Boots on the trail ought to pay up

  • Sarah Gilman


My first introduction to Colorado's 14,421-foot Mount Massive was, quite literally, a pile of crap. Several piles, actually, just off the trailhead where I'd wandered to pee. Some were flagged with toilet paper; others disguised with a thin sprinkling of pine needles. I walked with care. It was a skill that I would have to perfect over the coming summer, as one of 14 grunts hired to rebuild the eroding trail to the summit.

And not just because there was poop everywhere. A mountain like Massive, with its expanse of delicate alpine tundra spreading from quintuple summits, requires a light step. Its plants can withstand the extremes of altitude and weather, but tread on them a few times and you'll soon leave bare earth in your wake. Without roots to hold it, wind and water whisk the soil away, gullying trails to troughs and forcing hikers to walk their edges. This makes new trails until three or four snake beside each other, shedding silt into clear streams. Where snowfields get in the way, hikers skirt their sodden edges to keep dry feet, leaving wide swaths of torn up ground. Throw in the reality that Massive is but one of Colorado's storied 54 peaks over 14,000 feet -- which collectively receive an estimated 500,000 visitors annually -- and the peak-bagger trend becomes a destructive tide rising over the state's mountains, an extractive industry in its own right.

The Forest Service, faced with these escalating impacts and ever-declining budgets to do anything about it, hasn't many options. One is to enlist the help of 20-somethings who work for nonprofits like my employer during that 2005 summer, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. Its expertise is building "sustainable" summit trails, single tracks that switchback in steep areas to control the speed of runoff, and that are armored where necessary with rock walls, steps, check dams to catch sediment and berms to channel water away.

The work is tough. We'd hike two hours to a work site and try to get six hours in before thunderstorms chased us down again. We'd bag the dirt we dug and use it as backfill on the trail to keep it from suffocating trailside plants. Instead of rolling 200-pound rocks -- and chewing up the tundra -- we'd haul them in a rope litter or "fly" them with cleverly rigged cable systems.

The work also costs a lot. A crew climbing and descending 5,000 vertical feet every day eats tons of food. Trail routes must be planned and mapped by experts, tools purchased and maintained, and the crew trained and paid: The starting wage for us was $80 a day per person; more for experienced workers. CFI estimates that it takes $200,000 to $300,000 and two or three years to build just one sustainable summit route. Expand the lens to all of Colorado's fourteeners, and CFI estimates that it, the Forest Service and partner organizations shell out something like $1.5 million in funding and donated labor per year to build and maintain summit trails, restore damaged alpine terrain and educate hikers to, among other things, not walk and poop wherever they please.

So when the Pike San Isabel National Forest floated its proposal this May to charge fees at the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness's South Colony Basin, a jumping off point for three fourteeners, it made good sense to me. Since 1996, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, the Forest Service, CFI and others have spent an estimated $1 million and 40,000 volunteer hours compensating for the impacts of the area's 3,500 to 4,500 annual visitors. Charging $10 per person per trip for day trips, as the Forest Service now suggests, and $20 per person per trip for camping, seems like a relative pittance. After all, an average pair of hiking boots cost a cool $150, and most hikers drop a wad of money on a tank of gas just getting to and from the peaks.

If paying for the privilege of climbing rubs you the wrong way -- perhaps rightfully so, since most of these mountains are on public land and hence belong to everyone -- here's my suggestion for an alternative: Volunteer to spend a few days a season building trails, collecting alpine seeds to revegetate churned up ground, and talking to other hikers about being mindful of what they leave behind. Think of it as an $80 value per person, per day, given back to places we love so much that we tear them apart.

Sarah Gilman is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( She is the magazine's associate editor in Paonia, Colorado.

Anonymous says:
Jun 08, 2010 04:56 PM
Yes! Emphatically Yes! Given the huge impct of growing numbers of people recreating, and the escalating costs that outstrip federal and state ability to properly care for the lands that are used, it is high time for user fees to be instituted in some form.

Hiking, biking, camping, etc in Colorado and elsewhere could use the support, from fees whether by direct entry fees or memberships. It will benefit us all and maybe more users will feel obligated toward a higher level of care when they have a little skin in the game.
Anonymous says:
Jun 09, 2010 01:51 PM
The issue overused and under-infrastructured trails mirrors a broader issue in the American west: public lands being used for mineral extraction by private companies. Why not raise fees by taxes or permits on these destructive activities to raise the value of lands that have been conserved to some degree?

