Dear National Forest Stakeholders:
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is proposing modest fee increases at 45 of our 50 developed campgrounds and new fees at nine day-use sites. Along with the new day-use fee sites, the Forest proposal increases the cost of the Forest Annual Pass from $20 to $30 and drops the current second half price pass. In addition, the Forest is proposing its first cabin rental at Franklin Lake Caretakers Cabin for $75/night.
Congress provided the USDA's Forest Service an authority in 2005 called the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) which allows for collection and retention of fees at developed recreation sites on national forests. The majority of revenue from user fees (80-95%) goes directly back to recreation facilities and services at the collection sites.
Since development of the first set of fees under this authority for recreation sites on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, there have been no changes to the fee structure. We are proposing these changes to align prices with our services and amenities provided, the cost of operations and maintenance and market assessment. We plan to use these funds to help us continue to provide high quality recreation experiences and to address, where needed and feasible, some of our backlogged deferred maintenance needs.
Under FLREA, the Forest is required to implement a transparent process for making fee changes and to conduct extensive public involvement, including review by the Regional Recreation Resource Advisory Committee (Recreation RAC). Additionally, all fee proposals go through both a regional and a national review prior to and immediately following public involvement.
Attached is a listing of the proposed fees on a site-by-site basis. Comments can be provided through an interactive mapping tool on our website, comment cards, mailed comments, or comments provided to individual Forest Service offices. The comment period will be open from June 30 through September 5. Detailed information will be posted to our website June 30 at www.fs.usda.gov/CNNF.
Following an evaluation of the comments, a final fee proposal will be submitted to the Eastern Region Recreation RAC after review by our Regional Office and Washington Office.
You have all been aware of the temporary closures and/or reduced services the Forest has implemented since 2015 in order to balance the recreation budget given the increasing operational costs and the decreasing number of visitors during the last few years. Of these, seven campgrounds and eight day-use sites are included in the fee proposal. The Forest is continuing to evaluate the viability of these recreation areas and the entire recreation program through a process called Recreation Site Analysis. As you recall from the April 20, 2017 letter, this process builds a 5-year program of work that will help the Forest create a recreation program which is sustainable both financially and operationally. If these 15 sites are determined to be viable through this process and are reopened, they will be reopened with the proposed fee increase and full services will be restored.
As a key stakeholder, we wanted to inform you of the fee proposals, so that you are aware of the reasons behind the proposal and the process we are taking in our public involvement efforts. We greatly value your interest in the recreational assets on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and their benefits to local communities; as well as, the outdoor opportunities they provide for greater health and well-being.