August 08, 2022

Recreation Enhancement Act Fee Proposed by the Forest Service

 As the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest (UWCNF) continues to face abundant external pressures and budget cuts from Congress, the land managers are eagerly trying to best strategize how to maintain these areas we frequently use - picnic areas, campgrounds, trailhead bathrooms, dispersed camping areas, trails, trail signage, parking lots, and so on. The Forest Service wants to hear what the community thinks of this proposed recreational fee concept and the comment period closes on September 7th, 2022 at 4PM.  

Read Save Our Canyons comments on the pdfRecreation Enhancement Act Fee Program.

Is the UWCNF a place you want to see protected and cared for? Public comments are invaluable to this process. Your input matters. The Forest Service wants to hear what the community thinks of this proposed recreational fee concept and has opened up a public comment form that closes on September 7th, 2022 at 4PM.  The Forest Service wants to hear what the community thinks of this proposed recreational fee concept and the comment period closes on September 7th, 2022 at 4PM.  Submit a public comment via the email:  and fill out the Recreation Enhancement Fee Program Survey below. 

More Information Can Be Found Here

Recreation Enhancement Fee Program Survey 

To put things into perspective, the UWCNF which is managed by the US Forest Service is over 2 million acres large and sees year-round visitation from 13+ million visitors. The Forest Service strives to meet the needs of the public, maintain critical infrastructure, and protect resources. The UWCNF has recently proposed to increase, decrease, and add recreational fees across developed recreation sites to fund ongoing maintenance and improvements under what is called the “Recreation Enhancement Act Fee Program (REA)”. The Forest Service has operated a recreation fee program since 1997.

In 2005 a guidelines document was compiled that is helpful to understand fee categories or what fees can be used for which can be found HERE

The Forest Service states that implementing the REA has various benefits:

  • Provides a valuable source of funds that allow the Forest Service to maintain high quality recreation sites.
  • Most developed recreation fee sites are high use or highly developed areas that require daily maintenance, fee collection, and compliance by Forest Service employees. 
  • Areas that are currently degraded or lack inaccessible amenities such as picnic tables and fire rings will be upgraded, improved, or replaced with accessible amenities, increased visitor security, improved trail connections, and other improvements.
  • Fees are used to supplement Federal appropriated funds and partner and volunteer contributions for deferred maintenance and maintaining recreation sites and trails. 

Fee areas are already in place at 70 sites across the UWCNF and the REA will increase the number of fee areas to 119. These fees will be seen across the range, from south of Provo, east to Kamas, and north to Logan. For example, Donut Falls will see multi-day pass costs go from no fee to $10, Mirror Lake Trailhead will go from $6 to $10, Butler Fork and Mill B will see a change from no fee to $10, and so on. Additionally, year-round passes will also increase from $45 to $60, 3-day passes will increase from $6 to $10, and 7-day passes from $12 to $20. The UWCNF has also proposed New Special Recreation Permit Fees (SRPs) for recreation opportunities including winter snowmobile access and grooming, extensive OHV trail systems, and implement natural and cultural resource protection. SRPs will provide for increased visitor contact Forest patrols, area-specific maps, and site maintenance. If proposed fee changes are implemented, 38% (currently 50%) of the 472 developed recreation sites would remain non-fee. With many stakeholders involved in the decisions made on behalf of the Wasatch, securing a long-term funding plan is going to be crucial for the longevity of these ecosystems. The fee changes, if approved, could be implemented as soon as Summer 2023. 

The addition of fees can present a multitude of questions and concerns. 

  • Even though the forest needs maintenance funds, what does this mean for equitable access to public lands?
  • If the REA is approved, what accountability measures will be put in place to ensure these funds will go back into the Wasatch? 
  • If the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) does not enforce parking in designated parking lots  - will people park on the road and create new trails to get to the area that is charging a fee? This ultimately leads to more areas of the surrounding canyons and mountains to be negatively impacted.