Leaders with the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest are asking the public to weigh in on their proposal to raise fees at dozens of recreation sites.
They’ve proposed new or higher fees at 25 campgrounds, 16 rental cabins, and two group use areas around the forest. The increases would range from $2 to $10 a night for individual campsites and from $10 to $45 a night for cabins.
As part of the proposal, three additional cabins – Indian Meadows, Mergenthaler and Nevada Creek – would be made available for the public to rent.
Kathy Bushnell, the forest’s public affairs officer, said it has been between ten and 20 years since any of these fees were last increased. She said the proposed changes would bring the forest’s fees in line with other recreation areas in the region with similar size and amenities.
“The other forests were looking at the same process, and so regionally, we thought that we would try to coordinate that effort,” she said.
Federal law allows forests to retain up to 95 percent of the fees they collect at certain recreation sites. Bushnell said that means the vast majority of additional money raised from higher fees would be reinvested in improving campgrounds and cabins.
“We always have a list of things to do, that’s for sure,” she said.
The forest will accept public comment on the proposed fee increases through February 9. After that, the proposal and the public response will be submitted to the Western and North Central Resource Advisory Councils, federal committees that provide recommendations on public land management. Those councils will then determine whether the planned changes can go forward.
The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is also teaming up with the Montana Discovery Foundation to sponsor the Woods in Words contest, with the prize being a two-night stay at the Indian Meadows Cabin. People of all ages are invited to write short stories of 500 words or less about their favorite experience or memory at a national forest. There will be a general category and a youth category for those under 18. Entries are due by March 31.
You can find out how to comment on the proposed fee increases or submit an entry in the contest at the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest website (https://www.fs.usda.gov/helena).