USDA Forest Service Issues Proposed Rule Governing Special Uses Cost Recovery
Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced proposed updates to agency regulations governing how the agency recovers costs related to special use applications, monitoring compliance with special use authorizations, and reviewing expired authorizations.
The proposed rule would improve customer service as well as save time and money by expediting administration in processing special use applications, monitoring compliance and reviewing expired special use authorizations.
The proposed rule is available for review and public comment for 60 days.
“The activities taking place on national forests and grasslands that are managed under the special uses program are vital to the economic and social fabric of communities across the country,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “The update to our regulation is critical to the ongoing success of the program to meet the high demand for new special use authorizations and to provide a higher quality service to authorization holders and the public.”
The Forest Service administers about 74,000 special use authorizations for a variety of activities and programs on national forests and grasslands including utility corridors, communication facilities, outfitting and guiding, and four-season resorts. Effectively and efficiently processing and monitoring authorizations for ensures the communities receive the full economic benefits these services and resources provide.
The proposed rule would not apply to proposals, applications, and authorizations for noncommercial group uses and other uses specifically exempted. The rule also removes an exemption that currently prohibits cost recovery from recreation special use permit holders – such as outfitters, guides, and recreation event companies – for applications that require 50 hours or less of agency time.
The Forest Service is asking for feedback on how this proposed change may affect small organizations and is requesting recommendations on how to mitigate potential impacts.
Despite efforts to streamline policies and procedures, there is a backlog for processing new applications and an increased need to review expired authorizations for existing authorization holders. The agency is authorized to collect fees and routinely updates the cost recovery fee schedule to account for shifts in demand for special uses or to adjust for appropriations. The fee schedule was last updated in 2005.
The text of the proposed rule and instructions on how to comment are available in the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/03/09/2023-04180/land-uses-special-uses-cost-recovery-strict-liability-limit-and-insurance . Members of the public may also contact Reggie Woodruff at email@example.com or Ben Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org to make comments.