Our 'pristine' natural areas are cultural and ecological resources. Harnessing the engines of industry to protect them is a necessary step to insuring their sustainable use.
Anonymous says:
Jun 10, 2010 09:34 AM
You have a point, I think, but many would argue that the fees charged those companies are already woefully inadequate to deal with the resource damage they can cause. If you want to charge those companies the actual cost of clean up, those fees should be restricted to just that, rather than spending taxpayer money to do so.
Anonymous says:
Jun 10, 2010 11:28 AM
I agree that the fees charged mineral extraction companies are 'woefully' inadequate to clean up the damages those companies inflict upon the landscape, and likewise, that the leases (different from the permits) do not reflect the current ecological value of those lands. These wild spaces have value other than recreation areas. The ability of ecosystems to sequester carbon, halt erosion, pollinate crops, harbor biodiversity, provide clean water, regulate snow melt, build soil, and provide other valuable products/services to society (of which recreation is one) is not accurately reflected in their lease values, which serve as a proxy for their overall social value.

What I am suggesting is that those that would despoil them should pay for their upkeep, and while it would be a step forwards for companies to actually pay for the damages they do, their doing so would free up public funds for keeping these lands open to those for whom they were created: the public. The outdoor culture was and is necessarily thrifty and grass roots oriented, saddling it with more bureaucracy starts to strike at the soul of many. Of course we need to pay to protect these areas, valuing them for the services that they do provide is the crucial step in that equation.
Anonymous says:
Jun 22, 2010 04:27 PM
I think the point here is that recreationalism is a destructive activity just like the extractive industries are. I would argue that recreational activities are even worse since the damage to the environment by millions of us hikers, bikers, riders, etc is dispersed and in very pristine and sensitive areas. We users need to face up to the damage we are doing to the wilderness we love so dearly. We are loving it to death.
Anonymous says:
Jun 09, 2010 08:46 PM
Public lands should remain just that - public. Same reason we shouldn't charge access fees to city parks and libraries. The "pay to play" model would without question lead to the exclusion of those who can't afford it.

I personally find it a tad presumptuous for the author to assume that if "someone has the leisure time and money to ... See Moredrop on a four hour drive to hike up and down a mountain, then they can probably afford $10 for one peak." Everyone's financial situation is different, and even though she once "lived on an $8,000 a year income" doesn't mean everyone can. Obviously I can't say for sure, but I'm going to take a shot in the dark and guess she didn't have a mortgage, kids, property taxes, ect., when she earned that figure. I make a bit more than $8,000 a year, and a $10/day access fee to the high-traffic areas I frequent in our National Forest would cost me about $800 - $1,000 a year, something I most certainly cannot afford.

It's also short-sighted to assume those with little money don't use public lands. I know climbing bums who've lived an entire summer off less than $250. A $10/trip access fee at the trailhead to their favorite crag would've made their summers a lot shorter.

If anything, donation boxes should be the norm at every NF trailhead, along with signs educating people why it's important to be responsible backcountry users and the benefits of giving money for trail work. You'd be surprised what people who love their environment will give, especially when they not required to.

Finally, how is Ms. Gilman's article a "possible alternative" to access fees? The entire piece is pretty much devoted do justifying the need for them, not to mention the fact that the article is riddled with presumptions ($150 for a pair of hiking boots? Sounds like someone isn't living the thrifty lifestyle anymore). Only in the final paragraph does she mention anything about raising awareness about the need for donations and volunteers:

"Volunteer to spend a few days a season building trails, collecting alpine seeds to revegtate churned up ground, and talking to other hikers about being mindful of what they leave behind. Think of it as an $80 value per person, per day, given back to places we love so much that we tear them apart."

Amen, again. Finally, something I can agree with.
Anonymous says:
Jun 12, 2010 06:40 PM
I agree that the Forest Service needs to do more to include the public in volunteering. I feel like anytime we see an increase in fees for our recreational areas we also see an increase of new FS trucks, employees, wasted money etc. What happens if you refuse to pay the fee and go for a walk to the lakes? Does that make you a trespasser? Before enacting a fee the FS should actively try to seek out volunteers. Let Americans take a little ownership of their public lands. The south colony lakes area is such a cool spot, lets keep it a little wilder and skip the admissions fee for now.
Anonymous says:
Jun 15, 2010 09:10 PM
How about the basic hiker moto "Leave No Trace". Hikers should pack out their "crap" and tread very carefully. Maybe paying a fee would make people aware of the impact we have on the land eevery time we go out for a hike.
Anonymous says:
Jun 23, 2010 09:57 AM
I'm afraid I have to agree with the guy who said that he really couldn't afford $10./day. Some of my most wonderful memories are from trips to public land over the course of more than 60 years but on my income---under $12,000./year---I would have to stay at home. As it is, the cost of getting to public land from my house has curtailed my trips. Might there be some way to lessen the burden on those of us living below the government poverty line? A seasonal pass we could apply for or some such? A "family" ticket for lower income people with young children? I know, it costs money just to process such paperwork but there must be some way to not restrict public lands to only the more affluent among us.

