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Mount Evans Fee Caught in Impasse
The sign at the entrance station to Mount Evans. Photo courtesy of the Western Slope No Fee Coalition.

Mount Evans Fee Caught in Impasse

The ever-escalating recreation fee program administered by the U.S. Forest Service (FS) is mired in controversy, and now, one of the most controversial fee programs of them all, the toll booth on the road to 14,126-foot Mount Evans, has become a flash point.

The highway, the highest-elevation paved road in the United States, passes through the outstanding scenery of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado, but it isn’t a FS road. The road, State Highway 5, is owned by the State of Colorado and built and maintained by Colorado taxpayers.

In the mid-1990s, using the now-defunct Fee Demo program as its authority, the FS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and has been charging fees to everybody who drove, cycled or walked past the toll booth built in the middle of State Highway 5. That MOU expired “sometime in 2004,” according to Lori Denton of the Clear Creek Ranger District, which includes Mount Evans, and the FS is currently negotiating with CDOT to “update it.” The FS has continued to charge fees on Mount Evans for at least two years after the original MOU expired.

In December 2004, Congress attached the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) to a must-pass spending bill and made in the law of the land without even voting on it. FLREA replaced the Fee Demo program, but placing some restrictions on where and when the FS can charge fees. Specifically, the FS can’t charge for driving through national forests, only for using permanent facilities such as restrooms, campgrounds and picnic areas, which the FS has started calling “amenities.”

Here’s the rub. FLREA does not allow the FS to charge people to simply drive through a national forest, even on a FS road, let alone a state highway. You could say that the FS routinely ignores this restriction and charges for access in many places, including Mount Evans, but in reality, the agency simply makes no effort to tell people they have the option of driving through without paying.

As I write this, the Mount Evans road is still buried in snow and closed, but weather permitting, it opens on May 25, the Friday before Memorial Day. For many years, Mount Evans has been one of the most popular drives in Colorado. According to Denton, about 130,000 people go through the toll booth each year and pay about $300,000 in fees annually.

But it might be different this year. Or not.

When the FS asked CDOT for a new MOU, the state agency had the state attorney general review the legal situation. The AG gave approval for a new MOU as long as it required the FS to put up a sign saying that people “not using the amenities” did not have to pay the fee. In other words, as dictated by FLREA and state law, if somebody didn’t stop to use the visitor centers, picnic areas, or restrooms, they did not have to pay.

Stacey Stegman, speaking for the CDOT, told NewWest.net that was the agency’s understanding. “We didn’t realize they were charging everybody.”

She said the new MOU has been drafted but not signed because “we disagree on the sign. We found out they (FS) were charging everybody. State law prohibits charging on existing state highways. This fee is supposed to be for the amenities, not for driving on the road.”

Because of these legal requirements, Stegman explained, the Colorado AG wanted a clause in the MOU requiring the FS post a sign stating that people not using the amenities didn’t have to pay. “They (FS) refuse to put up the sign, so it looks like this might be elevated.”

Which means going up the food chain in both state and federal bureaucracies.

Denton could not confirm whether the FS would sign the MOU or put up the sign, saying that decision was above her pay grade, nor would she say if the FS would continue the status quo without an MOU.

She did say, though, that “by law, we do not have to post that sign. The MOU is a non-binding contract, like a handshake. It’s only to develop the framework of a partnership.”

I also talked to acting district ranger Donna Mickley, and she also could not confirm whether anything would change this year because of the breakdown in negotiations with the state of Colorado, but she did express concern that such a sign could prompt a lot of people not to pay.

Knowing all this, the primary opponent to the FS fee program, the Western States No Fee Coalition went to the Colorado Highway Commission meeting last December to oppose the new MOU. “But the blew us off,” said Kitty Benzar of the no-fee group. “I flew all the way to Denver and was only allowed to speak for three minutes. The ranger (Daniel Lovato, district ranger of the Clear Creek District) stood up right after me and said they never charged people for passing through the national forest. That was just a lie. The signage clearly says everybody has to pay. The Mt. Evans thing is a clear violation of the law.”

Note the photo of the sign at the entrance station accompanying this article indicating “a pass is required for travel beyond this point.”

Nonetheless, Benzar said, the highway commissioners indicated at the meeting that they would sign a new MOU.

