U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday introduced the Alaska Subsistence Structure Protection Act of 2013. The legislation (S. 736) would limit the fees the National Forest Service (USFS) could charge owners of private cabins on National Forest land that are used primarily for subsistence purposes.
"It's wrong for the Forest Service to charge subsistence users for owning cabins on National Forest land at the same rate as they charge commercial operators," Murkowski said. "Subsistence is a vital part of life for many Southeast Alaska families."
There are roughly 60 privately owned cabins in the Tongass that are used primarily for hunting, fishing and gathering wild foods. The Forest Service recently increased annual user fees to about $900 per year -- an amount that most subsistence users cannot afford. The recently increased fee is equal to what the Forest Service charges commercial operators for use of similar structures in the Tongass.
The Forest Service claims current law does not allow them to differentiate between commercial and subsistence cabins. Murkowski's bill will remedy that situation, allowing the Forest Service to create a new subsistence-use category for Alaska.
The legislation would allow for a $250 annual fee, enough to cover the administrative costs of running the program so taxpayers are not subsidizing the program.