Oregon’s Siuslaw National Forest is huge and is home to some of the largest old-growth stands left in the United States. It encompasses nearly 1,000 square miles of inland coastal forest, and portions of it are quite remote. So remote that the present program to collect fees for recreation, an old-school system where you stuff your cash into a box, is vulnerable to vandals who’d also like that money and have repeatedly beaten the collection boxes silly to get at it. Which is ironic, because an underfunded Forest Service and now the budget sequester have made a thin staff that much thinner, and so the fees meant to “enhance the visitor experience, such as clean toilets, trash service, and environmental education” have instead gone toward repairing the collection system.
You might think that vandals are going to all the trouble because they view the $5 per day visitor pass as an onerous burden — since we’re already paying for the USFS system out of federal taxes, not to mention fees that the forestry industry pays. That would be a little reductive, however. Though Siuslaw is one of the most heavily logged forests in the Northwest, sadly the feds don’t turn all that fee money back around to clean toilets (and keep staff levels strong). The solution at many trailheads will be the honor system: Buying your pass online ahead of time. And that, too, will almost surely mean less money going into coffers — but also less spent repairing the rickety collection system.