Forest officials unveiled a new, per-vehicle, trailhead user-fee program last week.

The requirement for an individual, general user pass—tested in the SNRA and Ketchum Ranger District over the past two years—has been eliminated due to protests by forest users.

Starting May 14, passes will be required at 38 out of approximately 60 trailheads throughout the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) and Ketchum Ranger District.

Two types of passes will be available. Annual passes will cost $15 and three-day passes will cost $5. The annual pass will be good for one year from date of purchase, rather than on a calendar-year basis. The passes will be transferable from any one vehicle to another.

Passes are available from the Ketchum Ranger District office, the SNRA headquarters, the Blaine County Recreation District and many local stores.

The new program will kick off the third year of the nationally mandated User Fee Demonstration Program, passed by Congress in 1996 as part of the Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriation Act. Originally, the test period was slated for three years but was recently extended by Congress for an additional two years.

Sawtooth National Forest officials said they will enforce use of the passes this year, something they did not do for the first two years of the test program.

"During the first two years, we focused on providing information to those visitors who did not have the pass," said forest supervisor Bill LeVere. "No tickets were issued. However, this in itself created some controversy. Those that bought passes felt we should more actively enforce the pass requirement."

LeVere said that this year, the agency will issue a notice to vehicles not displaying a pass. People receiving the notices will be able to correct them by purchasing a pass within 14 days of the notice.

Sawtooth National Forest spokesman Ed Waldapfel said people who are issued a notice of non-compliance and don’t purchase a pass within 14 days will be issued a letter to prompt their compliance. If they still do not comply, they will be issued a $50 fine.

More than $162,000 has been collected in the Sawtooth National Forest since the user-fee program’s inception two years ago, LeVere said. He pointed out that those proceeds stay in the local forest for project improvements that users realize.

Although vendors for the passes are being finalized, passes are currently for sale at businesses throughout the region.

 

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