Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Allows National Forests to Retain Fees Generated by Ski Areas to Support Local Recreation Needs
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced the Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development (SHRED) Act to invest in outdoor recreation in mountain communities. This bicameral, bipartisan legislation would ensure National Forests retain a portion of the annual fees that ski areas operating within their boundaries pay to support local recreation and community priorities. 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.
“Skiing is a vital component of Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry, creating jobs and boosting local economies,” said Bennet. “The partnership between ski areas, the Forest Service, and mountain communities is critical - especially in areas like the White River National Forest. This bill will rightfully keep funds where they are generated and help local communities tackle their own priorities, like making trailhead improvements or increasing staffing. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this done for mountain communities in Colorado and across the country.”
“Wyoming is home to world class skiing. The resorts in the Jackson area and across the state are critical to our economy,” said Barrasso. “Right now, Wyoming ski communities are sending money to Washington but not receiving the full benefits from those fees. Our legislation will help make the Forest Service a better partner. By creating a specific dedicated account for these fees, Wyoming skiing communities will get more bang for their buck. They will be able to provide an even better experience for visitors by improving their facilities, protecting the forests, and supporting the local economy.”
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.
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.).
Statements of Support
“Ski areas across the country appreciate Senator Bennet’s leadership in the Senate and unwavering support for outdoor recreation. Retaining a portion of ski area permit fees with the Forest Service will help boost the agency’s recreation capacity, improve visitor services and expand access to our nation’s forests for all Americans,” said Kelly Pawlak, President/CEO, National Ski Areas Association.
“What the bill’s Ski Area Fee Retention Account does for ski areas is a solid model for all facilitated recreation experiences. Outdoor recreation permit fees should be reallocated at the site, should be used to improve and enhance facilitated recreation experiences, and should be made available to help other sites address recreation programming needs that may not have the resources necessary at the local level,” said Aaron Bannon, executive director of America Outdoors.
“The SHRED Act will bring much-needed resources to the United States Forest Service to address the needs of not only ski areas, but the broader recreation management needs of the public lands on which ski town economies are so dependent. This Act will offer ongoing support to the public lands that are so critical to the recreation-based economies of resort communities,” said Margaret Bowes, Executive Director, Colorado Association of Ski Towns.
“This bill is not only critical to maintaining the active management of our national forests by providing much needed support to the United States Forest Service, but it also greatly aids in the sustainability and vibrancy of our mountain communities and local recreational opportunities. By allowing local national forests to retain the fees generated from the ski areas in which they originate, forest managers are better equipped to address the many impacts creating a crisis in our forests. Northwest Colorado Council of Governments fully supports the 2021 SHRED Act as drafted and is hopeful its implementation will provide our local United States Forest Service with the overdue and necessary support imperative for its operations to run successfully and efficiently for decades to come,” said Alyssa Shenk, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Council Chair.
“The $55 billion skiing industry is an important part of the American outdoor recreation economy, supporting more than half a million jobs across the country,” said Outdoor Industry Association executive director Lise Aangeenbrug. “These ski areas – and the local economies they support – rely on well-maintained and properly funded National Forests. That is why this commonsense, bipartisan proposal is so important. It would ensure a majority of the ski fees collected by the National Forests remain in the forest that collected them, providing local officials flexibility to invest in conservation and outdoor recreation projects and supporting conservation efforts to ensure ski areas and other parts of the forest remain accessible for years to come. We commend Senators Bennet and Barrasso for their leadership and look forward to working with them to see it passed into law.”