Forest Service won’t charge Buff Pass users | SteamboatToday.com

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Forest Service won’t charge Buff Pass users

Fee plan on hold, partly because of beetle-kill work

— A proposed user fee for Buffalo Pass area will not go into effect this winter.

Kent Foster, the recreation program manager for the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District, originally had hoped a day fee or season pass would be implemented by this winter.

But Foster said that, right now, implementing the fees isn't at the top of his list, for several reasons.

For one, any new fees have to go through the Colorado Re­­source Advisory Councils. That council has vacancies on it that must be filled before any new fees could be instituted.

Maybe more important, though, Foster said he was busy taking care of beetle-killed lodge­­pole pines.

"The biggest thing right now is we are burning slash piles on the ski area from the logging operation," he said. "We are moving hazardous trees. We need to be concentrating on that for the next year or two. We're not going to be charging fees, with all the other things going on. It's not of the highest of concern."

Foster originally said in December 2009 that he would like to see user fees for Buff Pass.

A day pass would have cost $5, and a season pass would be $30 or $40.

At the time, several local groups opposed the measure. Routt Powder Riders sent a letter to the United States Forest Service in June, opposing the new fees.

"As far as RPR is con­­cerned," the letter read, "the USFS's track record as it relates to their continuing efforts to manage and administer winter recreation in the Routt National Forest is marked with a pattern of decisions and actions that favor non-motorized user groups, and which seem to employ the unpopular 'pay to play' philosophy which stands in the face of whole concept of 'public lands.'"

Routt Powder Riders Vice President George Kostiuk said Tuesday he was glad the Forest Service didn't plan to charge.

"I'm glad to hear they are not," he said. "Like I said, you have a fee, but what would you get for it? They are not going to address the parking, and that's one of the biggest issues on Rabbit Ears and Buff Pass."

A free backcountry permit still is required, and the permits are available at the Forest Service's Steamboat office and at the Buff Pass trailhead.

Foster said he didn't have a timetable for when the Forest Service might reopen discussions for a permit fee.

"We'll have to sit down and talk to all the user groups and manage things," he said. "Right now, we're not moving forward on the fees for Buff Pass mostly because of the bark beetle and the timing. I couldn't tell you when we'll get back to it."