“Not one single site on Mount Evans is compliant with FLREA,” Benzar insists. “The facilities have to have permanent structures to comply like permanent toilets (as opposed to porta-potties the FS uses on Mount Evans), picnic tables, permanent trash receptacles, developed parking, etc. They can only charge a fee for compliant sites.”

Benzar also questioned why the State of Colorado would allow this in the first place. “They don’t get a share of the revenue, so why would the state cede this public right-of-way to the FS for nothing?”

That seemed like a good question, so I asked Stegman. “I think the commission thought the FS needed the money to maintain the facilities,” she speculated. “I wish I had a better answer.”

Stegman confirmed that the state does not get any of the fee revenue.

Benzar said some of the locals have gotten mighty hot about the fee and when they get mad enough the FS gives out what she calls a “pink pass,” which allows people to drive the road without paying, “but they didn’t tell anybody it was available. Only a few locals know about the pink pass.”

She also said the FS would radio ahead and have rangers follow people with pink passes and threaten to ticket them if they stopped and got out of there car for any reason. However, Denton disagreed with Benzar on that point, saying people with the pink pass could stop at a pull off and take a picture without being ticketed “as long as they didn’t use any of the amenities.”

“If a person comes up and asks for a pass they will get one,” confirms Mickley, “but they will be monitored, They can stop anywhere except Summit Lake, Mount Goliath or the Mount Evans Summit. They can go for a hike and not get a ticket.”

Benzar said that the highway commission didn’t seem interested in hearing anything to the contrary of charging the fee. “The word of the FS was good enough.”

But now the gig is up. The CDOT knows the FS has been loose with the truth, and the two agencies have an impasse on the signage. The CDOT won’t sign the MOU until the FS posts a explaining the options people have, and although neither FS person I asked would confirm whether anything will change this year, it appears as if the FS will proceed with the status quo (i.e. continue to charge the fee without telling people about their options) and without a new MOU, which essentially ignores the state’s concerns.

“Right now, we’re in a holding pattern with the FS,” explains Toni Gatzen of CDOT. “Nothing has been decided on how to handle the situation. Hopefully, we can work something out, but we may not be able to do this before it opens.

“CDOT has options,” she notes. “We could put up the sign.”

Another possible outcome is–as it always is, it seems–litigation. “This is a pretty clear cut case,” Benzar claims. “Somebody will get mad enough to sue them. This is similar to the Mount Lemmon situation (in Arizona). It could become another test case.”

The FS initially lost the Mount Lemmon case, but a higher court set it aside, Benzar says fee opponents plan to continue to appeal the case.

“But I really don’t want to fight this out case-by-case in the courts,” she says. “Congress needs to change the law. Any senator who introduces a bill to repeal FLREA will get support from both sides of the aisle. It will pass through the senate easily, and any senator who spearheads an effort to get rid of FLREA would be hero. It’s a free hero badge for somebody.”

After she told me that but before this article was posted, I had a chance to talk to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) about his views on recreation fee policy, and it looks she may have her wish granted. Baucus is seriously considering introducing a bill to repeal FLREA. Read about it here.

Stay tuned. It will be interesting to see how the two agencies resolve the stalemate.

Editor’s Note: The day after this article was posted, CDOt took charge of the situation and declared that the state agency would put up its own signs and state expense. Read about it here.

About Bill Schneider

Comments

  1. matt says:

    Great read, Bill. While I don’t mind charging fees for recreational use of public lands, it has always bothered me when folks were charged for driving on a public road like this or UT 9 through Zion.

    Somewhat unrelated, but I can’t stand it when agency employees say “that’s above my pay grade”. What a pass-the-buck answer that is. Say “the manager will decide” or whatever, but (in my opinion) the pay-grade response is not appropriate when being interviewed by a journalist.

  2. David Keiser says:

    This is another example of the Forest Service charging fees illegally. This Federal Agency can break the law, but we the people better not dare refuse to pay this illegal fee.

  3. Marion says:

    I suspect that building the road, and maintaining it costs a LOT more than buidling a picnic table. As for the toilet, but let them use it for free than all of those people out leaving their waste in the forests for wildlife to eat or roll in.

