Maintaining recreation sites on national forestland isn't cheap. And Congress has been less than generous over the years in funding the Forest Service's recreation budget. But asking for fees to visit what always have been free attractions along Southern Oregon highways is a mistake.
The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is proposing 57 new fees or fee increases at sites ranging from Natural Bridge and Rogue River Gorge on Highway 62 to High Cascades cabin and fire lookout rentals, which would quadruple in one case and more than double in others. Campground fees would increase as well.
Day-use areas slated to start charging fees for the first time also include lower Rogue River access points Foster Bar, Quosatana Bar and Lobster Bar near Agness, and the Oak Flat Campground and Bar along the Illinois River.
Costs for maintaining cabins and lookouts should be covered by rental fees, and campgrounds that have charged fees for years should be able to adjust those charges to cope with rising costs. But day-use sites are an important option, especially for young families with limited resources.
The Forest Service estimates the new fee schedule will pull in $100,000 a year. But cabin rentals and campground fee increases should make up the bulk of that.
The Forest Service should leave the day-use sites free as they have always been.
Send written comments through Feb. 16 by email at Rogue_River-Siskiyou_RecFee@fs.fed.us, or by mail to Rogue River-Siskiyou N.F., ATTN: Recreation Fees, 3040 Biddle Road, Medford, OR 97504.