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Public invited to weigh in on proposed Lolo National Forest fee hikes

Posted at 11:33 AM, Aug 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-14 13:33:37-04

MISSOULA — Campers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts are continuing to take advantage of the Lolo National Forrest during our summer months, but it could soon get a little more expensive.

Things like camping and even skiing might see some fee increases but at this moment the US Forest Service is taking public comment before anything changes.

The USFS says that the fees are needed to help keep recreation sites in the best conditions possible so everyone using them can have a fun positive experience while they experience one of Western Montana’s favorite outdoor sites.

The USFS keeps these different outdoor recreation sites in the best possible conditions they can but they might need a little more money to do it.

Lolo National Forest supervisor Carolyn Upton told MTN News that not everyone will notice the price hikes.

“Sometimes it's going to be things that you don't see. When our sites are maintained, when they’re clean, the visitor has a good experience,” she said. “All of our amenities are in good shape, they aren’t deteriorating, so sometimes it's what you don't see as much as what you do see.”

It's not a done deal yet and the USFS wants to hear from the public first before anything is finalized.

“We do want to be open and transparent with the process all of the fee increases that are happening in the region now,” Upton told MTN News. “And over the past several years have had a public comment period and they need to be approved by a RAC -- a Resource Advisory Committee -- which is made up of members of the public,” she added.

There are several ways you can contact the USFS with comments -- including a very detailed interactive website.

“There’s a story board on our website where members of the public can go and they can find the site where they recreate, and they can actually put in comments for those sites, or they can put in general comments and thoughts to share with us,” Upton said. “That’s one way, they can certainly send us a letter and they are welcomed to call or visit.”

The USFS notes in a news release that they retain 95% of recreation fees collected from the sites and reinvests the money in to the maintenance, operations, improvement and long-term stewardship of the areas.