In response to Montanans' concerns regarding rising cabin fees charged by the U.S. Forest Service, Congressman Steve Daines today announced that he has helped introduce the Cabin Fee Act of 2013, which was passed yesterday by the House Natural Resources Committee. The legislation would establish a fair and predictable fee-setting system for families who own cabins in U.S. National Forests.
"As a fifth generation Montanan and avid sportsman I know spending time in our great outdoors--our National Forests, National Parks, grasslands, and wilderness areas--is an essential part of Montanans' way of life," Congressman Daines stated. "Unfortunately, Montana cabin owners face the steepest user fees in the nation. These risings costs threaten Montanans' ability to continue owning cabins that have been enjoyed by families for generations. It's clear that a more balanced and reasonable user fee program is needed so that Montanans are able to own cabins and enjoy our National Forests for years to come."
Daines noted that numerous Montanans have reached out to him to express their concerns over rising cabin user fees. These Montanans shared that their families have owned cabins on USFS land for generations and are now at risk of being forced to sell their cabins due to unreasonable fees.
Montanans have described these fees as "unfair and unreasonable" and shared that for some cabins, the annual fees are rising to double what the families pay for property tax on the cabin.
The USFS allows for private ownership of cabins on forest service land, but charges a fee for a permit to own a cabin on USFS land. In Montana, cabin owners face the steepest user fees in the nation--up to $25,000. As Montana cabin owners shared with Daines, without a new user fee program, cabin owners must pay these exorbitant fees--which are unaffordable for most Montanans-- or be faced with the choice of selling their cabins or abandoning and tearing them down.
Cabin owner Jean S. Mack of West Yellowstone shared this story with Daines: "My family has had a cabin on Hebgen Lake, Montana, since 1961. My 90 year old mother still spends summers there, and the cabin is a family treasure that has been used continually every summer since my parents purchased it. I want to be able to have my children feel secure in the legacy of our family cabin, for all of us to be able to use, enjoy, and afford the fees. Please support the Cabin Fee Act so families won't be forced to sell because of unfair and unreasonable fees."
Montana National Forest Homeowners Coordinator and Board Member Jane Van Dyk applauded Daines' support of the Cabin Fee Act, stating: "Cabin owners throughout Montana and the nation very much appreciate the support of Representative Daines in getting the Cabin Fee Act through Committee today. Montana cabin owners are facing some of the largest fee increases in the country. This bill provides a fair, reasonable and predictable way of assessing fees. Without this legislation, many cabin owners will not be able to afford to keep their cabins."
The Cabin Fee Act will authorize the USFS to reappraise cabin properties nationwide and set fees according to a new table that reworks the user fee formula to be more balanced. During the year given to the USFS to appraise properties and implement the new user fees, the bill authorizes USFS to charge the lesser of a $5,000 annual fee or the current user fee.