Forest Service seeks public comment on overnight fee proposal for Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Release Date: Jul 15, 2021

CARBONDALE, Colo. (July 15, 2021) – The USDA Forest Service is asking for public comment on a proposed special recreation permit fee for overnight camping in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. 

The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is an iconic wilderness destination that is seeing significant impacts from heavy overnight use, including trash and waste, user conflicts, and loss of vegetation. Revenues generated by the fee program would provide a sustainable source of revenue to allow the Forest Service to address these impacts.

“In the last 10 years, use has nearly quadrupled in this wilderness area, and we are seeing significant overcrowding and environmental damage,” said White River Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “The majority of the revenue generated from the fees would be used on-site to manage these areas, which is key to allowing us to reduce resource damage and continue providing high quality recreation opportunities.” 

Under the proposal, a $12 per night, per person fee would be charged for an overnight permit for the most-visited areas in the Maroon-Bells Snowmass Wilderness from May 1 through October 31. Permits would be available on Recreation.gov, which charges an additional processing fee (currently $6). 

Fees would fund restoration of heavily damaged areas, increased ranger presence, increased public education, improvements to trail access, and expansion of the wildlife safety program. The fee proposal is the next step in a larger effort to address over-crowding and resulting impacts in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. An overnight permit plan that phases in overnight permits was approved in 2017. 

If approved, the fees would go into effect in 2022 for overnight permits at Conundrum Hot Springs, the “Four Pass Loop” (which includes Crater Lake and Snowmass Lake), Geneva Lake, and Capitol Lake. Additional areas in the Maroon-Bells Snowmass Wilderness could require overnight permits and fees in future years.  

“Public participation is a critical part of our evaluation of the fee proposal, and we encourage people to provide their thoughts and ideas about this proposal,” Fitzwilliams said.

More information about the proposal and how to comment is available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver Comments need to be received by September 15, 2021.

The fee proposal is specifically for overnight camping in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and does not affect the Maroon Bells Scenic Area. 

The 181,535-acre Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is an internationally known destination for wilderness recreation. It is jointly managed by the White River National Forest and the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest. There are 26 trailheads that access a trail network of 173 miles.

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