Explorebigsky Wire Services

MONTANA — Rep. Denny Rehberg is co-sponsoring a bill that would establish an annual lease system for cabin owners facing fee increases on National Forest land.

The Cabin Fee Act would institute a tiered system of fees, and would reduce the cost of overseeing the cabin system by eliminating the appraisal process mandated by a law passed in 2000.

“This legislation will enable Montanans to pass along the family cabin to future generations without needing to sell the family farm to do it,” said Rehberg, who co-sponsored a similar measure in the last Congress.

“Because of this flawed system current cabin owners could be forced to give up their leases, some of which have been in the family for two, three, or even four generations.”

The Recreation Resident Program was established in 1915 and set aside a small number of residential lots for Americans to build cabins on federal land. The individuals own the structures and pay a yearly fee for the use of the land. A 2000 law directed the U.S. Forest Service to use an appraisal process for determining cabin fees.

Many factors determine cabin appraisal value, such as limited ownership rights held by cabin owners, restrictions on year-round use of the site, or lack of privacy due to public access. According to Rehberg, when the Forest Service ignored these negating factors, it over-evaluated many properties and led to unreasonable fee assessments.

The new measure would establish a nine-tier fee system, based on the lot’s current value, with yearly fees from $500 to $4,500, adjusted annually for inflation. A transfer fee of $1,000 would be assessed when cabins are sold or ownership transferred within a family. For luxury properties between $250,000 and $500,000, an additional 5 percent fee will be assessed, and an additional 10 percent fee assessed on amounts that exceed $500,000.

“Passage of the CFA will ensure fairer and more reasonable fees that accurately reflect the true value of our cabins,” said Jane Van Dyk, Montana C2 Cabin Coalition Coordinator.

There are currently more than 14,000 family-owned recreational cabins across the U.S., most of which are located in the west.