WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The House Committee on Agriculture today reviewed H.R. 3765, Congressman Bob Smith's (R-OR) bill to gradually increase U.S. Forest Service (USFS) special-use permit fees and examine the USFS appraisal process for recreational dwellings.
In 1915, Congress began authorizing permits to individuals to construct and maintain dwellings in our National Forests. Permit holders currently pay an annual fee of five percent of the land value appraised by the Forest Service under a method similar to private real estate appraisals. The permits are subject to multiple restrictions and cannot be transferred or passed directly down through families.
H.R. 3765 would establish the most current fee as a base and adjust it annually according to the change in the consumer price index. Future permit renewals would be based on the last effective permit fee. In addition, Smith's bill would allow permittees to directly transfer the permit to a spouse, child, or grandchild.
"As I said at the time I introduced this bill, I am concerned that the Forest Service's current appraisal process is not using real estate valuations that accurately reflect the uses and restrictions -- and therefore, the values of recreational cabins or houses in our national forests," Smith said.
"I introduced H.R. 3765 as a benchmark, knowing there are many ideas still under discussion. I understand that while there may be a coming together of the interested parties, there is no consensus among forest homeowner groups about what is the best approach for a long-term solution," Smith said.
"The current system simply isn't fair. The Forest Service's appraisal method doesn't take the many restrictions on permittees into account. These people will never be able to own the land. They can't use it as a full-time residence, they can't pass it down through the family, and they can lose their permit at any time. And yet the land is valued as if they enjoyed the same benefits as a private property owner," Smith said after the hearing.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District -- which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon -- in the U.S. House of Representatives.