Obviously, we can and probably do "love wilderness to death." It might be useful to think of ways to inspire people to pack out trash---and poop----and stay off delicate vegetation. Composting toilets? Disguised, locked trash containers? Again, I know that intrudes on "wilderness" but... better to intrude than to destroy it.
Anonymous says:
Jun 24, 2010 08:31 AM
Perhaps we can borrow an idea from our hunting-fishing outdoor cousins. For decades they have supported specific goals like habitat preservation via dedicated excise taxes on equipment. By nature, this tax would be progressive, with greater contributions from those of us who can afford all the latest outdoor gadgets, but at the same time, require all of us to contribute something. Just think what 1% of total revenue from REI alone could do.
Anonymous says:
Jul 07, 2010 06:38 AM
It's my understanding that many areas that are extremely popular with climbers require that people carry out their own excrement. This may not be as bad as it looks. For example, the Alpine Insitute blogspot -
has an entry "To Wag or Not to Wag...That is the Question..." It's about Wag Bags and is accompanied by an entertaining video. I am opposed to high fees, but I do believe people should be responsible for minimizing the damage they cause, especially in high altitude and desert areas where the ability of the land to decompose human waste is limited.
Anonymous says:
Jul 07, 2010 08:50 AM
Hi Helen--The only problem there is enforcement. Wag bags are expensive, so if you want folks to use them, you usually have to provide them at the trail head. That's what they do in some parts of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness outside of Aspen, CO, now. Not sure how sustainable that is.
Anonymous says:
Jul 07, 2010 09:15 AM
Well, there are Poop-Tubes. Here are instructions on how to make one - Doesn't seem as if they would be expensive. That and education should do the trick.
George Ochenski
George Ochenski says:
Jun 29, 2011 01:01 PM
Sarah - Might be time to put down the Pulaski for an hour and look up the FLREA law before you jump on board with fees to access Wilderness Areas.

What you'll find is that the federal fee law, which devolved from a rider attached to a budget bill in the middle of the night by former Rep. Richard Pombo, DOES NOT allow fees for entrance to Wilderness Areas in which no "amenities" are provided.

Simply put, your suggestion is illegal...and the federal agencies trying to get away with this scam know it. And what, I'd ask, does paying money have to do with getting people to not crap on the surrounding lands? Nothing.

You have to pay to float the Salmon River through the River of No Return Wilderness. And you have to carry out your excrement. But I assure, that does not stop those with no respect for the Wilderness or others who may use it from dumping their load wherever and whenever they wish. Sometimes, there's no sure cure for ignorance -- not even fees.
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman says:
Jun 29, 2011 01:11 PM
Thanks, George --

However, it seems as though FLREA does includes some leeway in particularly sensitive sites. See this passage from Dan Kraker's recent HCN piece ([…]t-to-rethink-access-charges):

"Since FLREA also allows federal agencies to charge fees for "specialized recreation uses ... such as group activities" and "recreation events," the BLM took a different approach, requiring paid permits at roughly 20 primitive but sensitive sites throughout the West, like Utah's Cedar Mesa and Arizona's Paria Canyon. Benzar calls this the "black hole" in the law."

That sounds like an avenue for the F.S. to exploit quite legally.

Also, I never suggested that fees prevent damage. Once an area is popular, damage is inevitable. Fees only help pay for managing and mitigating that damage: Through trail projects, volunteer cleanup days, education, wag bags at trailheads, etc.

Believe me, I wish it weren't so. We pay plenty enough in taxes for our public lands to be better taken care of. The only problem is, the federal government doesn't choose to spend nearly enough of that money managing recreation. So the agencies are left begging.