  4. steve says:

    Personally, I have no problem paying the fee to drive up Mt. Evans, it’s well worth the money. The fee is nominal if a person uses the road infrequently, but for those who use it frequently it can add up.
    The problem lies within the Forest Service not notifying the public of their options. This would be a totally different situation if State Highway 5 was a private road, but it’s not. If a person does not use the Forest Service’s amenities, why should they have to pay? Well, they shouldn’t. I also have no problem with the Forest Service watching people who don’t pay closely.
    Ultimately, I think CDOT will have to post their own signs near the entrance to Mt. Evans road. Fee or no fee, Mt. Evans is a place everyone should experience.

  5. Thomas says:

    Just don’t pay the fee! Tell the FS to go to hell!

    I am not against paying a fee for use of a public area, but a state highway, maintained by the state and paid for by the taxpayers of CO!? How absurd!

    The state needs to march the state troops up to the entrance and take control. Let the FS post paying stations at each toilet etc. If the state built the pull off or parking lot its free! The CO legislature needs to take control and tell the FS where to go!

  6. Art Lund says:

    At the same time that the F.Service is charging for everything,
    they are getting ready to close down large portions of the
    existing amenities that we have used for years rather than bring them up to the standards of the law that lets them charge fees for the amenities that do meet the standards.

    I proudly worked for this organization when I got out of college.
    Today it is populated by a large group of politically correct buffoons.

  7. Bill Benson says:

    It’s simple, we already pay taxes.

    The Forest Service should not charge is to use our land.

    It is public land after all.

  8. Woody Hesselbarth says:

    I find it interesting that the Colorado State DOT is playing footsie with the FS when the State Legislature came out with a resolution clearing opposing the recreation access tax the FS is abusing.
    Maybe someone should remind them that the ‘other branch’ of State Government has made a statement that should guide their behavior and agreements..

  9. Fee Free says:

    ““If a person comes up and asks for a pass they will get one,” confirms Mickley.”

    That’s BS. I’ve gotten a pass, then gone up to the entrance station at a later date, shown them the pass, and said “I want another one” Even with pass in hand, the person at the gate pretended they didn’t have a clue what I was talking about and refused to let me thru. When I politely pointed out that their actions were rude and unprofessional, the attendant privately agreed, and told me that they were instructed to behave that way by their FS supervisors.

    I’m glad this has finally come to light. If this is what user fees mean to America, (and it appears that it is) then I’ll be happy for the return of less developed (and free) recreational opportunities.

  10. Saoirse says:

    I am a retired school psychologist and live close to Mt. Evans. I have had severe osteoarthritis that kept me from hiking for the past 1 years (I now have 2 new, artificial knees). I have driven up the road at least once a week for the past three years. Because I am a frequent visitor, I purchase a season pass for $25, which pays for itself on my third visit. Because I am there so often, I have the opportunity, as a “civilian,” to observe the massive numbers of people who utilize this area. I have stood in line 10 minutes to use the restroom at the summit on a weekend. I have witnessed people who were injured being assisted on the spot by Forest Service personnel. I have heard the same questions asked hundreds of times a day and always answered in a friendly tone by Forest Service personnel. I’ve stood watching as a Forest Service interpretive guide provided water from his own supply to a dehydrated hiker coming over from Mt. Bierstadt. I have attended the free, daily classes on geology, alpine ecology, sheep and goats, mountain place names, as well as participated in the free, guided hikes through the ancient and protected bristlecone forest. I’ve seen the Forest Service folks clearing the State Highway of an avalanche, directing traffic, keeping people safe. I’ve heard a Forest Service employee call down on his radio to the entrance station about the location along the road of sheep and goats, to let visitors know where they will be able to view the wildlife.

    I’ve also seen what people do to the mountain when they come in hordes. Some are respectful of this natural resource and do put their trash in the permanent receptacles at the top. Some tromp all over the fragile alpine tundra. I’ve seen dogs running free, frightening the sheep. I’ve seen the evidence left behind before people had the vault toilets at the top and the porta-potties at Summit Lake and Upper Goliath. I’ve seen the diligence of the Forest Service personnel in keeping the toilets clean for visitors; they are checked several times a day. And when one of the port-potties blew away in the huricane-force wind last week, it was Forest Service personnel who hiked down the mountain to retrieve the pieces so this natural resource would not be contaminated by such trash.

    At the end of the season, Forest Service personnel board up the permanent toilets, remove the interpretive signs or encase them in protective material, and remove all the porta-potties. At the beginning of the season, Forest service personnel shovel out the snow from all the areas visited by several hundred people a day … the pathways to the toilets, the steps to the viewing areas, the stone shelter at Summit Lake. They chop thick plates of ice away from the pathways and spread salt on the areas that can’t be completely cleared.

