Senators Propose Cabin Fee Act - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Senators Propose Cabin Fee Act

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Leading U.S. Senators from the American West introduced a bipartisan measure to make Forest Service cabin fees more affordable and predictable, without costing the federal government any money.

Many Western families have owned family cabins on leased Forest Service land for generations.

However, due to skyrocketing land values, annual user fees have doubled or even tripled, forcing some to consider abandoning their cabins.

"These are not mansions, these are truly cabins that are you know, places people have taken their kids for generations," said Sen. Jon Tester.

Led by Democratic Senator Jon Tester, lawmakers are restructuring the fee system to reduce annual user fees to as low as $500 and requiring new land appraisals to be completed within two years.  

Sen. Tester said, "It protects the federal tax payer, so the federal tax payer doesn't have to supplement with dollars at all, and it doesn't price the cabin owners out of their property."

The Cabin Fee Act assigns annual user fees according to an eleven-tier "cabin value" system ranging from $500 to $5,500.  

This system will provide greater certainty to cabin owners, but will not reduce the Forest Service's revenue from cabin leasing.

"I think middle class folks would have been priced out of a property they've been able to use for decades and decades," Tester said.

Tester is joined on the bill by Senators Max Baucus, and senators from Idaho, Wyoming, and California.

Roughly 14,000 cabins across the country are located on fee-based federal lots, many of which are in Idaho.

"We've been working on this bill for four to five years now, I think the opportunity to get this across the finish line is good right now, we just have to keep pushing," Tester said.

Senator Tester and others on the bill are referring it to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

They expect to have a hearing with that committee in the near future.

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