Thanks for reading.
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman says:
Jun 29, 2011 01:17 PM
I also stand by my suggestion that people buck up and volunteer instead -- that those who use a place often also help protect it and educate others. My sense, though, is that most folks would rather shell out a $10 fee than 8 hours of their time. It's a shame.
George Ochenski
George Ochenski says:
Jun 29, 2011 02:06 PM
Sarah - Umm, not sure I understand how you can say an individual entering a designated Wilderness Area constitutes a "specialized recreation use...such as group activities" or a "recreation event." What part of entering a Wilderness area without the FLREA required amenities of fire pits, toilets, picnic tables, etc., would constitute an "recreation event" for an individual or a couple of friends going backpacking? Don't you think that "Black Hole" actually is intended for things that take place on public lands, but not in Wilderness, such as mountain bike/trail running races instead of individuals using their own public lands?

We'll see what happens, but when federal agencies stretch the law, two things happen. First, there is a public backlash because people know the agency is acting outside both the language and intent of the law. Second, someone will, sooner or later, sue the agency -- putting even more of the agency's funds into defense attorneys and court costs instead of the kind of trail maintenance you've been involved in.

Moreover, if the Plaintiffs win, they'll be recovering their attorney fees from the agency as well under the Equal Access to Justice Act -- as they should.

Seems if the agencies want the clear legal authority to charge the public for going into unimproved areas like Wilderness with NONE of the amenities required under FLREA, they ought to get Congress to change the law. But somehow, I don't think that's going to happen - and so we are treated to this hodgepodge of illegal charges foisted upon us by our own government.
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman says:
Jun 29, 2011 04:56 PM
The agency's interpretations of the law aside, you're ignoring the larger issue here: the resource damage. It's easy enough to shoot down an idea. What I'd like to know is what you'd suggest as a solution to the widespread ecological degradation in these especially popular spots.

Or should we just allow the tragedy of the commons to play out, no matter what is lost or whatever other federal laws and agency mandates (ensuring viable habitat, for example) are lost?
Jesse Tigner
Jesse Tigner says:
Jun 29, 2011 07:17 PM
Interesting idea on that tragedy of the commons idea, Sarah. Each park or wilderness area or whatever has its popular spots and those spots will be used heavily by a wide variety of people. And all that heavy use will change the surrounding landscape to some extent. But that’s not surprising. Even in those areas where “nature-ness” is the designated use or intention, the degree of “natural” will vary according to where you’re at. For every heavily used area, there are others where people rarely go. If you don’t like places with wide trails and lots of poop, then hike somewhere else.
If you think I’m going to pay a tax to go hiking you’re crazy. If you think I’m going carry my shit around with me or craft some ridiculous poop tube you’re really crazy. The last thing we need is another impediment or hassle for folks wanting to outside. From a resource damage perspective there are much bigger fish to fry than the results of heavy people use on and around trails. In fact, I guess I’d see the damage inflicted by hikers on popular trails as pretty low on the list. Spending time and money to “fix” the busy spots seems like a waste to me; especially if it takes $2-300,000 and couple years for just one spot. That sounds like a lot of research dollars that could be spent better understand and fixing those bigger fish.
I guess my point is that I don’t see wide trails and human use as a tragedy of the commons, I see it more as enjoyment. And what’s the harm in enjoying yourself? I’ll repeat that if hiking where lots of other folks hike bothers you, hike somewhere else. Most people probably won’t, and that way every one wins. We’re not facing a tragedy of the commons, we’re simply allowing a natural zoning of human use to unfold: some places are zoned for heavy use while others for little or no use.
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell says:
Jun 29, 2011 10:04 PM
We already have a method in place to fund and care for our public lands. It's called taxes and the budget. If we care for our public lands enough we will advocate for the funds to pay for their upkeep. I'd much rather trails were kept up by people working good government jobs.

Charging what for many is a half a day's wages for a family of four to go for a hike is simply shameful. Do we really wish to divide ourselves into the $150 hiking boots crowd and the ten dollar tenis shoes?
Eric Beckley
Eric Beckley says:
Jun 29, 2011 10:22 PM
Good article. Thanks Sarah-
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman says:
Jun 30, 2011 09:35 AM
Jesse--It may just be a wide trail and a lot of poop to you, but the end result is poorer habitat for wildlife (and sometimes, declining populations thereof) and worse water quality for everyone downstream thanks to sedimentation and delightful things like fecal bacteria. And the trouble is that these days, in a state like Colorado (where I was born and where I've spent most of my life), you're not going to find a lot of places that haven't been trampled like this.

