NFH Mission Statement:
National Forest Homeowners is a member-directed organization representing cabin-owner recreation residence permittees on our national forests. NFH provides leadership, member information and assistance, and advocacy for continuation of all recreation residences. It is dedicated to educating its members and others in sound science stewardship of our forests.
Role of the Recreation Residence Program in the 21st Century
To serve as stewards of National Forest Lands;
To improve and provide for safety and security on National Forest lands through fire protection programs, neighborhood awareness and education of cabin users and forest visitors;
To facilitate intensive recreation use at minimal impact on lands and ecosystems;
To provide significant economic impact to local economies and counties;
To partner with Forest Service on projects to benefit program and forest management;
To represent and communicate National Forest development, cabin history and sense of place to other forest visitors; and
To establish a sense of community among forest users through active support of and involvement in local organizations and programs.
NFH Positions Statements:
(scroll down or click on following bookmarks to read statements)
1) No Net Loss of Cabins
2) Saving Cabins
3) Recovery After Disaster
No Net Loss of Cabins
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 for any reason. We believe that the destruction or loss of permitted cabins whether by natural disaster, termination for cause or land exchange should be offset by the issuance of new permits so as to maintain the contribution and benefit of this program to recreation on National Forest System lands.
Issue: Failure to rebuild cabins lost to natural disasters and the termination of permits and removal of cabins by the Forest Service for noncompliance have removed over 50 cabins from the Recreation Residence Program since 2002, bringing the total permitted cabins in this program to approximately 14,600. The steady shrinking of this program diminishes its contribution to recreation on National Forest System lands and, if this trend were to continue, could marginalize the value of maintaining this program at a time when accessible, family-oriented recreation programs are most needed by a growing, urban population.
Discussion: At its peak in the late 1960’s, the Recreation Residence Program included a total of approximately 20,000 permitted cabins. Since that time, about 5,400 cabins – or 27% of the total – have been removed from the program. These 5,400 permits have left the program for a number of reasons: transfer to private ownership through land exchanges, transfer to National Park Service management with conversion of National Forest System lands to National Parks, termination by the Forest Service in order to use lands for other purposes, termination for noncompliance and nonpayment of fees, and destruction by natural causes followed by a failure of the permit holder to rebuild.
The Recreation Residence Program is one of the oldest of the recreation programs on National Forest lands and accounts for a major portion of recreation-use-days each year. The program does require, however, a moderate level of administrative oversight by the Forest Service, which is balanced in the eyes of the cabin community by the annual special use fees paid by each holder.
Our concern is that, should the downward trend in numbers of permits continue at the rate of the past 35 years, the Recreation Residence Program could shrink to a size at which it no longer constitutes a significant element of the recreation experience on National Forest System lands and may not justify the continued investment of limited administrative resources by the Forest Service.
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.
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.
Recovery After Disaster
Issue: The recovery of individual cabins or cabin communities following natural disasters – regardless of cause – can be problematic due to the nature of these structures, permit conditions and locations. It is a primary goal of National Forest Homeowners (NFH) to preserve the health and vitality of the cabin program by retaining each permit affected by disaster.
The purpose of this position statement is to communicate the assistance which is available through NFH to those who may be affected by disasters and to provide guidance as to our role in recovery efforts.
Discussion: Wildfires in 2002 and 2003 have destroyed 140 recreation residence cabins in Southern California and Arizona. In past years, cabins in other areas have been lost to forest fires and floods. When such disasters occur, there are both short and long-term impacts.
The short-term impact may include the loss of individual cabin(s) and its (their) contents and the disruption this causes to the permit holder and family. NFH has the ability to communicate requests for recovery assistance to our nationwide membership through our regular newsletters and Internet resources.
The long-term impacts of cabin disasters can affect not only a specific cabin, but also the local tract and, ultimately, the national cabin program. These impacts come about by virtue of the Forest Service decision of whether rebuilding will be allowed and, if so, the conditions and requirements associated with such approval. NFH wishes to make clear its intention to lend its assistance to local cabin owners and organizations through the rebuilding determination process to help ensure that cabin owners receive fair and equitable treatment and that the maximum number of permitted cabins is maintained. In some circumstances NFH recognizes that the use of “in-lieu” lots may be the only realistic outcome.
National Forest Homeowners’ Response To Cabin Disasters:
Communication of Assistance Needs: In the event of disasters involving cabins or cabin communities, NFH will communicate requests for disaster recovery assistance to its membership through its website, newsletters and email communication systems, as appropriate to the situation. Requests for assistance and communication of such needs will be coordinated by the Executive Director.
NFH Assistance In Rebuilding Determination: Following substantial damage to or destruction of a cabin or number of cabins by a disaster, the Forest Service will make a determination as to whether each cabin will be allowed to rebuild in place or, if that site is no longer safe or able to be permitted due to environmental or other factors, whether an alternate building site will be offered. If rebuilding is permitted either on the original site or on an in-lieu lot, such construction will be subject to prevailing and applicable building codes, sanitation and water requirements.
NFH will be available, at the request of the individual cabin owner or local tract organization, to provide information, review and advice on the Forest Service determination process on rebuilding and the findings and recommendations of that process. NFH assistance in the rebuild determination process will be coordinated through the Executive Director.
[Adopted By NFH Board 2/7/04]