Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Will Allow National Forests to Retain Fees Generated by Ski Areas to Support Local Recreation
VIDEO: Watch Bennet’s Full Testimony HERE
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in support of the Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development (SHRED) Act. Bennet’s bipartisan legislation will invest in outdoor recreation in mountain communities by enabling National Forests to retain a portion of the annual fees paid by ski areas operating within their boundaries.
Earlier this year Bennet released data from the United States Forest Service indicating that the SHRED Act, if passed, would provide around $17 million annually for National Forests in Colorado to improve the ski program, permitting, and recreation management.
Bennet and U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced the SHRED Act in June. The bill has nine additional bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate, including Colorado U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper. U.S. Representatives Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), John Curtis (R-Utah), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), and Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Our national forests are fundamental to our economy, and in places like the White River National Forest in Colorado, our ski areas generate millions of dollars for the Treasury,” said Bennet during his testimony. “But those funds don't always make it back to the forests where they're needed most. Instead, Washington often short changes our forests, leaving them without the budget to hire staff, maintain trail heads, and manage recreation, placing a burden on local governments. The SHRED Act fixes that by keeping a portion of the fees paid by ski areas in the forests where they were generated. This small change would mean more resources across the west, in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and elsewhere, to help our national forests contend with the surge and visitation and outdoor recreation.”
“The Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development will ensure National Forests retain a portion of the annual fees they collect from ski areas that operate within their boundaries. These retained fees will be used on projects to improve recreation management. They will also protect our forests and support local economies. The SHRED Act has broad bipartisan support. I am thankful to Senator Bennet for his partnership on this important legislation,” said Barrasso.
“The SHRED Act allows local communities that use National Forest land most intensely to prioritize where the need is greatest,” said Hickenlooper, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“I’m thrilled to see the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considering legislation we are championing in the House to invest in our National Forests and support our local ski resorts in Summit and Eagle Counties. In Colorado, outdoor recreation fuels our economy, drives tourism and is ingrained in our communities and our way of life. Investing in our National Forests, restoring our public lands and supporting outdoor guides and retailers is therefore how we ensure our mountain communities thrive and grow,” said Neguse, who serves as Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “The Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development (SHRED) Act will keep local ski fees in the communities developing them, improve the recreation permitting process, and support wildfire planning and coordination and will further our work to restore our lands and communities.”
“CAST worked in collaboration with Senator Bennet, federal agencies, the ski industry and local governments to develop this critical legislation for our ski communities and public lands and we thank him for his leadership to move this bill forward in the Senate” said Margaret Bowes, Executive Director, Colorado Association of Ski Towns. “The SHRED Act will direct much-needed funding to some of the nation’s most visited national forests and give the Forest Service additional resources to manage and protect the public lands on which mountain town economies are so dependent.”
“NWCCOG congratulates Senator Bennet and his staff on this groundbreaking bill which will bring millions of dollars back to the White River National Forest and other forests with ski areas to give a leg up to underfunded offices and forest staff who manage permits and recreation in the busiest national forests in the U.S.,” said Jon Stavney, Executive Director, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “With the impacts of COVID and Climate this funding comes at a critical time for our beloved forests. The Senator and his staff worked hard to negotiate a bill that would allow our local governments to stop having to backfill recreation management budgets on nearby national forests as they have in recent years. Now more than ever, our forests need active management, and this legislation provides the funding for our National Forest managers to do just that.”
“Our National Forests are the backbone of our economy, with the White River National Forest, hosting the most National Forest visitors in the United States. As Summit County is home to four world class ski resorts, keeping dollars local is imperative to mitigate impacts to our forests and keep them pristine, protected, and healthy for generations to come. We appreciate Senator Bennet's leadership to move this bill forward with a hearing in the US Senate,” said Elisabeth Lawrence, Summit County Commissioner.
“We are thrilled to see Senator Bennett advance the SHRED Act to committee. We are watching this progress and are confident the Senate will see the great value of investing in our nation's shared natural recreation resources,” said Matt Scherr, Chair, Eagle County Commissioners.
“The SHRED Act is a great opportunity to boost public lands and outdoor recreation while supporting our mountain communities at a critical time,” said Brendan McGuire, VP of Public Affairs at Vail Resorts. “We thank Senator Bennet, along with Senator Hickenlooper and his colleagues on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, for this important step forward in the legislative process.”
In exchange for using some of America’s most stunning forestlands, the 122 ski areas operating on Forest Service lands across the country pay fees to the Forest Service that average $39 million annually. The SHRED Act would establish a framework for local National Forests to retain a portion of ski fees to offset increased recreational use and support local ski permit and program administration. The SHRED Act also provides the Forest Service with flexibility to direct resources where they are needed the most.
The SHRED Act would:
- Keep Ski Fees Local: By establishing a Ski Area Fee Retention Account to retain a portion of the fees that ski areas pay to the Forest Service. For National Forests that receive less than $15 million in ski fees annually, 75% of the fees are retained. For forests that receive more than $15 million in ski fees annually, 60% of the ski fees would be retained. The retained funds are available for authorized uses at the local National Forest.
- Support Winter Recreation: In each National Forest, 75% of the retained funds are directly available to support Forest Service Ski Area Program and permitting needs, process proposals for improvement projects, train staff, and prepare for wildfire. Any excess funds can be directed to other National Forests that host ski areas for the same uses. After all of the winter recreation uses have been addressed across the country, excess funds are carried over to the pot of funding that supports broad recreation needs.
- Address Broad Recreation Needs: In each National Forest, 25% of the retained funds are available to support a broad set of local recreation management and community needs, including special use permit administration, visitor services, trailhead improvements, facility maintenance, and affordable workforce housing. This set-aside would dramatically increase some Forest Service unit’s budgets to meet the growing visitation and demand for outdoor recreation. Due to a lack of federal funding some western communities must direct their own resources to support recreation management on public lands.
The SHRED Act is supported by: National Ski Area Association and its 122 member ski areas operating on public lands, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Colorado Ski Country USA, Colorado Association of Ski Towns, America Outdoors Association, Vail Resorts, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The SHRED Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.).
The United States Forest Service also testified in support of the bill at the hearing today.