It’s National Forest Week, and the United States Forest Service wants to celebrate by increasing fees..but for a good cause. Many good causes, in fact, like improved campsites, water provisions, more frequent trash and toilet services, and staff to implement these upgrades. 

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It’s been over 20 years since the U.S. Forest Service has increased fees. Recreation fees have been in place since 1965 and have only seen a handful of increases in the nearly 60 years of implementation. 

“Given our financial state, closing sites could be considered in the future if nothing changes,” Aaron Voos said, Public Affairs Specialist for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests & Thunder Basin National Grassland.

The Forest Service is hosting a series of Open Houses to solicit public feedback on fee increases, proposed changes, and other site-specific information. The Laramie Ranger District Office’s Open House is July 17 from 4-7 p.m. at their 2468 Jackson St. location. Preferred feedback is online here, and the public comment period ends November 1

The slight fee increases are proposed to be in the $5-$20 range in the 93 Medicine Bow and Routt locations and encompass developed recreation sites in southeast Wyoming and north central Colorado. 

“Right now, we run at a huge deficit. Hundreds of thousands annually. We can cut into that deficit, make some much-needed changes, and hopefully provide a better product for the public.”

The sites in this district were designed in the 70s and 80s. They’re “badly in need of [an] overhaul to accommodate today’s huge campers and trailers.”

Voos said site users appreciate the multitude of camping options in our area and that people can have campfires in designated spots even when fire restrictions are in place. 

“It’s a good deal financially, even if prices go up. People don’t want to see us have to close sites. Our rec program in the USFS is unique in that the legislation that authorizes charging fees allows us to use 95% of that revenue to reinvest locally. That doesn’t happen with other USFS programs, like grazing fees or timber sales,” Voos added. 

To learn more information and to see the full schedule of Open Houses, visit the website here

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