Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. For questions, comments and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.
Pay to Play? Hikers Sue Over Forest Service Fees
One of the best things about most outdoor recreation is that it is free. No cover charge. No “convenience fee.” Of course there is the cost of gas and gear, and we all do pay taxes that maintain our public lands. But what if you had to pay, just to hike? If you live in Southern California, you know just how this feels. For the last 16 years, national forests there have charged visitors for an Adventure Pass. Now, hikers are suing the Forest Service to get rid of it. They claim, amongst other things, that the fees are like getting taxed twice. The debate over fees has raged for years, with the epicenter at Mt. Lemmon, Arizona. Last year, a court ruled that those fees were unlawful, unless you were using the bathrooms, picnic tables, or other things that need upkeep. The Forest Service thinks that decision applied only to Mt. Lemmon – the suing hikers think it applies anywhere the court has jurisdiction, including California. No matter what the ruling is on the latest lawsuit, the debate about fees will not be over. Agencies like the Forest Service are chronically underfunded and overworked. More and more people want to play outside, and the trails, boat ramps and campgrounds that make it possible cost money. The best way to fix this is more money for the agencies, not fees for users, because fact is, there are no free hikes.
Forest Service Keeps Its Shield
Two weeks ago, news broke that the Forest Service was going to get to keep their logo. To which most people – including many Forest Service employees—said, “Wait, we were going to lose our logo?” What follows is the tale of a stunning bureaucratic goat rodeo. The Forest Service is part of the US Department of Agriculture. Years ago, USDA began an initiative called “One Brand” aiming to replace all department logos, including the iconic Forest Service tree and shield, with the Microsoft-paint USDA logo. Perhaps best of all, this transition would be overseen by the newly created Brands, Events, Exhibits and Editorial Review Department, or BEEERD for short. Thankfully, hell hath no fury like an insulted retiree, and the National Association of Forest Service Retirees rose to defend the familiar logo. USDA and BEEERD were defeated, the Forest Service was granted an exemption from the logo change, and thousands of historical signs and badges will remain unchanged.