Last winter, the Forest Service proposed that people pay a fee to hike or camp in central Oregon’s undeveloped wilderness areas. The agency argued that wilderness areas are “special” places in which Congress has authorized hiking and camping fees. FSEEE pointed out the Forest Service was reading the law backwards. Congress authorized fees for special uses — not special places — and, in fact, has barred the Forest Service from charging fees for vanilla-flavored hiking and camping.
This February, the Forest Service changed its tune and announced it was dropping the wilderness fee proposal. Citing the “valuable” public input it had received, the Forest Service did not otherwise explain its change of heart. The on-going pandemic has also suspended a proposed new wilderness use permit, which would now be available at no charge — except for a “processing” fee of $1 per person for day use ($6 for overnight) paid to the private contractor that operates the Recreation.gov reservation site.