Recreation (especially if you include off-highway vehicle use) has a huge impact on resources in this state -- bigger now, I would say, than logging, which isn't much of an industry here anymore.
George Ochenski
George Ochenski says:
Jun 30, 2011 10:47 AM
Sarah - I was an environmental, tribal and parks lobbyist at the Montana legislature for 22 years and what I found out in that time is that agencies don't always use their available funds for on-the-ground restoration. As you probably know, they like new offices, multi-million dollar visitor centers, lots and lots of junkets for higher-end bureaucrats and endless seminars.

Before you start advocating squeezing the general recreating public for more dollars -- especially fees that fall outside the existing law -- you might do yourself a favor and check out the BLM budget. Perhaps it's not a shortage of dollars after all, but a problem with where the agency prioritizes its expenditures. I suspect you'll be surprised.

It would make a lot more sense to put wilderness trail restoration a little higher on the funding trough than try to implement legally-dubious fees that will engender the public backlash and potential lawsuits I mentioned earlier.
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman says:
Jun 30, 2011 02:04 PM
George -- Sounds like you've had an interesting run of it. State politics are fascinating.

And I can't agree with you more about agency budget priorities. I should mention, though, that we're talking about the Forest Service, not the BLM. FS budgets are slaughtered by fire-fighting pretty much every year, so it's definitely a different beast. (And FS rec budget allocations have stayed flat as visitation has exploded). Also, you're talking about a change in direction that would be anything but quick, and one behind which there is pretty much zero political will. So what do you suggest in the meantime? The fee proposal I wrote about in this column would have restricted the fees collected for use IN Colony Basin. It's one ranger district trying to take care of one of its special places. And believe me, that wouldn't mean a fancy visitor center. It would help pay for trail and vegetation restoration, road maintenance etc.

One thing the organization I worked for has started doing (in addition to soliciting donations and grants, since it is a nonprofit) is to install donation kiosks at trailheads to help defray the cost of maintenance and construction. That way, folks who have the means pay what they can. They can also learn about volunteer opps at those same kiosks. This seems like a good compromise to me.

The bottom line is that there's a problem. Making the argument about the fees themselves skirts the issue of resource damage and precludes meaningful solutions.
George Ochenski
George Ochenski says:
Jun 30, 2011 02:34 PM
Sarah -
Sorry, thought it was a BLM Wilderness area. But the gist of it stays the same as far as doing a thorough budget review goes and seeing where the $$ are actually being spent. All I can tell you from those two decades of reviewing agency budgets and running bills to change them to reflect on-the-land priorities is that unless someone from OUTSIDE the agency does it, it won't happen.

I'll admit that I'm puzzled by this line in your comment: "Also, you're talking about a change in direction that would be anything but quick, and one behind which there is pretty much zero political will."

As far as how quickly it can be accomplished, well, there are budget bills every year that have to pass Congress, so making the changes is not only possible, it's what Congress is there specifically to do. And as far as "no political will" goes, well, how do you know that? Are you talking about what Congress thinks or what the agency thinks/says? It's been my experience that unless you try, you never win. If you take the time to actually analyze the budgets, you might just find places where funds can be shifted from other less-essential areas (like those multi-million dollar visitor centers that are not only expensive to build, but come with the continuing expense of their staffing and maintenance). Travel budgets would also be a good place to spend some time looking for budgeting extravagance.

If, on the other hand, you're only interested in "new revenue," I suspect you'll have an equally long road and very tough time trying to squeeze blood out of rock in the federal budget anytime soon.

On the other hand, coming forth with a reasoned proposal to shift funds may have a greater chance of success than you're currently giving it by simply repeating the agency mantra of "we need/want more revenue."

I've done a bunch of this stuff, Sarah, so it's not theory, it's very, very possible IF you want to put in the time and effort to make it happen. But be warned, when you go into agency budgets, they don't much like it. So if you're a "go along to get along" environmentalist, you probably won't want to rub your Forest Service pals the wrong way. But if the problem is as severe as you say -- and if it's growing as you say -- then you either go along to get along or you get going to make the long-term changes to actually address the problems.

