Forest Service won't charge Buff Pass users

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

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— 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.”

Comments

bellyup 3 years, 6 months ago

It kills me that people who would waste thousands of dollars on a snowmobile could have a problem putting down another five bucks for a day of riding. For crying out loud, it costs five bucks to HIKE Fish Creek Falls trail.

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sledneck 3 years, 6 months ago

Its not the $5. Its the $5 on top of the $40 state registration that snowmobilers already pay, on top of the gas tax, on top of the property tax, on top of the income tax, on top of the building permit tax, on top of the telephone tax, on top of........

Will they EVER get it?

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brian ferguson 3 years, 6 months ago

Five bucks to park at fish creek is insane...and my snomo was only $500.

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mavis 3 years, 6 months ago

It is to the point if you have to license your snowmoile, ATV or car.... you should have to license your bike, skis, snowshoes and so on. Why is it that those that hunt and have an ATV or something else similar are the ONLY ones paying fees?? and don't give the parks pass arguement because we have to have that too. I agree with sled enough is enough.... but only 1/2 should NOT be the only ones paying... so give it up altogether or MAKE EVERYONE PAY

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mtntrekker 3 years, 6 months ago

The article says "User Fee". To me that sounds like it includes everybody, motorized and non-motorized. $5 might be a bit much. Maybe $3 a day. I would be happy to pay it. It helps (I think) fix the trails, new signs, clean up trash, etc. But in defense of sledneck, what does the $40 registration fee go toward?

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sledneck 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm so glad you asked. The snowmobiler registration fees are not $40 bucks. Really they are 30 something. (it changes and i truly forgot the exact figure)

The snowmobile registration fees are what pays for ALL the grooming of the main trails on Buffalo and Rabbit Ears Pass. Not one dime of taxpayer money is used. Additionally, the trails are marked and maintained by volunteers using NO tax money. Even the last parking area consrtucted on Rabbit Ears (muddy creek) was built BY snowmobilers and is open to ALL users.

This is true, not only there but in North Routt and across the state. Registration fees from snowmobilers pay for all grooming except for commercial skiing and snowmobile touring operations that do small, isolated areas for their own benifit.

Furthermore, in addition to the registration fees snowmobilers also pay on highway gas tax for the fuel they burn OFF ROAD. Forgive me but I think it's time non-motorized users start to pony-up.

The problems I have with the fee are: 1. As a taxpayer I already pay to use the National Forest. I pay too much in taxes across the board and either way you slice it this is more tax for me to pay. 2. When people are getting turned away the parking lot needs to be expanded and the USFS continues to resist requests to do that. People don't come there to use a restroom or have someone tell them about the area, they come there to park and they should be accomodated. 3.Snowmobilers were kicked out of the Buffalo Pass "backcountry skiing area" in 2005. As such we would be paying a fee in an area we are only allowed to "pass through" not an area we actually use. That is contrary to the USFS rules for charging user fees. 4. fees on Bufalo Pass will only re-route people to Rabbit Ears where parking is also scarce or to North Routt which is a very difficult thing to do on a short day or half day. Locals go to Buff to escape the ever crowded ski hill that keeps building high speed lifts to put a gazillion people on the mt. It is a place for locals to escape the ski hill and fees will hurt that. Not everyone can plunk down $5 for a couple hours of solitude and I don't think they should have to.

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sledneck 3 years, 6 months ago

PS The Routt Powder Riders local snowmobile club strongly protested/ resisted the fees. For those who oppose the fees, you're welcome. For those who support the fees I'm sure the USFS will take your $5 donation.

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Zed 3 years, 5 months ago

I am ok with paying a $5 user fee if it goes towards the forest service budget and maintaining open space. Every time I go hiking it usually requires a National parks pass, state pass and/or forest service pass of which I have all three. I guess I could need a license for my hiking boots/tent as well? I think most hikers/bikers would be ok with this....The key with all taxes is show people where the money is going, tell me it will pay for a new parking lot at Buff pass and you can take my $5. I do think the impact of ATVs is more significant than hikers/bikers. Prospecter trail in North Routt comes to mind as very torn up by dirt bikes.

I disagree with Sled on the taxes being piled on, fact or myth? Take a look at our state tax burden since 1977 and it has actually been for the most part at a flat 9%. Compared to other states we rank fairly low on the tax burden. http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxdata/show/444.html

Another story here on national taxes being low: http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/2010-05-10-taxes_N.htm

Am I missing something?

