Questions answered on proposed fee increases on the Lolo National Forest
September 19, 2019
SEELEY LAKE – Seeley Lake District Ranger Quinn Carver and Lolo National Forest Acting Public Affairs Officer Katelyn Jerman presented the proposed recreation fee increases for the Lolo National Forest at the Seeley Lake Community Council meeting Sept. 9. The fee increase for several developed recreation sites on the Lolo was proposed to try and make the rates comparable to other sites in the region based on the amenities available.
Carver emphasized how important it was for the public to engage in the comment period through Sept. 30. He recommended making specific comments targeted at the individual sites. He also said to suggest amenities that can be improved or added at the proposed fee sites.
After giving an overview of the proposal and covering the individual sites (see the Pathfinder’s Aug. 15 article “Lolo National Forest considers recreation fee increase”), Carver answered questions from the Council and the public. All answers are attributed to him unless otherwise noted.
What is the process for approving the fees? The Lolo National Forest will review them and then submit the proposal to a Resource Advisory Council (RAC). Carver and Jerman are working to stand up a Missoula County RAC. The fees cannot be implemented without the RAC in place.
For more information about the RAC visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/pts/specialprojects/racs To get involved contact Carver 406-677-2233 and Jerman 406-329-1024
Is the RAC’s decision final? RAC makes a recommendation based on input from the Lolo Forest Supervisor and the public process. The regional forester makes the final decision.
Who wrote the new fee proposal? The Lolo National Forest proposal was put together based on an inventory of amenities, annual cost and the cost of adjacent opportunities. Based on this information, areas were selected for the fee increases.
What will the fees be used for? Some of the District ideas include additional parking area at Big Larch Campground; improvements to the boat ramp and increased parking at Seeley Lake Campground; toilet at Spook Lake and Big Nelson campground improvements. Please include other suggestions in the comments on the specific proposed fee sites.
Is the money that returns to the District site specific? Jerman said 95 percent of what is collected returns to the District from which they were collected. The District Ranger has the authority to distribute the funds to whichever developed recreation site may need them. The Ranger may or may not create a plan for each site that may guide the use of funds to maintain or improve amenities and services at that site. The public can work with the Ranger on prioritizing the use of those funds if the District Ranger wishes.
Does the annual pass apply to all sites? Yes. Someone would be able to access all the summer and winter day use recreation sites on the Lolo National Forest with the annual pass.
Is the fee per vehicle and what will it look like? Yes the fee is per vehicle. How this will be implemented has not been decided. Carver recommended including preference for what the tag would look like in the public comment process.
Jerman added in an email the Forest and District have yet to create an implementation plan for the fee money, but if the proposal moves ahead, one will be developed. Part of that plan could include identifying what the pass looks like, for example, sticker on vehicle versus detached pass. Additionally, an implementation plan would include an outreach and education component for the first year as well as an enforcement plan.
Wouldn’t charging a day use fee at Big Larch and not other campgrounds just drive use somewhere else? I don’t know. These are good concerns and comments and should be made in the comments.
Who put all the amenities at Seeley Creek Nordic Ski Trails? Seeley Lake Nordic Club Vice President Lynn Carey said Seeley Lake ROCKS funded and provided the yurt and the blue shipping container was purchased by the club. All of the tools for grooming and trail maintenance are owned by the Club. The Forest Service owns the vault toilet and concrete shed.
Does the day use fee at the Seeley Creek Winter Recreation Area include the mushing and snowmobile parking lot across from the Nordic trails? Yes those users would be required to pay the fee as well.
Why are Seeley’s West Side Snowmobile and Musher Trailheads or the Chief Joseph ski area not included in the fee increase? This is what was proposed and put forth based on amenities. Nothing can be added to the proposal. However, the proposal can be modified based on public input.
Why aren’t fees being charged at the trailheads? It totally depends on amenities and what is available.
Will the senior Golden Age Pass allow free day use? Right now, the pass would cut the fees in half. However, implementation decisions on collecting and how that will all look will be decided after the final proposal is approved.
When will the Forest Service put in a dump station for RV waste? This is a great idea for an amenity that could be provided by the fee increase.
Does the camping fee cover day use? Yes
Comments on the proposed fees will be accepted until Sept. 30. For more information on the individual sites and to comment visit https://usfs.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=5c3d141937204a4e9d6b65023e9f88bc