Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today praised House-passage of H.R. 3397, the Cabin Fee Act, which he co-sponsored. If passed by the Senate, this legislation would establish a fair and predictable yearly lease system for cabin owners on National Forest land who have been saddled with massive fee increases. The Cabin Fee Act would institute a tiered system of fees, and also reduce the cost of overseeing the cabin system by eliminating the time-consuming and costly appraisal process mandated by a law passed in 2000.
"Whether it's a death tax, or a forest service fee, increasing the federal take of family assets often forces hard-working Montanans to sell off their assets to pay the tax man," said Rehberg. "In this case, forest service cabins that have been passed from generation to generation could be lost simply because the Forest Service used an arbitrary appraisal process that led to massive fee increases. The Cabin Fee Act brings a little fairness and a lot of Montana common sense to a broken process."
The Recreation Resident Program was established in 1915 and set aside a small number of residential lots for Americans to build recreational cabins on federal land. The individuals own the structures and pay a yearly fee for the use of the land. A 2000 law directed the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to use an appraisal process for determining cabin fees. Unfortunately, the Forest Service ignored many of the negating factors that play a critical role in determining appraisal value, such as limited ownership rights held by cabin owners, restrictions on year-round use of the site, or lack of privacy due to public access. This caused the USFS to over-evaluate the properties and led to unreasonable fee assessments.
H.R. 3397 establishes a ten-tier fee system, based on the lot's current value, with yearly fees from $500 to $5,000, adjusted annually for inflation. A simple transfer fee of $1,200 would be assessed when cabins are sold or ownership transferred within a family. For luxury properties between $250,000 and $500,000, an additional 5% fee will be assessed, and additional 10% fee assessed on amounts that exceed $500,000.
There are currently over 14,000 family owned recreational cabins across the United States, most of which are located in the West.
"Cabin owners throughout the nation are grateful for the support of Representative Rehberg in getting the Cabin Fee Act passed today by the U.S. House of Representatives and sending it on for consideration by the Senate," said Geoffrey Anderson, President of the National Forest Homeowners. "We very much appreciate that the Congressman was an early cosponsor of this legislation which is so vital to cabin owners in Montana and everywhere. With final passage by the Senate and enactment into law, the Cabin Fee Act will enable thousands of cabin owner families to continue to enjoy the recreational use of their cabins as they have for generations."