    Of course … if you get in your car, drive up the road, pull off to take a picture, turn around at the top and drive down … you aren’t using any of the amenities. Personally, I don’t see anyone doing that. Maybe they do. But it’s a long drive. And virtually everyone stops, gets out, uses the bathroom, looks at the interpretive signs, or uses one of the amenities … the picnic tables at Upper Goliath and Summit Lake, the permanent toilets and permanent trash receptables at the summit, the interpretive signs at Upper Goliath and the summit, and/or the assistance of one of the Forest Service personnel … questions about local trails, local wildlife, names of the mountains, history of the mountain and the road, etc.

    Personally, I am so grateful that we have this level of support on Mt. Evans. It is unique to be able to drive to the top of a fourteener. Many of our visitors are from Europe and don’t know the history but are very interested. Many of our visitors are people who live locally but are not ever going to get to the top of a fourteener except in a car. Being above treeline, being able to see Pike’s Peak and Long’s Peak from the same vista, experiencing a “Rocky Mountain high” … even if just from the “thin” air … brings an experience of the natural world to folks who might not otherwise EVER have that experience. The Forest Service keeps the mountain clean and safe and facilitates that experience.

    I maintain that we are all better off for what the Forest Service is doing on Mt. Evans. With 130,000 visitors in 3 short months, the mountain is stressed and strained. The fee collected from visitors for passage to the mountain experience is what keeps the Forest Service in business on that mountain, is what keeps the mountain accessible, is what keeps an over-used resource from becoming another sad story about our culture’s ability to turn something beautiful into something tawdry.

    I love Mt. Evans, and I love what it brings to people who visit. A place of quiet reflection, a place of physical challenge, a place of inspiration. And perhaps most of all, a place where people can connect to something bigger than themselves. If you love the natural world, here is an opportunity to spread that love to some of those people who don’t … or can’t … get out and walk the trails.

    Talk about bureaucracy all you want. Talk about freedom and public land and taxes. There is some truth in all of that.

    But the bottom line is that this is a natural resource that needs to be protected from us loving it to death. If I believed that “the public” was willing to take good enough care of this mountain without the fees, if I believed that our taxes really were sufficient to protect this resource, I’d be with you all. But this is a local issue. This is OUR mountain. It needs the local branch of the Forest Service to take care of it. Too bad it’s part of a larger bureaucracy. Too bad some people are speaking bureacracy-talk. They are in a tough spot. Because I visit so frequently, I talk with the people who work on the mountain. I talk with the people who work in the Clear Creek Ranger District office. Mostly, they are local people who live here and work here because they love the mountain, too. And they feel lucky to be working each summer on behalf of this wonderful natural resource.

    Fight the fee if you like. Complain about bureaucracy. Find all the holes, all the flaws in the system, and there are many. But really, all that anger, all that energy … it could be used to support the mountain, to protect our resources, to support the programs that make the mountain a “peak experience” for some of those 130,000 visitors. Maybe it is a matter of adding a picnic table to the top … because the summit meets the criteria in every other way. Do you want to nitpick and find fault? Or do you want Mt. Evans to be protected as a unique natural resource for every one of us?

    This year, I am volunteering to help on Mt. Evans. And I welcome the opportunity to provide a little financial support. I am willing to pay for the things I love, and I am willing to pay to keep this resource open and accessible and protected by local people working in the local Forest Service office.

  11. Marion says:

    Sairorse, I have been privileged to visit Mt. Evans a couple of times, and I was grateful for the experience, and did not mind the fee at all. I thought it was in addition to my NP pass, and didnt’ even try to do otherwise. It was worth every single penny, and I hope to do it again one of these days.
    This is one of the best letters I have seen. Thank you.

  12. Woody Hesselbarth says:

    To Saoirse, you’ve written an excellent and heartfelt expression of the amazing, if you will, spiritual benefits of lands set aside for the American people over 110 years ago. Lands which have been managed by the Federal government for the benefit of US citizens and indeed, peoples from all over the world who’ve enjoyed time in the National Forests.

    I’m a pretty involved partisan of these (non-private) lands having camped, hiked, climbed, skied, biked, boated and just sat and absorbed the ambiance of since the 1950′s. It’s in large part the childhood experiences I had in National Forests and National Parks during my early years that eventually led to my (ongoing) career as an employee of the US Forest Service.

