For the week of January 6, 1999   thru January 12, 1999  

Forest user pass undergoes changes in 1999

No pass needed for remaining winter months

Express Staff Writer

Beginning in mid-May, people parking at trailheads in the Ketchum Ranger District and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area will be required to carry user passes in their vehicles. The requirement will replace the individual-pass program that started in 1997.

Passes of any kind will not be required until the new program kicks off this spring.

"We’re trying to be responsive to what we’ve heard from people during the test, and that’s why we are going to move to a vehicle pass," said Sawtooth National Forest spokesman Ed Waldapfel.

Waldapfel said the first two years’ user-fee test was successful from a collection standpoint and did much better in 1998 than in its first year. He pointed out, however, that the objective is not to see how much money can be raised but to measure the public’s acceptance.

And that, Waldapfel said, has been done.

"We can say honestly to Congress and the public that (the general use) kind of pass will not be accepted in this part of Idaho," he said. "In the future, if Congress wants to implement legislation of this sort, Idaho can offer input. Hopefully we’ll be able to shape what goes on nationally."

Waldapfel speculated that the revenues from the new program will probably decrease. The cost per vehicle will be more than the $5 annually that was required the past two years, but not as many people will be required to carry a pass due to the per-car logistics.

"And the proceeds will go right back where they were collected," he said. "That’s the beauty of it; one-hundred percent of the collected money will go to trail maintenance."

Congress has extended the user-fee test period through the year 2001, and Waldapfel said the time frame for the revamped test program will be an additional three years. Also, he added, the enforcement of the pass regulations will be more strictly enforced.

"It’s not fair to people who buy passes not to enforce it," he said.

But he pointed out that what the final package will look like remains to be seen as Forest Service officials are still working out the details.

"We want to make this program as simple and as easy as possible," he said, "and we appreciate the public’s support."


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