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JustSomeJoe 3 years, 5 months ago

Sledneck - what part of your taxes and fees pay for expanding the parking lot for all the snowmobilers parking their trucks and trailers while escaping the crowded Ski Area? I love how you can be so anti-government and anti-tax in most of your posts/opinions, but when it comes to this issue you have your hand out. Parking is an issue at Dry Lake, no doubt about it. I'd love to see a fee there and see if everyone heads for Rabbit Ears like you predict. It would be great to excercise in the Forest without all the noise and smell.

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Zed 3 years, 5 months ago

Mavis, I don't see operating a OHVehicle or shooting a weapon as similar to going camping, snowshoeing, or skiing. The impact on the land and requirement of staff to manage these activities is much greater. For hunting to be sustainable/safe doesn't it require education, significant management of wildlife and oversight of how animals are hunted? For fishing, doesn't the state manage and stock various bodies water? For ATVs don't you need rangers to ensure people are not racing around causing harm to land and other users? It seems like all of these activities would be a free for all without management, look at the recent deer that were poached on Emerald for example.

I don't see these similarities with hikers/snowshoers? Should you have to register a horse to go horseback riding? The park passes seem to cover usage of land, the registration fees cover activities requiring additional management.

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Zed 3 years, 5 months ago

Another example came to mind, using an area like Stagecoach. All users pay a park fee, but boaters pay a registration fee to operate their boats. There is a difference between operating a motorized boat and going out in a kayak. It is a different impact on the environment(think land, not green), different threat to other users, etc...

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mavis 3 years, 5 months ago

Zed--- I am busy but I encourage you to look up the costs to the forest service for gatherings like the rainbow people, and then the group that decide to "build" a cabin in the forest and they had to drag out toilets and the initial steps for a cabin being built....???

If I have to pay extra to hunt shouldn't you have to pay extra to have the tofu you buy at the store taxed extra to transport it up here???? I mean really .... spread it out if you are so into being only natural... tofu doesn't grow in the garden:)

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Zed 3 years, 5 months ago

Actually large groups do need a special permit, which would cover the rainbow people. It was 25 or more people last year, but looks like they changed it to 75 now. Bullet point 21 actually references the rainbow people.

http://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses/special_non_com_uses.shtml

Managing me with my tofu, and managing you and how many deer you shoot are different. Wildlife laws/management ensure safe and sustainable hunting...

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mtroach 3 years, 5 months ago

Don't forget that everyone is able to participate in those recreation options that don't require fees. Noone forces users to use those fee areas and there are plenty of places in Routt NF where ypu can play for free.

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sledneck 3 years, 5 months ago

Just some joe, What part of my taxes pays for parking...? The taxes I send to washington every April 15. There is no inconsistency here. I pay too much in taxes, the government I pay taxes to controls the freakin parking lot, that entity should use some of MY tax money to improve the parking lot. Thats not having my hand out.

I view the parking as everyones, just like the forest. The people who are getting the free lunch here are the non-motorized users who never pay a dime for use of the forest and who use trails maintained by snowmobile funds.

The crux of the issue for you seems to stem from your hatred of snowmobiles. You don't see any of the things YOU do as being as bad for the world as the things OTHERS do.

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sledneck 3 years, 5 months ago

PS joe, There are 3 million acres of wilderness in Colorado. If you want to be free of the "noise and smell" get in the wilderness and knock yourself out. But don't give us this crap about how you can't find a place to be free from snowmobiles.

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trump_suit 3 years, 5 months ago

Sled, I have followed your arguments on these tax issues and can agree with much of what you said. However, there are glaring inconsistencies in your approach. You mention just above that you pay for that access with every April 15th that rolls around but so do each and every one of the non-motorized users.

When forced to cut back, the goverment responds by shoving financing (taxes) to the local level. Hence the user fees at Buff Pass. It seems to me that you would support fees for target specific locations where the cause/effect could be truly measured and accounted for. More use = more cars = more management = more cost.

How do you propose the state replaces the millions of lost local financing if 60/61/101 pass when they are already struggling., What would you cut?

Do you think there is any possibility that dumb children might actually cost society more than funding the Dept. of Education?