In the meantime, the donation boxes are a fine idea, but if you need millions, I really don't think they'll get you there.
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman says:
Jun 30, 2011 03:13 PM
George--I say zero political will because many environmental groups already work on this very issue and nothing has changed. It's not a high priority for Congress (especially with the federal deficit looking like it is) and it's not a high priority for agency higher ups. So many of these nonprofit groups step up to fill roles the ground-level agency offices no longer can (again, like that nonprofit I worked for, as well as others such as Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute and the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers). Indeed, that nonprofit -- Colorado 14ers Initiative -- leverages millions of dollars in private funding through donations and grants to do the work that local offices of the Forest Service no longer get enough money to complete. As far as I know, efforts like that are the only really positive things to emerge from a stalemate in which efforts to change agency and Congressional budget priorities continue to fall flat.

Also, I'm a journalist, not a lobbyist. My action on this subject is my writing. This piece was meant to raise public and lawmaker awareness of recreational impacts.
Jesse Tigner
Jesse Tigner says:
Jun 30, 2011 03:21 PM
Sure I was being a bit simplistic, but the thing is to suggest that worn trails results in poorer habitat for wildlife (or in population declines) is convoluted. More than convoluted, even, it's suggesting a link that is in no way supported by the scientific literature. Ironically, there is a sizable and growing body of work showing that the ACT of human use--e.g., hiking, quading, driving, sight-seeing, industrial use--all have marked behavioral impacts on species. In other words when people are around doing people things wildlife responds by changing activity or movement patterns--they alter the things they would normally be doing in the absence of people being around. Those behavioral responses may ultimately manifest themselves into population level responses--declines in numbers--but there is nothing out on that yet (other than hunting or poaching). The irony is in the fact that critters are not responding to the footprints or tire tracks, but to the feet and the tires.

I don't doubt that recreation has a huge impact on resources in Colorado. It's just that spending money, time, and effort on fixing trails or cleaning up litter is not likely to do very much to improve the world for wildlife as that is not what wildlife are responding to. Now if you have literature to the contrary, I'd be extremely interested in seeing it. But I don't think you do...

One management strategy that has been shown very effective to prevent both behavioral or population-level impacts is access management (gating roads an closing trails). But that has been a tough sell anywhere it's been attempted...

At any rate, just my thoughts. Good article and nice discussion. You must have some kind of record with ~25 comments on a piece!
George Ochenski
George Ochenski says:
Jun 30, 2011 03:32 PM
Sarah - I'm a journalist, too. But I back that up with the 22 years of experience in the legislative arena. That's why I'm kind of wondering, by reading your words, if there's really no political will or whether there's no agency will to put the money where the work needs done. Government agencies, like pretty much all entities, tend to put self-preservation as their highest goal. They tend to grow and grow, like yeast, consuming all possible revenue. When that happens, they yell for more or, as you stated, start looking for others to do the work they were hired to do, even though you paraphrase that as "to do the work that local offices of the Forest Service no longer get enough money to complete."

You asked how to get the money or what was my plan or alternative. All I did is explain it to you in simplest terms. If you don't want to do that tedious, boring, number-crunching work and research, that's obviously your call.

But it's truly the only long-term alternative to pushing for more fees, which are not at all popular with the recreating public (especially backcountry recreation) as you certainly must know.

I didn't say it would be easy, I just said it was possible and a worthwhile alternative to consider. As you can tell from many other commenters here, people already feel we pay for maintenance of our national forests through our federal taxes. They're right -- we do. Crying for more fees on top of the taxes is actually a rather lazy way out and blames the victim (recreationists) rather than those responsible for the funding imbalance/priorities (which would be Congress and the agency itself).

I'd say "good luck" with the fees, but quite frankly, I've been fighting fees since FLREA's precursor, Pombo's 'Fee Demo' rider passed and will continue to do so. Those who wish to join in that fight can join Kitty Benzar and the Western Slope No Fee Coalition at
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman says:
Jun 30, 2011 03:42 PM
Thanks for the beta, Jesse--I think you can tell I feel very strongly about this work. In response to your comments on literature, I do know of some work that suggests wide routes alter travel patterns for smaller mammals because they're more exposed as they cross those routes. I'm not sure if it's published though. More importantly, though: trail maintenance isn't just about keeping water bars clean and trail tread from creeping; it also involves rerouting trails away from sensitive wildlife habitat to avoid the very phenomenon you describe, which requires money and labor. One of the first trails I worked on was a rerouting project to keep people out of such an area on the back side of Mount Massive, I believe for the sake of a Canada lynx denning area.
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman says:
Jun 30, 2011 03:54 PM
Anyway -- for more information about the work taking place in South Colony Basin to restore the area and keep it as wild as possible, check out the FS website: