Letter: U.S. Forest Service rent policy creates problems
What would you think if your landlord told you that the annual rent/fee for the lot on which your cabin sits (which is not lakefront but from which you can see the lake) will cost more than $6,500 per year? Or, that your fee will increase by more than 400 percent over the past years? And, if you objected, he told you to tear down your cabin or he would tear it down and make you pay for removal? That is exactly what the U. S. Forest Service has told some of the 286 cabin permit holders in the Chippewa National Forest.
Not all permits will be that high, or have as large a percent increase, but some fees on Cass Lake and Leech Lake will, with some increases elsewhere of more than 500 percent! And on top of these permit fees; cabin owners must pay Minnesota property taxes, as if they owned the land. The Superior National Forest has about 150 cabins with a similar problem, although they won't know until later in 2009 what their fees will be.
This situation has come about as a result of what some believe is an erroneous interpretation by the Forest Service in Washington of the law passed by Congress in 2000. Among other issues, the Forest Service refuses to adjust for the numerous rules and restrictions they impose. That law reaffirmed as appropriate the 14,000 cabins under permit in the national forests, a program which began in 1915. As implemented by the Forest Service, it is having the unintended consequences of fees that are grossly beyond reason. Some permit holders cannot pay these outrageous fees and are being forced to sell the cabin which several generations of family have enjoyed. However, no buyers can be found, not surprising thanks to the impossible costs involved.
If you have a business or organization in this area, you likely would be adversely affected by the loss of these cabins and the economic impact of the several thousand visitors they bring each year. It appears that the law needs to be changed. You can help by contacting your representative to Congress (Colin Peterson or Jim Oberstar for northern Minnesota) and ask for support of the changes needed. More information can be found on the Web site of National Forest Homeowners.