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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Forest Service announces 50% pass holder campground discounts will not change

On Wednesday Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced his decision not to change the fee structure charged to holders of passes at Forest Service campgrounds operated by private contractors leaving intact the half-off camping fee rates now available to holders of the government issued $10 lifetime Senior Pass.

The Forest Service had proposed changes to discounts provided to holders of Golden Age and Golden Access Passports and Senior and Access Passes that would have lowered the discount form 50% to 10%. The response from the public--more than 4,000 comments--universally opposing the rate changes, convinced Tidwell that the proposed changes were not the best way to address services provided by private contractors at Forest Service recreation sites.

"Each year more than 175 million people enjoy recreational opportunities on National Forests and Grasslands, and that includes more than 15 million visits to our campgrounds," said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "Particularly in these difficult economic times, it is very important to maintain affordable access to our National Forests and Grasslands, giving people easy ways to recreate and find respite in the great outdoors."

Whether this decision will result in the raising of fees before the mandatory 50% discount is applied remains to be seen, but it is good news for seniors, forest campers, and boondockers that use forest service campgrounds (Photo - Deschutes National Forest, Oregon), and is a testament to the government listening to and being influenced by the public sentiment.

Concessionaires, however, are not required to accept passes at day use sites. For more information, visit:

For more on boondocking, check out my eBook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America's Public Lands at


  1. Thanks for the information. We need to keep on top of this.

  2. I dont agree with the discount. Yes, its so easy to say give me the senior discount, but I would rather have full access to all the parks than get a price discount at half of them. The many states that are closing state parks are doing so since they have budget shortfalls. Seniors not only have some access to steady income but they also have more time off. It doesnt do you any good if half the parks are closed.

    Pass sensible fees and price them to make them profitable for ALL, not just the seniors.

  3. Good Work everyone!!! we are always so excited when we get an unexpected half off price using our "Passport" card. Pat

  4. I don't mind paying a few more $$ if need to assure continued usage, but not so drastic a cut. Maybe a lsmall rate increase would be shared by all. Seniors earned the right with 40-50 years of support and taxes to have some relief.

  5. I remember when I was in my 30's with 3 kids. At the end o f the month, we were taking the last can of soup off the shelf on the day before payday. I needed the discount then!! Now, while my income is fixed and not near what I was earning while working, I've still got more discretionary money than I had then. I've always thought the discount thing was backwards. Give family's the discount and hook them and future generations for life on the value of our national parks. If the cost to stay in National parks goes up, I'll gladly pay it. Imagine for a moment, the Feds didn't grab the land around "O'L Faithful in Yellowstone... developers would have million dollar homes built around a gated community and only rich would be able to enjoy these national treasures. Count your blessings people and pay the little extra. JMHO

  6. I am very glad to hear the good news! With all of the bad news a gimmer of good news is refreshing. I would suggest that those that are better off financially consider giving a few extra bucks when possible. I know that if I am in the position to do so I will do this to help offset the parks increasing costs due to neglect. I also know that the piece of the national budget they have received has declined considerably and has not been a priority in the past. Watching the Ken Burns series was also very enlightening, gave me a great historical perspective, and value to what we get to enjoy today.
    Peace to All..

  7. I don't understand LarryLilly's logic. It is true that some STATES are closing some STATE parks. No matter what the FEDERAL government charges us to camp at FEDERAL parks, it will have little impact on the closure of any STATE parks.

  8. I have to agree with Scott.
    Look at California, they are not only closing State Parks they are raising the fees some two fold some three. There has to be something wrong with that picture.

  9. I argree with Scott. There is no relationship between Federal forests and state parks. Also to those that say seniors are on fixed income which they did not have when young family and thus can afford more I say think harder. First while many seniors are on fixed incomes, that income is not enough to live on. For many their savings were decimated by various stock market drops, reduction in company pensions etc adn they are left with social security which, while fixed, is not enough to live on. Now if you are in a position to pay more then DO SO. There is nothing that precludes people from paying more. You do not have to use your discount card to enter the parks, to camp , to enter museums etc. If you dont mind paying more then you can but for some of us it is a hardship. Be thankful for what you have instead of trying to deny it to others who need the help!!
    Thanks all who fought this.

  10. Thank you Tom Tidwell. We use NF a lot at the 50% if there is any change Goodbye NF camping.