Western Senators introduce measure to offer certainty for cabin owners

Lawmakers’ bipartisan bill reforms fee system to preserve family cabins

(U.S. SENATE) – Leading U.S. Senators from the American West today introduced a bipartisan measure to make cabin user fees more affordable and predictable, allowing families to keep their cabins on Forest Service land without costing the federal government any money.

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

Led by Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the lawmakers are addressing the 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 two years.

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

The Cabin Fee Act assigns annual user fees according to an eleven-tier “cabin value” system ranging from $500 to $5,500. This system will provide greater certainty to cabin owners, but will not reduce the Forest Service’s revenue from cabin leasing.

Tester is joined on the bill by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont), John Barrasso (R.-Wyo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), – as well as Midwesterner Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

“This bill is about fairness and upholding Montana’s outdoor way of life,” Baucus said. “We’re one step closer to making sure the U.S. Forest Service’s current fee system doesn’t stand in the way of the Montana family tradition of passing cabins from generation to generation.”

“Cabin owners in Wyoming and across the West are speaking out about their struggle with excessive cabin fees,” Barrasso said. “Unless we fix this broken fee structure now, many Americans will soon lose cabins that are so important to their families and their friends. We now have bipartisan support to ensure fees are calculated fairly on National Forest land. We should pass this bill immediately and help more Americans continue to enjoy cabins across our beautiful country.”

“Roughly 14,000 cabins across the country are located on fee-based federal lots, many of which are in Idaho, and owners of these cabins deserve a fair and consistent process for determining cabin user fees,” Crapo said. “The Cabin Fee Act of 2013 would create a cabin user fee process that takes into account the restrictions placed upon cabin owners and constructs fees that reflect the market value of the residential lots.”

“Wyoming cabin owners shouldn’t have to worry about the Forest Service trying to drive them off with ever-increasing fees,” Enzi said. “Our legislation provides a consistent fiscally responsible formula for how the fees are calculated so families can spend more time enjoying the outdoors instead of worrying about the uncertainty of next year’s fees.”

Cabin Fee Act of 2013 by danmalessa