National Forest Adventure Pass
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The National Forest Adventure Pass is a recreation fee pass issued by the United States Forest Service that permits bearers in the four National Forests in Southern California to park their cars for the purpose of recreation. Though it was introduced during the "Recreation Fee Demonstration Program" (Fee-Demo) which ended on November 21, 2004, the Forest Service continues to administer the program, nearly unchanged, under the Federal Lands and Recreation Enhancement Act. This act, derisively dubbed by some as the "Recreation Access Tax" (RAT), was passed in December 2004 as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
- Angeles National Forest
- Cleveland National Forest
- Los Padres National Forest
- San Bernardino National Forest
It is the local element of the controversial national Recreational Fee Demonstration Program system that imposes fees on the public to use public lands.
The Legislative Counsel of California has determined that the National Forest Service may not cite cars for parking on state highways within national forests unless there is evidence that the occupants have used the forest for recreational purposes (for example, the occupants have been observed entering the forest). The National Forest Service invites those who feel they have been cited unjustly to write to an address on the citation to appeal. This determination was made after a large number of incidents occurred where property owners were cited for parking on their own property, in communities completely contained in the San Bernardino National Forest.
Passes may be purchased for annual or day use online or from visitor centers and local merchants. Currently, the fee for a day pass is $5, and the fee for an annual pass $30. A second vehicle pass is also available for $5 with the purchase of an annual pass. Violators usually receive a "Notice of Noncompliance" and may clear the notice by purchasing a pass after the violation, paying online, or sending in a check or money order to the address in the envelope provided. Punishment of noncompliant individuals has been rare. In theory, use of the forests for non-recreational, First Amendment purposes does not require an Adventure Pass. In addition, using the restroom, stretching, or taking a picture is not a violation.
After passage of the Recreational Enhancement Act in 2004, Adventure Passes are now only required at designated High Impact Recreational Areas. However, in fact most areas that previously required a parking pass still require one. To avoid a fine, a wise hiker will telephone a Forest Service office or check the maps of High Impact Recreational Areas online of the individual forests to determine in advance his or her permit needs, since adequate signage pertaining to the need for an Adventure Pass is not yet common. Although supposedly many areas do not require the pass, most of these locations are less convenient to populated areas and can be accessed only from areas that do require a pass.
- Sierra Club Opinion
- Adventure Pass Headquarters - San Bernardino National Forest
- Free Our Forests
- Legislative Counsel's formal opinion on enforcement on State Highways
- Recreational Fee Demonstration Program, Progress Report to Congress, Fiscal Year 2003
-  Ninth Circuit Court strikes down Adventure Pass requirement