Tester measure offers certainty for Montana cabin owners

Senator’s bill reforms fee system to preserve family cabins

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today introduced a bipartisan measure to make cabin user fees more affordable and predictable, allowing many Montana families to keep their cabins on Forest Service land.

Many Montanans have owned family cabins on leased Forest Service land for generations. But due to skyrocketing land values, annual user fees have become too expensive for many families, forcing some to consider abandoning their cabins.

Tester’s bipartisan bill, the Cabin Fee Act of 2011, addresses this issue by restructuring the fee system to reduce annual user fees to as low as $500 and requiring new land appraisals to be completed within three years. 

Tester says his bill will provide owners the certainty they need to keep the often modest cabins in their families without costing taxpayers.

“Forest Service cabins are an important part of Montana’s outdoor heritage, and many families have cherished them for decades,” said Tester, chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “This bipartisan measure lets families know what they can plan for. They deserve the chance to pass these family treasures down to their kids and grandkids.”

The Cabin Fee Act of 2011 assigns annual user fees according to a nine-tier “cabin value” system ranging from $500 to $4,500. This system will provide greater certainty to Montana cabin owners, but will not reduce the Forest Service’s revenue from cabin leasing.

Senator Max Baucus is a cosponsor of the legislation.

“This bill is about fairness and preserving Montana’s outdoor way of life,” Baucus said. “The U.S. Forest Service’s current fee system stands in the way of the Montana family tradition of passing cabins from generation to generation, and it’s important that we pass this solution.”

Tester and Baucus are joined on the bill by Senators John Barrasso (R.-Wyo.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Idaho), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Text of Tester’s bill is available online HERE.