On Feb. 27, advocates for increased off-highway-vehicle access on our nation’s public lands took a major step toward reopening a popular trail in Mississippi.
The Friends of Rattlesnake Bay, working with the American Motorcyclist Association, successfully petitioned the Southern Region Recreation Resource Advisory Committee to approve a new fee structure that the U.S. Forest Service said it needs to reopen and maintain the Rattlesnake Bay OHV Trail in the DeSoto National Forest.
Along with the daily use fees, the RRAC approved the creation of an annual pass that will allow riders to visit many of the trails in southern Mississippi for one low fee.
The Rattlesnake Bay OHV Trail had been closed due to funding issues since 2003. It was further damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Forest Service had said the reason it could not reopen the popular trail was a lack of funding for maintenance.
Without the fee, the OHV trail would remain closed.
Now, pending approval from the regional forester, the trail could reopen this year.
The authority for federal land managers to levy fees comes from the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.
The FLREA is very specific about when land managers can levy a new fee and how the funds can be spent. For example, fees cannot be levied on areas without enhancements, and at least 80 percent of the fees collected at a specific area must be used within that area.
Additionally, no fee could be approved unless it had been reviewed by a RRAC, a citizen group composed of varied interests.
We hope that access advocates can build on the success in southern Mississippi and continue to increase recreational opportunities on our public lands.