    In college during the late 1960′s and early 1970′s I participated in the planning and advocacy effort which eventually led to the establishment of the Mount Evans Wilderness. I rode to the summit parking lot of Mount Evans as a bike racer in 1971. I almost died of hypothermia during a winter climb of Mt. Evans several years later… surviving because we were able to escape the storm by taking shelter in the summit building.

    I’ve spent the majority of my time as a civil servant working in recreation management on various National Forests across the West. I’ve cleaned up after the mobs of folks who spent the night in campgrounds along the old US Hwy 6 before I-70 was built over Vail Pass. I’ve staffed a visitor information center located on the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve published a weekly condition report that was utilized by visitor information specialists on 4 National Forests in two different administrative Regions. I’ve fought fire, monitored air quality, sampled lakes for the byproducts of air pollution, backpacked innerspring mattresses out of a wilderness, engaged in wilderness and avalanche search and rescue, ski patrolled, checked wilderness permits, collected campground fees, picked trash out of toilet vaults by hand so they could be pumped, constructed and maintained backcountry trails, written and conducted educational programs at summer camps, trained FS employees and won local, regional and national awards for my efforts. All of this at the behest of and paid by the taxes of the people of the ENTIRE United States. No additional fees required.

    I understand your appreciation of the “free” classes and guided hikes on Mt. Evans. I’ve participated in providing those same offerings.. only the recipients didn’t have to pay an additional fee atop their Federal taxes to enjoy the “free” programs. I’ve driven to the summit of Mt. Evans and used ‘the facilities’ for years before the Forest Service began to participate in the Fee Frenzy.

    This is a program which was instituted by a rider to a Congressional bill without any debate whatsoever. It was dreamed up by people who fully intend to privatize the ‘public lands’ and use our heritage to produce profits from lands we’ve protected for decades as public policy. Mount Evans is a local treasure. But it’s accessed by a highway paid for and maintained (including clearing avalanches) by the people of the Entire State of Colorado. It’s not OUR mountain. It belongs to my brother in Kansas. My cousins in Washington, New Mexico, and California. It belongs to my friends in Maine, Florida, Montana, West Virginia and a plethora of other States.

    The local ‘branch’ of the Forest Service is charged with the wise management of a National Forest, not a Clear Creek County forest. I totally agree with you that “all that energy… it could be used to support the mountain, to protect our resources, to support the programs that make the mountain…..”

    It’s a simple process to protect this special place, “a unique natural resource for every one of us.” Write the folks who set the economic priorities for this Nation. Tell your Congressional representatives that you think that this, and other lands held and managed in trust for the American people, are worth a much higher percentage of our annual contributions to wise governance than are presently allocated. If you are “willing to pay to keep this resource open and accessible” you can expend your money (and energy) to convince the decision makers in the executive and legislative branches of the National and State governments to change their priorities. You might even suggest that they raise our taxes to do so if necessary because these lands are that important.

    Mount Evans is only one of a bazillion places of incredible beauty and worth throughout the National Forest system that are worth protecting. Most of those places are not getting the attention they need because it’s easier for the Forest Service to make money and add staff where it’s easy to collect fees than in all those lesser known locations. There is no incentive for the Agency to put limits on the amazing amount of visitation at the mountain… because that would cut into their fee revenue.

    I’ve volunteered thousands of hours to protect National Forest lands (I might add mostly illegally since we’re prohibited as Federal employees to ‘volunteer’ for duties we’d normally be paid for – this prevents abuse by supervisors who would ‘encourage volunteer efforts’ to save budget). And I haven’t put forth all this paid and unpaid effort over my lifetime to see the Fee scam bleed the protection of ALL of OUR lands to death in favor of a few little recreation empires.

    Might I suggest a visit to http://www.wildwilderness.org/ and check out the documentation behind the fee frenzy and the consequences to public lands of letting it continue.

