Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fees, ORVs pushing national forest visitation down

Mt. Lemmon AZ: Forest fees keeping people away from their public lands.

TUCSON -- Less people are visiting America's national forests, says the US Forest Service.

Increasing forest fees and related hassles, like on southern Arizona's Coronado National Forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains (aka Mt. Lemmon), Sabino Canyon, Madera Canyon and other places, are part of the reason people stay home, especially families and lower income people.

Forest Service mismanagement and noisy, reckless off-roaders, which the Forest Service has unwisely encouraged in recent years, are another big problem.

'Wreck'reation: Reckless off-roaders often violate forests closed to ORVs, running off everyone else.

James Johnston, a policy analyst and Forest Service employee advocate in Oregon, spent the last year camping out in 67 national forests and talking to 400 people. He concluded that while fewer people may be using the woods, fewer trails and campgrounds are open and there are more people riding noisy off-road vehicles.

"They think that it's harder to find solitude," he said. Sadly, he's right.

Three ways the Obama-Biden administration should reform the Forest Service are:

1. Move the Forest Service from the US Dept. of Agriculture to Interior, where most of the other US conservation-related agencies are.

2. Appoint US Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) as Secretary of Interior. He currently serves as Chairman of the US House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

3. Reform and refocus the Forest Service toward conservation and sustainability.


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popschief said...

Having traveled many times throughout the amazing Baja Peninsula I appreciate the beautiful Sonoran Desert. I am also totally in favor of access to our wild places. It's sad to see the way some abuse public lands. The responsible use of public land will only be achieved through education. Just as training is required to enjoy the privileges associated with driving, flying or boating, training is going to have to be required for public lands access.