August 18, 2014
Dear Cabin Owner,
We at National Forest Homeowners and the Cabin Coalition 2 remain cautiously optimistic that the Cabin Fee Act (CFA) will be passed by Congress this year. As drafted, the bill will limit cabin fees to a maximum of $5,600 per year, adjusted annually for inflation, and will retroactively set the highest fee for 2014 at the $5,600 level. We know that many of you with extraordinarily high fees are faced with the difficult dilemma of whether to sell, surrender your Special Use Permit and remove your improvements before the 2015 fee is due, or hold out for passage of the CFA.
We would like to introduce you to another option. The Forest Service Handbook allows for the administrative suspension of a Special Use Permit. At FSH 2709.11, Chapter 30, it provides:
31.23 -Temporary Fee Adjustments
1. Non-Use. The authorized Forest Service officer may place a use authorization in a non-use status when such action is necessary for the protection of the interest of the United States, or when circumstances beyond the holder's control deny the holder the use of the authorization. Placing an authorization in non-use status fully waives fees for that period. The holder may not use the area for the use authorized during the non-use period; however, the holder must maintain the premises and improvements in a satisfactory condition.
Forest Service Headquarters in Washington, DC supports passage of the CFA and does not wish to see the loss of cabins or removal of improvements. To this end, we have proposed that the Forest Service authorize administrative suspension of their special use permits by cabin owners who wish to retain their cabins though facing egregious 2015 CUFFA fees. While the discussions have been preliminary, and a policy must be approved at the highest levels of the agency, our contacts give us reason to believe that with an application, a cabin owner may be granted non-use status and obtain immediate relief.
This is not a simple decision and it is important that you consider all the ramifications. Permit Suspension does not equate to a fee Moratorium. If granted, a Permit Suspension means that you will not be able to use your cabin during the fee waiver period, but you will still be obligated to maintain it. Should the CFA pass, a cabin owner would be entitled to return to active use of the cabin, subject to payment of all outstanding fees. If the CFA is not passed and you are unable to pay the CUFFA fees, the cabin and improvements would need to be sold or removed prior to the end of the non-use period.
We have attached a letter in template form for those considering abandoning your permit before winter snows arrive. Permit suspension would remove that immediate deadline for removal. Please modify it to your particular circumstances. Send it promptly to the Chief of the Forest Service via fax and email with copies to your District Ranger (authorizing officer), Forest Supervisor, and NFH (email@example.com).
While we can provide no assurance of passage of CFA, or of the grant of your request, we encourage your consideration of this option as a way to avoid losing cabins from the program.
Jay Tripathi, NFH President
For the Cabin Coalition 2