Where’s the equal protection in forest user-fee laws?

Letter from Steve Hannon

Forest Service Fees – June 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Editors,

About the latest expansion of fees to use our public lands, it only seems fair that those who use something should pay for it.

What about livestock? Public-lands ranchers pay approximately $1.50 per “animal unit month” — a cow and calf for one month. That’s 1,000 pounds on eight feet that stomp all over the land, but mainly wetlands, at a fee of 5¢ per day. Each human fee-payer averages 150 pounds on two feet, at $10 per day.

Humans (hunters excepted) practically always stay on trails where the walking is much easier and to avoid getting lost. Livestock, not understanding the concept of a trail switchback and being abandoned to their own devices for the season by their owners, destroy scores of miles of trails each year. In the Rockies a mile of trail averages about $30,000.

The human gets to pay twice, in his/her taxes and the fee. The cows and their owners pay essentially zero, given the array of subsidies and special tax breaks available to public-lands ranchers. Why else would so many big corporations and wealthy individuals (like W’s pals) be attracted to this business?

And except for the occasional Texan, humans do not relieve themselves in the streams and wetlands. While the cow can happily and legally deposit its e-coliforms in the stream, the human in a wilderness area (cows ARE permitted in wilderness areas) will be fined for camping within 100 feet of any water.

Equal protection under the law, correct?

Steve Hannon Denver