|United States||Forest||Washington Office||14th & Independence SW|
|Department of||Service||P.O. Box 96090|
|Agriculture||Washington, DC 20090-6090|
December 8, 2003
Mr. Lloyd Campbell
2720 S. Creekside Road
Brimley, MI 49715-9364
|CERTIFIED MAIL --R.R.R.|
Dear Mr. Campbell:
We have completed our review of your July 21, 2003, appeal of Regional Forester Randy Moore’s July 16, 2003, decision to increase the Eastern Region’s minimum annual land use fee for certain types of special uses of National Forest System (NFS) lands. This review was conducted in accordance with 36 CFR 251.
The Regional Forester’s decision to increase minimum annual land use fees for certain special uses was made pursuant to his authority to do so, as prescribed in federal regulation and agency policy. Two excerpts from the federal regulations governing the management of special uses of NFS lands that are particularly relevant to Regional Forester Moore’s decision to increase annual minimum fees include the following:
The (annual land use) fee shall be based on the fair market value of the rights and privileges authorized, as determined by appraisal or other sound business management principles. 36 CFR 251.57(a)(1); and
Except where specified otherwise by terms of a special use authorization, rental fees may be initiated or adjusted whenever necessary: (1) As a result of fee review, reappraisal; or (2) a change in the holders qualifications under paragraph (b) of this section; and (3) notice is given prior to initiating or adjusting rental fees. 36 CFR 251.57(g).
Furthermore, Regional Forester Moore’s decision to increase minimum annual land use fees was consistent with his special uses management responsiblities as outlined in Forest Service Manual 2715.04b, which directs that:
“It is the responsibility of the Regional Forester to establish regional minimum fees based on fair market value of the use authorized. Update the minimum fee yearly using the appropriate index and provide for review every 5 years.” (emphasis added)
In your appeal, you cite your concern about the minimum annual land use fee for your special use permit for a short access road increasing from $25 to the Regional Forester’s newly established minimum annual land use fee of $75 amounts. You feel this increase is unreasonable due to the land authorized in your permit now being used and occupied for highway purposes. In reviewing Regional Forester Moore’s July 16, 2003, decision, I can only reply to the manner in which he arrived at increasing the minimum annual land use fees for road access permits from $25 to $75. Let me first reply to that, specifically.
Assessing a “minimum fee” for special uses of NFS lands is a sound business management principle commonly used to assess land use fees for those types of special uses which, either by the nature of the activity being authorized, and/or by the very small amount of land being used and occupied, results in a very minor use and occupancy of NFS lands. Regional Forester Moore made his decision to update annual minimum fees for the Eastern Region after conducting an assessment of minimum annual land use fees being assessed and collected in the nonfederal market place. He did so by identifying what the owners of large parcels of land were typically assessing as a minimum annual land use fee when they authorized uses of their lands to others which were similar to the types of special uses that the Forest Service authorizes others to exercise on NFS lands. He found 13 comparative sources for road access uses on nonfederal lands, and found that the average minimum annual fee being assessed by the owners of those federal lands, to those who were using the land for road access purposes, was $86. He chose to adjust that amount to a start point of $75 annually, as was reflected in his July 16, 2003, letter to you.
I have considered the arguments presented in your appeal and applicable laws, regulations, and Forest Service policies on the Eastern Region fee increase schedule and find Regional Forester Moore’s decision to be reasonable and consistent with policy, regulation, and law. The record includes an adequate amount of comparable non-federal market data to support the Regional Forester’s establishment of a $75 minimum annual land use fee for road uses. You have not provided any additional evidence or data which would indicate that the process used by Regional Forester Moore was flawed or inadequate. The revised fee schedule indicates that sound market valuation practices were used to set the fees for your special use authorization. The fee schedule was discussed and explained in a series of meetings and letters throughout the Eastern Region. I, therefore, find the methodology used to establish minimum fees was consistent with national policy, internal manuals, and handbooks. I agree with the Acting Regional Forester’s October 17, 2003, responsive statement explaining the special uses rental fee process. Accordingly, Regional Forester Moore’s decision establishing updated minimal annual land use fees for special uses in the Eastern Region is affirmed. Therefore, your appeal of the fee schedule revision is denied.
Lastly, in your appeal, you imply that the land which is included in your special use permit for use as an access road is now being used and occupied as part of a new highway. If so, then I recommend that you contact your District Ranger or special use adminstrator to determine whether the new highway right-of-way extends to your private property boundary as this might negate the need for you to have a special use permit.
This constitutes the final administrative determination of the Department of Agriculture unless the Secretary of Agriculture elects to review the decision pursuant to 36 CFR 251.99(f). We will notify you of the determination.
/s/ Gloria Manning
Reviewing Officer for the Chief
Regional Forester, R-9
Pat Rowell, R-9
Patti Deshaw R-9
Carolyn Williams, R-9
Chris Neilson, OGC
Randy Karstaedt/Ben Bibb, WO
Barbara Timberlake, WO
Caring for the Land and Serving People