Managers of the Bridger-Teton National Forest are considering a fee system for private boaters on the Snake River below Hoback Junction.
Although they aren’t ready to talk about specific details yet, a Forest Service spokesman said a public comment period about charging fees is expected to begin in mid-July.
Len Carlman, a Jackson attorney and commercial river guide, took his first raft trip down the Snake River Canyon in 1975. He supports a fee system and says the idea has marinated long enough.
“As a river user, I create impacts and the federal government has not been able to organize its budget in a way that lets the general taxpayers offset my impacts,” Carlman said. “The nonprofit sector tried to fill the gap with a partnership with the Forest Service and public but private river users like me have not stepped up in big enough numbers to meet the need.”
Although the Forest Service is yet to release specifics, Carlman said he’s heard talk of $3 per person per day or $40 annually for private users.
Carlman anticipates some pushback from river users, but says the proposed cost is a bargain in exchange for an amazing experience.
“I’m proud of the Snake River Fund, the Forest Service, commercial river outfitters and responsible private users for the teamwork that has helped support good stewardship in the Snake River Canyon for the past 25 years,” he said. “But it’s time to move on.”
Carlman listed parking lot and pit toilet maintenance, trail building and trail maintenance and public education on responsible river use as legitimate needs for the proposed new fees.
Commercial outfitters ferry up to 110,000 people down the section between Hoback and Alpine annually, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports. Between 40,000 and 70,000 private users float the same stretch each summer.
“There will be pushback, and that’s OK,” Carlman said. “Anytime there is a change in the cost to access public land it’s something nobody really wants. We would all like to get great service and not have to pay for it.”
If the fees are approved, they likely wouldn’t be implemented until 2024.