Trailhead fee violation thrown out before legal test
Oregon woman gets off on paying fee
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
A court test of the Sawtooth National Forests user-fee demo
program was avoided after the U.S. Attorneys office in Boise dismissed a citation
issued against a woman who was ticketed in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA)
Citing philosophical, legal and policy-related arguments in a letter,
Bend, Ore., resident Marjorie Hoye successfully petitioned the U.S. Attorneys office
in Boise to dismiss her case, she claimed in an telephone interview.
Forest Service law enforcement supervisor Steve Lipus of Boise
acknowledged during an interview that Hoyes case was dropped. He said he didnt
know if his agency received Hoyes letter, but added, "Were not going to
take anything to court and waste taxpayer money if we feel we dont have a good
The prosecutor in the U.S. Attorneys office in Boise who dealt
with Hoyes case was on vacation and not available for comment this week.
Hoye said she was traveling from Bend to Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Sept. 6
and stopped at the Iron Creek trailhead in the SNRA for a walk. After walking in the
Sawtooths woods for three hours, Hoye said, she returned to her car to find a notice
of noncompliance on the windshield.
A notice of noncompliance asks the ticketed person to purchase a pass
within 14 days.
"I did not pay the notice, and I wrote a letter to the supervisor
of the national forest (Bill LeVere) explaining my reasons of (sic) not complying,"
she wrote in her December letter to the U.S. Attorneys office.
Three weeks later, Hoye said, she received notice that she was being
fined $50. She said she chose not to pay the fine.
On Nov. 12, Hoye received a notice to appear in U.S. District Court in
Boise. She never had to attend.
Though no one from the U.S. Attorneys office was available to
answer why Hoyes case was dismissed, Hoye said she believes it was her letter that
got her off the hook. The letter consisted of three arguments.
First, Hoye said she was not in the woods to recreate, but rather there
for spiritual renewal.
"I have never considered my walks on National Forest trails as
recreational in the sense the Forest Service uses the term: as an
amusement," she wrote. "My visits to natural areas are for spiritual purposes:
to restore my emotional health and to nurture my soul by getting away from the day-to-day
challenges of living in a late 20th century city."
Secondly, Hoye wrote, a case similar to hers was dismissed by a judge
on grounds that the user fee was "discretionary."
"In the Dec. 30, 1998, trial in Los Angeles of the United States
of America vs. Robert Bartsch, the judge found Mr. Bartsch to be innocent of two
violations because he deemed the required pass to be discretionary rather than
mandatory," she wrote.
In the judges ruling, Hoye wrote, he told Bartsch that further
citations would also be dismissed unless the program became mandatory, rather than a test.
Third, Hoyes admittedly weakest argument, she said she simply
doesnt agree with the Fee Demonstration Program, "because I believe it to be a
very destructive program designed to produce revenue for the Forest Service at the cost of
destroying the peace, serenity and wildness of much of our public lands.
"By not paying the violation issued to me, I am demonstrating as a
citizen and as a low-impact user of our National Forests, my disapproval of this
destructive and discretionary trail park fee policy: in my mind, as well as in the minds
of millions of others, a seriously flawed policy."
Hoye is not the first person to have a user-fee case dismissed from a
federal court. A Mt. Shasta climber had his case thrown out a day before he was scheduled
to appear in court last winter, according to a local papers account.
"Those persons who indicate clearly that they will not be good
little customers and who refuse to pay their fee-demo fines seem to be having their cases
dismissed," public lands activist and Bend, Ore., resident Scott Silver wrote in an
e-mail message to a reporter. "Theres no guarantee that this will invariably be
the case, but it is a pattern being repeated with regularity."
According to Lipus, 175 people were issued notices of noncompliance in
the Sawtooth National Forest this year. Of those, 85 percent bought user passes, he said.
He said he doesnt know how many people have had to go to court
over the matter.
(See related story on page 7 of the printed
edition of the Idaho Mountain Express)