Issue: Failure to comply with Recreation Residence permit requirements and/or to pay the special use permit fees, resulting in revocation of permits and removal of cabins.
Discussion: In several recent cases, the failure of permit holders to pay their special use fees – in some situations, for up to 10 years – or failure to bring their cabins into compliance with the terms of the use permit have resulted in recreation residence permits being revoked and the cabin structures being demolished and removed. This situation could cause the Forest Service not to issue a new permit to a prospective purchaser of the recreation residence. Should this action occur, it could ultimately result in a permanent reduction in the size of the Recreation Residence program.
In the interest of maintaining the Recreation Residence program as a significant element of recreation on National Forest lands, the National Forest Homeowners organization is concerned about the loss of any permits from the program. While NFH cannot assume any legal responsibility for individual cabins and permits, we encourage local tract organizations to communicate to local Forest Service officials the importance of issuing new permits to purchasers of recreation residences whose permits have been revoked and who are willing to undertake the responsibility of bringing permit fees and maintenance into compliance.
Our Recommendation: To this end, we encourage tract associations and individuals to take the following actions:
Communicate to local permit holders the importance of remaining current on use fees and permit requirements. Failure to do so can subject the permit to revocation and the permit holder to both the cost of removing the cabin and loss of the potential resale value of the cabin.
Institute a local monitoring program to identify cabins which are not being maintained under the permit provisions and to contact the owners of such cabins to make them aware of maintenance deficiencies. In many cases, the owner and "official”holder of the permit has passed the responsibility for direct maintenance of the cabin and lot to another party and may not be aware of any problems. However, it’s important to recognize that the permit holder has the ultimate responsibility for observing the permit’s terms and conditions.
Organize a local assistance program to help out with minor maintenance which the permit holder cannot accomplish due to temporary family or health issues. Many cabin owners are getting older and may, on occasion, need a helping hand on seasonal fire clearance, for example.
Create a cabin referral service or establish contact with local real estate agents to connect permit holders who are no longer able to continue their cabin ownership (or choose to sell) and individuals who seek to purchase a cabin. Providing permit holders with a friendly means of transferring cabin ownership to a new family can remove a burden while ensuring the maintenance of existing cabins and their continued use in forest recreation. [Note: Be sure that both parties are aware of any restrictions that might be in place affecting ownership transfer and issuance of a new permit. A revised Forest Plan may have set in motion the action resulting in removal of the recreation residence.]
Become closely familiar with the National Forest’s Land and Resources Management Plan, especially with the Plan’s discussion and recommendations regarding the Recreation Residence program. Many Forest Plans are now undergoing substantial updating and revision due in part to a revised policy on the Recreation Residence program. Actively participate in this revision process to ensure recognition of the importance of the Recreation Residence program.
Meet with local Forest Service officials to make them aware of your and/or your association’s concern and interest in maintaining the Recreation Residence program. Obtain a clear understanding of the Forest’s policy on permit termination and cabin removal, and the policy on placing lots on which a cabin has been removed for noncompliance into the Forest’s inventory of in-lieu lots to ensure that the lot will remain available for possible future cabin use. If such a meeting is held with the Forest Supervisor and his/her staff, arrange a follow-up meeting with the District Ranger to ensure consistency in application of the Forest’s policy.
Where these actions do not result in saving the permit, communicate to the Forest Supervisor a request that the lot be added to the in-lieu lot inventory for the Forest.
The Bottom Line: We all lose when a cabin is removed from the Recreation Residence program. The cabin program shrinks by one, which can never be replaced. The permit holder loses significant monetary value and stands to pay for the cabin’s removal. The tract loses the opportunity of a new neighbor who is a potential contributing member to the cabin community. And the public loses a valuable recreation opportunity.