|Posted by nationalforestlawblog on August 17, 2011 at 9:30 PM|
The 10th Circuit's recent opinion, authored by Judge Gorsuch, begins:
Everyone enjoys a trip to the mountains in the summertime. One popular spot is Mt. Evans — a fourteen thousand foot peak just a short drive from Denver and with a paved road that goes right to the summit. When the snow melts and the road thaws, the national forest around Mount Evans teems with hikers and sightseers eager to take in the breathtaking views. But first they have to stop and pay. That's because the Forest Service maintains an entrance station along the road where it charges many visitors what it calls an "amenity fee." Wanting everyone to be able to hike Mount Evans and take in its scenery without charge, the plaintiffs in this case ask us to strike down the Service's fee policy as facially inconsistent with Congress's directions, to hold it null and void in all applications. This, however, we agree with the district court we cannot do. For better or worse, the Legislature has said that the Service may — sometimes — charge visitors to Mount Evans.
The Court ultimately holds that the Recreation Enhancement Act allows the Forest Service to impose "amenity fees" in areas that "provide significant opportunities for outdoor recreation," where there are "substantial Federal investments" - which includes Mt. Evans. You can read more from the decision here.
It is always noteworthy to me that the environmentalists refuse to pay a small user fee to access public lands. They want all the access on one hand without having to pay and then sue to keep other users whom they disagree with out.