More public land agencies are proposing fee increases in Wyoming as campers, hikers and backpackers continue to pour into the state’s mountains and backcountry areas.
While Grand Teton National Park is seeking public input on a proposed rate hike for backcountry camping permits, the Shoshone National Forest is accepting comments on a range of increases — including new fees at sites that were previously free. The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland are also proposing rate hikes for campgrounds and day-use areas.
Increases can help managers keep up with demand and bring fees in line with comparable recreation costs, they say.
“The proposed fee increases will help us operate and maintain the sites to the level and quality people have come to expect as well as make the fees more consistent with other similar recreation sites throughout the state,” Acting Shoshone National Forest Supervisor Kathleen Minor said in a statement.
Grand Teton backcountry
Those who want to travel the rugged backcountry of Grand Teton National Park currently pay $45 for advanced reservations and $35 for walk-up permits, regardless of group size or number of nights.
The park’s proposed permit fee change calls for a flat fee of $20, plus $7 per person, per night. The current fees, which have been in place for six years, are often viewed as inequitable between small and large groups and the number of nights stayed, according to the National Park Service.
The public can comment through Sept. 4. Comments must be submitted through the park’s planning website.
Backcountry permit fee revenue is used to help staff provide safety information, patrol campsites, provide visitor services, aid in search and rescue efforts and maintain and improve everything from trails to campsites, according to the NPS.
If passed, the park’s rate change would take effect for the 2024 permit season with advanced reservations anticipated to go live in January.
The Shoshone National Forest is proposing fee increases, as well as new fees, at nearly 40 sites across the vast 2.4-million-acre forest in western Wyoming.
Existing campground fees have been in place since 2006, and more than 70% of day-use sites, overnight camping sites and other recreation sites are currently managed without fees, according to the Shoshone National Forest.
The proposal calls for fee increases at 38 sites across five districts: Clarks Fork, Greybull, Wind River, Wapiti and Washakie. Proposals range from $10 per night at Wood River Campground (currently free) to $20 per night at Worthen Meadows Campground (currently $15) to $225 per night at the Sunlight Rangers Cabin (currently $150).
Raising the fee revenue can help the forests improve infrastructure at campsites and hire additional staff for tasks like cleaning and repairing, according to the National Forest. “The revenue … helps provide quality recreation opportunities that meet the modern expectations of visitors,” the agency stated in a news release, “and creates a more financially sustainable developed recreation program for the benefit of current and future generations.”
The public can comment through Oct. 31 online or by emailing ShoshoneCG@usda.gov. Oral comments can be provided in person or by calling 307-578-5140. Comment cards will also be provided at the district offices, campgrounds and Sunlight Rangers Cabin, according to the agency.
Once public involvement is complete, the Wyoming Recreation Action Team will review proposed fee changes. The citizens’ advisory committee, which is tasked with ensuring the Forest Service is proposing reasonable and publicly acceptable new fees and fee changes, will submit its recommendation to the regional forester for a final decision.
Medicine Bow-Routt too
The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland are also proposing fee increases. That system is considering price hikes at 93 day-use and campground sites in the 2.9-million-acre system spanning eastern Wyoming and northern Colorado, it announced earlier this year.
The Med Bow proposal would up fees at 67 existing sites and institute them at 26 others — 60 are in Wyoming. At Vedauwoo Campground, for example, fees would increase to $20 per site from $10, while use of the gazebo would increase to $75 a day from $50. Funds will be used for everything from road improvements to toilet services.
With national forest visits increasing, Aaron Voos, a spokesman for Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland, told WyoFile in June that Med Bow district managers want to point people to developed recreation sites. Part of that is because “it helps take some of the impacts of dispersed recreation off of the forest,” he said.
Those comments will be accepted through Nov. 1.