Bark Challenges Forest Service decision to privatize Bagby Hot Springs and 27 other Mt. Hood recreation sites

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 4/5/2012
Contact: Alex P. Brown, Executive Director Bark, 503-331-0374 or alex@bark-out.org

Bark Challenges Forest Service decision to privatize Bagby Hot Springs and 27 other Mt. Hood recreation sites
Today, Bark challenged through administrative appeal the Forest Service’s decision to grant a private company a 5-year contract for management of Bagby Hot Springs and 27 other developed recreation sites in Mt. Hood National Forest, the last remaining sites under public management. The Forest Service’s plan to increase privatization of recreation management in Mt. Hood National Forest has drawn fire from the public, especially concerning increasing fees at campgrounds and creating fees for use of Bagby Hot Springs. Bark is joined in the appeal by Friends of Mt. Hood and Russ Pascoe, President of the Oregon Kayak & Canoe Club.

Bark is appealing the decision because it believes that the Forest Service failed to follow the federal law that governs fee increase: the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (REA). The REA sets standards for public participation in decision-making that the Forest Service did not follow in its recent decision on Mt. Hood. In addition, the Forest Service failed to follow the recommendations of its own 2008 Recreation Facilities Analysis, which suggested privatizing only 3 of the 28 sites included in this decision.

“As stewards of the public’s land, the Forest Service must follow all applicable laws, and ensure that it is making well-supported decisions, especially when the decision is very unpopular with the public,” said Brenna Bell, Bark’s staff attorney. “The Forest Service failed to do this in its decision to increase recreation fees by privatizing campgrounds and Bagby Hot Springs.”

Alex P. Brown, Bark’s Executive Director, notes that, “every year, Mt. Hood National Forest loses taxpayer money by offering timber sales that cost more to plan than the Forest Service recoups from logging companies. Yet, this does not deter the Forest Service from continuing to plan more timber sales. However, the Forest Service now insists that it has no choice but to privatize campgrounds, because it can not afford to subsidize recreational use. This type of doublespeak shows that that the public’s use and enjoyment of the Mt. Hood National Forest is subservient to commercial timber interests.”

The management contract will likely be awarded to the California Land Management Services Corporation.