WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 6, 2014 AT 1:45 PM EDT - The U.S. Forest Service will waive fees at most of its day-use recreation sites several times in 2015, beginning with Jan. 19, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“These fee-free days are our way of thanking our millions of visitors but also to encourage more people to visit these great public lands,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “These lands belong to all Americans, and we encourage everyone to open the door to the great outdoors.”
No fees are charged at any time on 98 percent of national forests and grasslands, and approximately two-thirds of developed recreation sites in national forests and grasslands can be used for free. Check with your local forest or grassland or on Recreation.gov to see if your destination charges a fee. Fees are used to help cover the cost of safe, clean facilities. Use the Forest Service map to find a national forest or grassland near you.
The 2015 scheduled fee-free days observed by the Forest Service are:
- Jan. 19: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which honors the legacy of the civil rights leader and encourages Americans to participate in the MLK Day of Service
- Feb. 16: Presidents Day, honoring our nation’s Presidents with particular attention towards commemorating President Washington and President Lincoln.
- June 13: National Get Outdoors Day, a day when federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and the recreation industry encourages healthy, outdoor activities.
- Sept. 26: National Public Lands Day, the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort in support of public lands
- Nov. 11: Veteran’s Day, commemorates the end of World War I and pays tribute to all military heroes past and present.
Agency units plan their own events. Contact your local forest or grassland for more information. The last fee-free period for 2014 is Nov. 8-11 in honor of Veteran’s Day.
Encouraging use of public lands supports the goals of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors, an effort with a premise that the protection of the nation’s natural heritage is a non-partisan objective shared by all Americans. America’s Great Outdoors turns to communities for local, grassroots conservation initiatives and seeks to rework inefficient policies and to make the federal government a better partner with states, tribes and local communities.
America’s public lands provide health benefits visitors. America’s national forests and grasslands managed by the Forest Service offer more than 150,000 miles of trails, which include hiking, biking, equestrian and motorized trails, and more than 10,000 developed recreation sites. Visitors can choose a wide variety of recreational activities using more than 57,000 miles of streams, 122 alpine ski areas, 338,000 heritage sites, 9,100 miles of National Scenic Byways, 22 National Recreation Areas, 11 National Scenic Areas, seven National Monuments, one national preserve and one national heritage area.
The fee-free program is in cooperation with other federal land management agencies under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. Fees are waived generally for day-use areas, such as picnic grounds, developed trailheads and destination visitor centers. Concessionaire operated sites may be included in the waiver if the permit holder wishes to participate. Contact your local national forest or grassland to learn if your destination requires a fee and if that fee is waived.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, part U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.