www.TraditionalMountaineering.org ™ and also www.AlpineMountaineering.org ™
FREE BASIC TO ADVANCED
ALPINE MOUNTAIN CLIMBING INSTRUCTION™
Home | Information | Photos | Calendar | News | Seminars | Experiences | Questions | Updates | Books | Conditions | Links | Search
Search this site!
New Forest Service Report Shows Sharp Decline In Visitors
New Forest Service Report Shows Sharp Decline
Western Slope No Fee Coalition
A Forest Service report released July 23, 2009
shows that visitors are staying away from National Forests in droves, and that
the declines began well before the current economic downturn. Nationwide,
recreational visits are down 14% since 2004 and 18% since 2001. Every one of the
Forest Service's nine Regions has taken a hit.
The newly issued report, based on surveys of forest visitors from 2003 through 2008, shows significant decreases in every part of the country. The Pacific Northwest forests saw the largest reduction, 34% since 2004, with the 20-state Northeast Region close behind, down 26% during the same period. The smallest decline of 4% was in the Southeast Region, which encompasses 13 states and Puerto Rico.
The report is the fourth issued by the National Visitor Use Monitoring office of the Forest Service since the agency began a systematic survey of National Forest visitation in 2000. Prior to that, visitation estimates were little more than wildly inflated guesses.
The reports have shown a steady decline, from 214.2 million visits in 2001 to 204.8 million in 2004, to 178.6 million in 2007, and now 175.6 million in 2008. The 18% decline since 2001 equates to 38.5 million fewer National Forest visits per year.
The report does not speculate on reasons for the decline. However, advocates for free public access to public lands point to the increasingly common fees charged to visitors as one reason for the falling visitation. According to Western Slope No-Fee Coalition President Kitty Benzar, "Fees were already driving many families away from public lands, even while times were good. The economic crisis we're facing now will exacerbate a very worrisome trend. As household budgets are cut to the bare bones, visiting a National Forest will be just another luxury item that can be done without."
Benzar says the declines are having a disproportionate impact on rural residents. "This is hitting rural areas from two directions," she said. "First, they often depend on tourism and anything that adds to travel costs slows that and hits their economies hard. Second, almost half of Forest visitors are locals living within 50 miles, and they are the folks least able to afford these access fees."
The end result, Benzar fears, is that both urban and rural kids will spend more time indoors playing video games because it costs too much to take the family camping, fishing, hiking, or even for a picnic in the woods.
A key finding of the report is that relatively few Forest visitors use constructed facilities such as swimming sites, specialized OHV trails, and visitor centers. Over 40% of visits involved no use of constructed sites at all. Of those that did, only Scenic Byways (usually state highways or county roads) and National Forest roads were used during more than 10% of visits. According to Benzar, this is an indication that the Forest Service needs to rethink how it allocates its appropriated funding. "Constructed facilities are expensive to build and maintain and yet they serve relatively few visitors," she noted. "Most visitors are very satisfied with minimal facilities, but too often their access is blocked by a fee to park at a trailhead or for a dispersed camping area."
Fees for day-use areas, scenic roads, trails, and general access to National Forests, as well as lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies, were first imposed in 1996, under a program known as Fee Demo. That was repealed in late 2004 and replaced with a permanent fee program known as the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. Since the FLREA went into effect, over 260 additional sites have been put under fees, and existing fees have been raised at over 800 recreation sites.
A bipartisan bill to repeal the FLREA, S.868 The Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, with sponsorship by Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
-©2008 Western Slope No Fee Coalition
Read more . . .
Fee Demo and Climbing Fees
Montana, Idaho Senators Team Up To Repeal Recreation Access Tax
Idaho Legislature votes to repeal RAT tax (Federal Recreation Access Tax)
Oregon legislature votes to repeal new federal Recreation Access Tax
Disney to offer "adventure tours" in Yellowstone - An Editorial
Fee Demo fees replaced by new Recreation Access Fees
Fee Demo groundwork may save Geocaching on our public lands
Fee Demo program made permanent through last minute political deal!
Reserve your next backcountry adventure!
Fees, forests don't always fit, by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho
Congressman Greg Walden limits fee demo
Fee demo program discriminates against our poor folks
Fee Demo looses to grass roots outrage
Fee Demo Forest Pass dropped at 20 sites on the Deschutes National Forest!
Senator Regula's Fee Demo support and The Wilderness Center, Inc.
Senator Craig calls Fee Demo a failed program
Outdoor recreation in Oregon far from free
Oregon Field Guide: “Pay to Play on Public Land”
National Park Service plans climbing fees increase!
Fee demo rejected by USFS employees
Fee demo has "fallen short" - Senator Craig
Fee demo demonstrations
The Badlands Wilderness
Wilderness workshop for USDA Forest Service held by University of Idaho
BLM's UDRMP plans for Badlands deal with exploding public use
Map, compass and GPS navigation training Noodle in The Badlands
Deschutes County Commissioners fail to support Badlands Wilderness!
Deschutes County takes no position on Badlands Wilderness
Deschutes County Commissioner DeWolf supports Badlands Wilderness
OpEd - Dirt road through The Badlands must close
Photos of Road 8 damage sent to Commissioners
Badlands Wilderness with a road?
The Badlands have unique interest for the hiker
BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Fee Demo groundwork may save Geocaching on our public lands
Protest of exclusion of Geocaching in Badlands WSA in BLM's UDRMP
BLM's UDRMP puts Bend's Badlands off limits to Geocaching
Deschutes County Commissioners hearing on Badlands Wilderness support
OHV use restricted in Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Tread Lightly OHV USFS tip of the month
OHVs to be held to designated trails by USDA Forest Service!
New pole shows Badlands Wilderness favored by voters
BLM posts Reward for information on Juniper rustlers
BLM weighing public input on management plan
Oregon's Badlands hit by old growth Juniper rustlers Photos
Congressman Greg Walden to visit The Badlands
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by COTA
OpEd - Unregulated OHV use is being reviewed across the western states
OHV use curtailed by new USFS policy decisions
Sierra Club's Juniper Group supports Badlands Wilderness
OHV regulation discussed at BLM meeting in Bend, Oregon
OpEd - Badlands part of BLM's recreation management area
OpEd - We need the Badlands Wilderness
OpEd - Off-roaders have no reason to fear Badlands Wilderness designation
Speak for the Badlands at Town Hall Meeting
Hiking poles are becoming essential gear
Vandals destroy ancient pictographs in the Badlands
Senator Wyden tests support of Badlands Wilderness
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by Bend City Commissioners
The Badlands: proposed for Wilderness status
The Badlands unique geologic forms explained by Chitwood pdf
The Badlands, a brief history
The Badlands pictographs reported 75 year ago
An update on the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge in Oregon
The Store Wars best with broadband!
TraditionalMountaineering adopts the Crooked River through Smith Rock State Park
The Republican Political Party is responsible?
Times Up, by Yvon Chouinard
Nation's forests might be on the road to ruin, by President Bill Clinton
Wilderness at risk from new Bush policies
Steens management scandal may affect wilderness study areas
BLM outsourced Steens Management Plan to mining industry leaders!
Owyhee River wilderness study area inventory with ONDA
OHV vandals charged in Yellowstone
Oregon's B and B Complex fire closure modified
Senate says NO to Big Oil in Alaska
Gloria Flora - Environmental Hero
Re-introducing wolves into Oregon
George Bush overlooking the environment