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Forest Lovers file suit againt "Adventure Pass"

Forest Lovers File Suit Over Adventure Pass Fee Suit Alleges Fee Is Violation Of Constitutional Rights
POSTED: 7:51 p.m. PDT September 19, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- Six forest lovers filed a federal
lawsuit claiming the
$5-a-day Adventure Pass needed to visit national
forests is unconstitutional
because it charges people a fee to use something
they have an inherent right
to.

"I have a real problem with them saying you have
to pay just to take a walk
or enjoy the sunset," said Jeffrey Pine, a Santa
Barbara resident and one of
the plaintiffs. "These lands were set aside to be
free public lands."

The U.S. District Court suit was filed this week
by Los Olivos attorney Mary
Ellen Barilotti on behalf of Pine, Frank Lauran
of Los Olivos, Colleen
Hefley of Santa Ynez, Greg Kappos of Lompoc,
Robert Bartsch of Pasadena and
Debra Nakamoto of Temple City.

"I don't think bird-watching is a commodity,"
said Pine, who has received at
least six warnings from forest rangers.

The Adventure Pass -- $5 per day, or $30 per year
-- was approved in 1996
for Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino and
Cleveland national forests.
Forest officials said money from the pass is
crucial for offsetting budget
cuts over the past decade.

Since its inception in 1997, the fee has raised
more than $9 million in the
four national forests where it is collected.

Rich Tobin, director of conservation partnerships
for Los Padres National
Forest, defended the pass.

"National park and forest recreation user fees
provide needed revenues to
protect the environment, maintain trails and
facilities, and provide
recreation information," Tobin said. "The fees
are fair because only those
who use parks and forests are required to pay a
fee."

Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All
rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
redistributed.

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 http://www.insidevc.com/vcs/state/article/0,1375,VCS_122_1426284,00.html
Adventure Pass foes sue in federal court
Seven seek to halt fees for forest use

By Charles Levin,  clevin@insidevc.com
September 19, 2002

Opponents of the Adventure Pass user fee required
in four national forests,
including the Los Padres, are suing the U.S.
Forest Service to end the
program.

The seven plaintiffs charge that the Forest
Service is exceeding its
legislative authority in the way it operates the
Adventure Pass Recreational
Fee Demonstration Program begun in 1996.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court
in Los Angeles, demands
that the Forest Service stop collecting the
$5-per-day or $30-per-year fees.

Local Forest Service officials said Wednesday
that they had not yet received
a copy of the lawsuit and couldn't comment on it.

Congress approved the program in 1996 as a way to
generate more money for
forest maintenance. As recreation programs get
less money from Congress,
Adventure Pass fees help to protect the
environment and maintain trails,
said Rich Tobin, director of Conservation
Partnerships for the Los Padres
National Forest.

In addition to the Los Padres, the program
affects the Angeles, San
Bernardino and Cleveland national forests.

Critics say the fees take a basic right away from
citizens.

"Free access to public land should be one of the
principles this land was
founded on," said one of the lawsuit plaintiffs,
Robert Bartsch of Pasadena,
chairman of the Pasadena chapter of Free Our
Forests.

Mary Ellen Barilotti, a Los Olivos attorney
representing the plaintiffs,
said the Forest Service is exceeding its
authority when it tickets people
for not paying the fee. Congress passed the law
by tacking it onto an
appropriations bill, Barilotti said.

"Our contention is that they didn't have the
authority to criminalize the
conduct in four national forests," she said.
Appropriation bills deal with
funding, not criminal law, Barilotti said.

Barilotti also is defending Terry Dahl of Santa
Barbara in a criminal case.
Dahl was found guilty in February 2001 of a
misdemeanor for using forest
lands without a permit, a crime punishable by a
$5,000 fine and six months
in jail. Dahl's appeal will be heard by the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals on Oct. 9.

Critics have long argued that the Adventure Pass
is a covert effort to allow
large corporations to develop commercial
recreational activities on public
land.

The seven plaintiffs have been cited several
times by the Forest Service for
entering national forests without buying passes.

In October 1998, plaintiff Jeffrey Pine of Ojai
was arrested at gunpoint
after refusing to accept a citation from a
ranger. Pine was given two
misdemeanor tickets and spent the night in jail
but was never prosecuted.

"It was quite a traumatic thing," said Pine,
co-founder of Free Our Forests.
"I was camping one day, and the next day I was in
jail."

----begin quoted-----

 http://www.theworldlink.com/archives/index.inn?loc=detail&doc=/2002/Septembe
r/18-4748-opinion01.txt

Online archives from The World newspaper, Coos
Bay, Oregon.
September 18, 2002

Editorial: Nothing fair about these fees

What more evidence do federal lawmakers need to
persuade them to eliminate
day-use fees on U.S. Forest Service land?

Repeated protests over the past several years
have done nothing to disuade
Congress from continuing the pilot program
originally set up to raise money
for operations and maintenance.

It's been six long years and still they are
ignoring growing opposition to
the program.

The very people who stand to gain from those fees
have become skeptical of
the program. A recent independent survey of the
Forest Service's employees
in this region found that 38 percent just plain
oppose it. The majority of
the agency's workers have serious concerns over
whether the program treats
low income people with fairness.

Simply, it doesn't.

If a local family can't afford to pay, they can't
play on the Oregon Dunes
National Recreation Area or access any adjoining
state-owned beaches. They
can't hike in dozens of historically popular
trails from Florence to
Brookings.

While those fees may provide 20 percent of the
agency's regional budget, the
pay-to-play program discriminates and there's
just no reason federal
lawmakers should continue to ignore that. It's an
issue of simple economics.

The fee mostly hurts local residents, poor local
residents. These are the
people most likely to visit the South Coast's
popular forest trails and
Oregon over and over again. These are the people
who can't afford to
vacation far from home.

These are the people already paying to subsidize
those lands through
property taxes and income taxes that maintain the
roads, other surrounding
infrastructure and even law enforcement - all of
this in a region plagued by
unemployment, underemployment and chronically low
wages.

There's another issue to consider, too. Lawmakers
are dismissing the fact
that this region for decades has sent billions of
dollars in timber receipts
east - a practice likely to continue as long as
the agency harvests trees.

Still, Congress persists on squeezing even more
money from South Coast
residents. Disguising this added tax as a user
fee doesn't make it any more
palatable. Local residents still must pay every
time they want to hike the
dunes or go beachcombing, and that's pretty hard
to swallow.

Copyright 2002 - Southwestern Oregon Publishing
Company - Coos Bay, OR

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