Tester introduces legislation to rein in cabin fees on Forest Service land

Senator’s bipartisan bill would cap fees, set deadline for completion of appraisals

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today introduced legislation to rein in skyrocketing fee increases for cabins on U.S. Forest Service land.

Tester’s bipartisan Cabin Fee Act would address the appraisal system for cabins that has led to the significant increases in cabin fees.

A law passed in 2000 set up appraisals for cabins on Forest Service land.  But unexpectedly high values from the appraisals slammed cabin owners with new fees as high as $18,000.

Tester’s measure would change the law and assign cabins to a tiered system according to appraised value, setting user fees at between $500 and $4,500.  The legislation also would require that current appraisals be completed within three years.

“These cabins are passed down in hardworking Montana families from generation to generation—and the idea of leasing these cabins was never meant to make them a commodity for only the privileged few who can afford suddenly outrageous fees,” Tester said.  “My legislation would bring some relief and, finally, predictability for these families.”

Senators Max Baucus, John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, have cosponsored Tester’s bill.

“This bill is common sense when it comes to preserving Montana's outdoor way of life,” Baucus said. “It will help make life easier for Montana families who have used these cabins for generations.”

“The U.S. Forest Service’s fee system is clearly broken,” Barrasso said.  “Folks with family cabins in our part of the country deserve to know that they will be charged a fair and predictable fee.  Our legislation will deliver increased transparency and common sense.”

Tester led the bipartisan effort last year that resulted in a one-year cap of 25 percent on cabin fee hikes while he explored legislation for a more reasonable fee structure.

A similar measure to Tester’s legislation is being considered in the House of Representatives.  However, the House measure would add millions of dollars to the national deficit.  Tester’s bill is expected to be “deficit-neutral” and not increase the national debt.

Tester’s Cabin Fee Act is available online, HERE.