    Enough of the rant… :-)

  13. H Pat Murray says:

    Mr. Sauirse

    A short note only. You have good writnig skills and provide logical views for the situation. I would like to point out that the local worker bees have little influence on what happens. Speak up and you get moved or worse . The Forest Service as a whole is becoming a rogue agency, willful disabudience of the law and the desire to get funds at what ever the cause, look at how this mess was created, no public discussion, late hour attachment to a vital funding bill. This is not the way to run a railroad. theFS leaders lie
    cheat,steal the public trust, engage in character assination to rid themselves of the gadflies.
    Yes we need to do a better job of funding, which is why the FS engages in the questionable acts they do. They get to spend the collected monies in what ever fashion they wish and mt evens revenues to not all have to go to mt evens. There is NO CONGRESSIONAL OVERSITE of such funds.
    Is this what you want Empire building with out public representation and oversite?
    Please think long and hard about the effect of your words on the problem we are all facing.
    WE are facing the same problems out here in washington state, its not a few isolated problems, its wide spread, we cannot afford to allow them free rein, they have as a whole in the leadership management of the agency been unable to leave uo to the goals that founded the agency.
    I do agree with people in this blog I have just read that it is indeed a goal of the FS to privitize and turn many areas into profit centers.
    I pick up trash while sking. I leave little or no impact on our wild areas and I ask for few things in return. I feel that what I contribute to the FS budget in the way of taxes should be sufficient to fund the unimproved logging landings I usually use to access the back country I realize your needs are different but the way it is going many people will not be able to afford the luxury to go on to our public lands and enjoy the simple pleasures on a regular basis and without that how to keep public funding alive for all?

  14. Saoirse says:

    You are right; the people actually working on the mountain have absolutely no say in how this goes. All they can do is provide the best service they can to the people who are currently driving up to the mountain. Next summer, Washington will probably decide that because of the fee “controversy” revenues are down and jobs will be cut … not from management, but from the people who are working on the mountain attempting to support the various 130,000 visitors. The parking area at Summit Lake will not be improved. The “ranger talks” will be cut in half. The porta-potties will be gone. The water that bicyclists request from the FS workers will not be available because the FS workers will not be there. The lightning detectors currently being used to warn unaware visitors that they need to get inside their cars and stay there until the weather passes will be on a shelf somewhere in the FS District office. The advice for potential hikers about which trails are marked and which are merely social trails, thus destructive to the alpine tundra environment, will simply not occur, because no one will be there to pull out a map and talk about the options. People will drive to the top, use the bathroom, and leave … without learning about how this particular natural resource can connect them to a deeper understanding of our natural world in general. People will continue to be “activity deficient” and “nature deficient” without the potential of planting the seed of a message about conservation, preservation, or sustainability of the wilderness lands. There won’t be anyone on staff to oversee the volunteer program, so no volunteers.

    People choose to afford the luxury of a ticket to see a movie. They buy a latte and a muffin. They buy big screen TVs. People choose their luxuries. I have been choosing to pay an annual fees for access to an area that nourishes my soul … but it’s only $25 per year! I can afford it.

    Yes. It’s public land. It should be free and well-managed by people who really understand the local issues and concerns. Exactly. However, I do not believe that our Congressional leaders are paragons of transparent government and efficient or effective management. And I detest “earmarks.”

    Here’s what I know: if the fees for use of Mt. Evans go away, so will the staff who is currently working on the mountain, as will the services that keep 130,000 visitors from leaving too much debris and damage. The fees do in fact go for staff, improvements, equipment, etc. If the fees go away, Washington is not going to “find” the funding from somewhere else. If the fees go away, so do the services. And then we are left with whatever solution “they” deem fitting.

    So, let’s project into the future. The fees go away. The FS people go away. The mountain is the mountain; it just is and always will be. The vault toilets get trashed, don’t get pumped as often as they should be, they stop working. People start using the mountain as their bathroom; human “waste” begins showing up in the more popular areas of use. The trash doesn’t get emptied as often as it should, it overflows, and wildlife starts getting contaminated by people garbage. The goats and sheep don’t hang around the top of the mountain as much as they used to because and kids and dogs have been chasing them and their young. People start to complain about how their tax dollars are not being used properly to take care of our public lands.

    Physically able people who can hike into the back country will still have access and will still enjoy those simple pleasures on a regular basis. People in cars will still drive to the top, get out for a few minutes, take pictures, and drive back down. What have we lost? What have we gained?

    When I think about the answers to those questions, I feel sad and afraid. Your “victory” is my nightmare, but it’s a nightmare on behalf of a whole lineage of generations to come who don’t really understand why tax dollars should go to keeping these amazing resources open and out of the hands of privatized interests. So my fear is that freedom (to access these lands) will come at a much larger price no one wants to pay.