Crapo backs cabin fee reform, says will protect 14,000 lessees

A bipartisan group of seven senators says the Cabin Fee Act of 2013 will end the uncertainty for 14,000 lessees of cabins on national forests without costing the U.S. Forest Service money.

Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo is joining the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in introducing the bill, according to a news release Wednesday. The other sponsors are Democrats Max Baucus of Montana and Dianne Feinstein of California, and Republicans Chuck Grassley of Iowa and John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

The bill would establish a $500 floor and $5,500 ceiling for annual user fees under an 11-tier “cabin value” system. It would require appraisals within two years. Establishing such rates has plagued the Forest Service for years, in part because of rising land values.

“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 in the release.  “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.”

The Idaho Land Board is struggling with a similar problem on its cabin sites at Payette and Priest lakes, which benefit state endowments, including higher education and public schools. The federal bill would have no impact on the state-owned lands, which are mandated by the Idaho Constitution to be managed to provide maximum long-term financial return.

The news release follows:

Western Senators Introduce Measure To Offer Certainty For Cabin Owners

Lawmakers’ bipartisan bill reforms fee system to preserve family cabins

 

Washington, D.C. – Leading U.S. Senators from the American West introduced a bipartisan measure to make cabin user fees more affordable and predictable, allowing families to keep their cabins on Forest Service land at no cost to the federal government.

 

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-Montana), 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.

 

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.

 

Crapo is joining Tester on the bill, along with Senators Max Baucus (D-Montana), John Barrasso (R.-Wyoming), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) – as well as Midwesterner Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

 

“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.”

 

“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.”

 

“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.”

 

“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.”

 

Text of the bipartisan Cabin Fee Act is available online HERE

 

To directly link to this news release, please use the following address: http://www.crapo.senate.gov/media/newsreleases/release_full.cfm?id=345396

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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