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ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST : User Fees May Be Instituted to Keep Picnic Areas Open

In the shadow of the Angeles National Forest, the new chief of the U.S. Forest Service said last week that a forest entry fee is one possible way to avoid shutting down more campground and picnic areas.

“We can look at the potential for cooperative user fees with states and counties,” said Chief Jack Ward Thomas at a Pasadena press conference. “We could possibly seek permission for pilot efforts for the collection of user fees, if Congress should see that as appropriate.”

Thomas was scheduled to tour the Angeles and San Bernardino national forests on a three-day meeting with managers of the country’s 12 urban national forests in Los Angeles.

President Clinton appointed Thomas to head the Forest Service in November, signaling the administration’s intention to overhaul the agency. Thomas, 59, is a renowned Oregon wildlife biologist who drew attention to the plight of the spotted owl. His agency manages 191 million acres with 34,000 employees and an annual budget of $3.2 billion.

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The issue of paying for entry to national forests is controversial but is gaining attention as federal funding dwindles and attendance grows. In the Mt. Baldy ranger district, for instance, 90% of the camping spots have been closed because of budget cuts. In the last year, the forest service has laid off 2,700 employees nationwide.


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