Do you really believe a corporation that is motivated by profit will choose to protect the environment or provide a safe work place? History gives a different lesson and the fights between labor and management are testimony to that conflict. The Goverment does have a role to play and that role must be paid for. Your taxes are the price that you pay to be an American with all of the benefits and perks that come with that membership.

If you want to pay zero taxes then you should find yourself an island and setup your own private country with no taxes. As long as you are an American there is a price to be paid and taxes are just a piece of that price.

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brian ferguson 3 years, 5 months ago

Its pretty easy to get away from snomobiles around here, you just have to use your imagination.Emerald should have some great skiing this year with all the tree removal, rabbit ears has tons of non motorized areas,and buff, how about a hike up soda creek (?) out of dry lake campground,or spring creek? The aspen flats, long run area on dunkley pass is non motorized, and usually empty. Then theres all the non motorized areas outside the ski area...or are lifts to environmentally unsound too? Are snowcats acceptable on buff pass?You never hear the eco's complaining about snowcats...why is that? There pretty loud, and stinky...at least on the inside. Seriously though, snomobiles are not the enemy, after buying my first one (after 18 years hiking around here) last year....I believe I've found my new bestest friend.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapppppppp

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sledneck 3 years, 5 months ago

Excellent bakrodr, You have taken your first step. Mod up your sled and throw a turbo on it and your journey to the Dark Side will be complete!

Trump, I accept that non-motorized users do pay taxes jsut like the rest of us and if revenue collected on April 15 is what funds the parking lot then everyone who sends a check is paying. You got me there. However, non-motorized users do not pay registration fees that motorized users do.

As broader cuts are concerned I think we have options. 1. cut everything equally across the board 2. decide whats the most expendable and eliminate those. (farm subsidies, Nat Endowment Arts, Drug Wars, Nat Public Radio etc) 3. let the government go bankrupt. (which is exactly where we are headed now)

There is no question dumb kids cost society lots more than just money. Where your question fails is assuming the Dept of Education prevents dumb kids. I would suggets it not only does not prevent dumb kids but actually MANUFACTURES them.

I don't want to pay zero taxes, get real only a fool wants total anarchy. To an extent I consider it a priviledge to pay taxes. It means I'm making money. But the other half of that is I don't want ANYBODY ELSE to pay zero taxes either! There is a long way from where we are and where we need to be when it comes to the size of government. The mistake so many of you make is assuming that someone who hates big government as much as me would, if I was king for a day, eliminate it altogether. Not so, but it needs to shrink by 60-80%.

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JustSomeJoe 3 years, 5 months ago

Sled - you can't pick where your taxes go. I'd pick not to fight the Iraq war. Your arguments on this issue are inconsistent with your political philosophy. I guess snowmobile trailer parking is just your little pork barrel.

Your "snowmobile registration fees" are a great example of fees that target your use. They go right to your use, grooming snowmobile trails. I know of no non-motorized users of buff pass that use the snowmobile trails. Why would you want to hike up a snowmobile trail and possibly get run over by a snowmobile going flat out? Another flaw in your argument here, non-motorized, back country skiers don't access your trails.

I ski at buff pass the same reason everyone else does. Close to town, great terrain. You are the one looking for a free lunch as it gets crowded. I pay income taxes to the federal government, so build me a bigger parking lot for my hobby. Oh yeah, do it during the.biggest recession since the great depression. you are the me in team.

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mavis 3 years, 5 months ago

I could be wrong but I thought they started grooming trails for the skiers up on the pass too...... if I am correct on that one they should pay too.... groomers are NOT cheap and don't run for free just because they are on a "non-motorized" path.

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JustSomeJoe 3 years, 5 months ago

Yep Mavis, you are way off and wrong, Bruce's trail is groomed in the early season (now until snow falls in consistently in the valley) for nordic skiers by nordic skiers. The groomers are volunteers on snowmobiles. The cost is supplemented by donations to the Steamboat cross country ski organization. Feel free to donate to the grooming efforts at www.steamboatxcski.org or just head up for a skate or classic ski.

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trump_suit 3 years, 5 months ago

Sled, On this we can agree. There should not be anyone that pays zero taxes.

I would be in favor of scrapping the entire tax structure and starting over with a VAT tax. A VAT is defferent than a sales tax in that every single transaction carries a 1% (example) tax from the plastic supplier to the trucking/transportation charges. A Sales tax only applies to the end consumer.

With a 1% VAT tax on ALL transactions, business would have an excellent idea of their tax burden and would have to pay that VAT on every single item that is purchased.

This would simplify the tax system and would be a much fairer representation of tax burden than the current income tax. There are simply too many loopholes and expenses that give wealthy individuals and corporations the ability to largely avoid taxation.

Remember that the VAT would be instead of Income tax, not added to it.

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sledneck 3 years, 5 months ago

Trump, I would like to see the entire tax structure scrapped too but i don't think I want a VAT tax. I would definitely preferr a national sales tax.

When you say "a sales tax only applies to the end user" where-as a VAT would tax businesses too I must say I hear this a lot.

If there was just one (1) principle I wish people could understand about business it would be this: Corporations / businesses PAY NO TAXES. They never have. They never will. ALL taxes are paid by the "end user". That is why I want to cry when I hear people saying "stick it to" big business. When we ask for businesses to be taxed what we are really saying is "please make the cost of the products me and my fellow Americans depend on rise".

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sledneck 3 years, 5 months ago

Joe, I would chose not to fight the Iraq war too.

Skiers most certainly do access trails groomed by snowmobile funds. Some friends of mine who are skiers actually schedule trips up to RE for right after our groomer goes out just to have the fresh corduroy. And hydrid skiers are all over our groomed trails getting up to the skiing area on Buff. And lots of skiers use USFS 550 in North Routt. They even have one of the biggest ski races in the state there every year. And the groomer, using snowmobile funds, grooms it all special for them the night before!

I have not said build ME a bigger parking lot. I said build US a bigger lot. And I/ we were saying it long before the economy puked.

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mavis 3 years, 5 months ago

Well here is another point... It seems to me the City spends more $$$$ on buying land to ensure you can x country ski, skate ski, and bike then they do money for other activities..... therefore YOU TOO should have to pay to PLAY. Furthermore I have also been told that the habitat charge has been removed from hikers due to complaining--- that still leaves hunters and fishermen paying that cost on licenses. Should be required by ALL if it is going to be a charge.... how much crap did the hippies haul into the forest that just had to be hauled out @ tax payers expense?? Sorry.. you all don't have halos over your heads with fairness.. just tax exemption stamped across your foreheads with lots of time off from work to APPEAL everything that may cost you.

Bottom line most of those that hunt, fish and have ATV's of some sort are footing the bill and all we get in return are more bikepaths you all don't use for some bizzare reason.

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flower 3 years, 5 months ago

Who were the other groups opposed to this fee? The article states several groups, but Routt Powder Riders is named. I am assuming this user fee applies to everyone, not just snowmobilers. I am glad the Forest Service is too damn busy to take our money!!

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sledneck 3 years, 5 months ago

The fees were to apply to all users.

Along with the Routt Powder Riders, the Western No-Fee Coalition would have opposed. Apart from that, I don't know any other group that opposed the fee outright.

Also, a representative of the non-motorized users said she thought the fees should not apply to them, only motorized users. So, in a way, they opposed the fees...for them.

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Kitty Benzar 3 years, 5 months ago

Speaking on behalf of the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, we have opposed this fee proposal and will continue to do so. This is not based on any motorized vs non-motorized bias, because we work with recreationists on both sides of that divide. We oppose any federal recreation fee that is not in compliance with federal law. The law prohibits the Forest Service or BLM from charging a fee solely for parking, for passing through federal lands without using facilities and services, for general access, and for use of dispersed areas. The Buff Pass fee would be in violation of those prohibitions.

Those who want to contribute to the Forest Service you are free to do so in any amount you choose and your donation is tax deductible. That is quite different from forcing people to pay fees, under threat of criminal prosecution, that are prohibited by law.

You can read the law and more about this issue at www.WesternSlopeNoFee.org

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Ben Tiffany 3 years, 5 months ago

The real reason for opposing a winter season user fee for the Buffalo Pass area is simple. All funds that would be collected from that user fee would be put in the federal government's general fund,and would not be dedicated to any improvements or maintenance of the parking lot at Dry Lake,or the signs,or any enforcement of the regulations.Why should anyone pay into a fund that does none of the users any good? It would be like spitting into the ocean. We could argue forever about who should or shouldn't have to pay a user fee,who has the most impact,etc.,but it would be essentially pointless. The federal government is merely attempting to create another revenue source to help it with its massive waste and inefficiency;we should have none of it.

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