Wyo. Parks Hike Camping Fees to Stay Afloat

September 26, 2013 by   - () Comments Off on Wyo. Parks Hike Camping Fees to Stay Afloat

Outdoor enthusiasts exploring the wilderness in Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest can expect an $8 per night fee increase to camp at the Hunter Campground next summer.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported that a proposal to raise the fee from $10 to $18 has come with no public scrutiny from campers who have seen the posting at the site this summer. But the increase is a sign of the limited wiggle room administrators in the state’s five national forests have with their budgets.

In a world where federal agencies are dealing with the cuts imposed by across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration and at least five years of stagnating budgets, national forests have been able to keep operations running with a facade of familiarity.

But behind the scenes there are questions about how long administrators can continue walking on a budgetary tightrope.

Without the fee boost, Bighorn would have to take money from other areas of the forest’s budget to maintain the newly designed campground that is equipped with horse corrals, manure pits and a solar-powered water station. The forest’s $6.5 million budget was cut by $500,000 in 2009 and has remained there ever since. Funding needs were so low this year that the $70,000 used to operate the Burgess Junction Visitor Center 50 miles north of Sheridan couldn’t be found. The center remained closed for the summer.

Moving money around to pay for the increased cost in campground upkeep could have meant a decrease in overall maintenance, fewer seasonal employees and less amenities at other facilities.

“We don’t want to have to rob Peter to pay Paul,” said Brian Boden, a natural resource specialist with the Bighorn National Forest.

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