It is always amusing to watch our metropolitan neighbors discover the realities of rural life in Oregon and to learn the consequences of the choices made in political battles.
The decisions to lock up federal forest lands from timber harvests have been very real for downstate residents for decades. No timber harvests mean no timber revenue. Without federal timber receipts, there is no money for schools, police patrols and roads in our communities, nor for culverts, trail maintenance and campgrounds on those federal lands.
As a result, the Congress has ordered federal land managers to come up with appropriate fees for use of those lands. We pay campground fees where use was free in the past. We owe access fees when we park at popular trailheads. We pay fees if we pick more than a gallon of mushrooms in one day. We pay fees by the cord for firewood harvest, plus a 10 percent surcharge for road maintenance. Pick more than 5 gallons of blackberries, and you owe a fee.
The popular Cycle Oregon event learned about fees recently. Its 2009 visit to the State of Jefferson in September is sold out already for 2,000 riders at $850 each. The route includes plans to travel a 35-stretch of BLM road and have lunch at a BLM campground. The BLM suggested a day-use fee of $10,000. Our mostly-urban bike riders cried foul.
Before you scoff, remember there are real costs to the BLM for this kind of event. We just priced portable toilets. For every 50 people, it’s $100 per day. That’s $4,000 just for the bike riders, not counting their support crew. Now add litter patrol, garbage disposal, extra staff and that “road maintenance” surcharge the firewood cutters pay.
Sen. Ron Wyden has taken up the riders’ cause, asking the BLM to reduce the fee because Cycle Oregon promotes “the enjoyment and appreciation of rural Oregon in an environmentally benign way.”
Sorry, senator, but without timber harvests, everyone has to help pay their share of federal land management costs. Our urban neighbors need to learn that lesson, too.