Smith Seeks Reforms in Forest Service Recreational Home Permits

May 1, 1998

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, introduced legislation (H.R. 3765) yesterday which would gradually increase the fees paid by current holders of Forest Service Recreational Dwelling Permits while allowing for their transfer. 

Congress began authorizing permits to individuals to construct and maintain dwellings in the National Forests in 1915. These permits are subject to multiple restrictions and cannot be transferred or passed down through families directly. Currently, the permittees pay an annual fee of five percent of the land value appraised by the Forest Service under a method similar to private real estate appraisal. This fee is adjusted for inflation in years between appraisal periods.

"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 their families, and they can lose their permit at any time. Yet the land is valued as if they enjoyed the same benefits as a private property owner. It simply isn't fair," Smith said.

"I look forward to working with the Forest Service to see if we can modify the fee system to make it more equitable. We need to take into account the differences between permits on public land and private ownership. I would also like to give families some assurance that they will be allowed to pass their permits down through generations," Smith said.

H.R. 3765 establishes the most current fee as a base and adjusts it annually according to the change in the consumer price index. In addition, the bill allows permittees to directly transfer the permit to a spouse, child, or grandchild. Under Smith's legislation, future permit renewals will be based on the last effective permit fee. The House Committee on Agriculture will hold a public hearing regarding H.R. 3765 on May 19, 1998.

Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District - which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon - in the U.S. House of Representatives.