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Know the West

Speaking truth to the Forest Service


Thanks for reporting on Jim Smith, who courageously pursued and won his 2010 court case against the Coconino National Forest for "parking and hiking" without paying fees (HCN, 6/27/11).

I respectfully disagree with labeling him a "fee-dodger," though, as the online version of your story did. Jim is a fee truth-teller! The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act allows the Forest Service or BLM to collect fees at recreation sites with amenities -- water, tables, toilets, kiosks, garbage collection. But it prohibits fees in venues without amenities. Fees are not legal for parking and hiking on trails.
The Forest Service made a bad decision a couple decades ago when it started treating outdoor recreation as another marketable "commodity," like timber, minerals or grazing. Unfettered access to dispersed, backcountry recreation on public lands is our proud national heritage and birthright.

Fees are absolutely discriminatory against the lower socio-economic strata of our society. The Forest Service must start following federal law and cease this overt discrimination. Be a hero like Jim Smith. Speak up. Our public land is at stake.   

Scott H. Phillips
Ketchum, Idaho