Forest Service Closing Only Small Private Campground Operators, Not Closing Large Ski Corporations or State Parks that Operate on Forest Service Land

As readers will know, the US Forest Service has issued and unprecedented and unnecessary order to close over a thousand privately-funded campgrounds that don't take one dime of Federal money (example here).  All the 100+ parks we operate in the US Forest Service have been ordered closed.

But there appears to be more to this story.  There are several groups that operate parks on National Forest lands under agreements nearly identical to ours who appear to have been exempted from the closure order.

  • Large corporations that run ski resorts and certain other large resort properties on National Forest lands have been exempted.  It should be noted that ski resorts operators, unlike campground operators, have full-time lobbyists stationed in Washington and can afford in-house staff lawyers to fight these kinds of orders.  My guess is that knowing they would immediately get sued if they ordered larger private firms to close, the USFS focused only on smaller and more helpless private firms.
  • Many state parks, including at least 3 in Arizona and many in California, are actually on US Forest Service land and operate through special use permits almost identical to those we have with the USFS, yet none of these parks have been asked to close  (Slide Rock and Fool Hollow State Park in Arizona and Burney Falls SP in California are just a few examples of state parks that operate on US Forest Service land).

In other words, the US Forest Service seems to be issuing closure orders inconsistently, targeting only private operators who are too small to fight back.  The USFS has not been especially clear how they are justifying this order (perhaps since it can't be justified) but they have hinted that it is either because a) they can no longer "administer" these contracts, whatever that means since they have no day-to-day administration responsibilities or b) they are removing everyone from Federal lands.  Note, though, that both explanation "a" or "b" would apply equally to ski resorts and state parks operating on Federal land leases which are not being closed.

I will also add that the USFS is continuing to allow individuals to hike and camp in non-developed areas of the forests.  I have no problem with this -- there is no reason for the USFS to halt public access to public land just because their employees are getting a paid vacation.  But this just highlights how crazy and inconsistent their policies are.  People can camp in the National Forest everywhere except in developed campgrounds where private companies who take no Federal money normally have employees on site to clean up trash and provide security and prevent fires.  Many campers take good care of the land but some do not, and driving these campers out of privately-operated developed sites into dispersed areas where their impact cannot be mitigated is just another way these actions increase rather than decrease costs.



  1. STW:

    This isn't inconsistent at all. You just have to approach it from the Forest Service's perspective.
    1. Is the campground/resort/hotel/... on Federal land. If yes,
    2. Do they have any clout to hurt me or my boss or make our lives uncomfortable. If no,
    3. Close them.

    To be fair, closing a ski resort at this time of year will not result in any inconvenience to skiers or economic damages to the resort so what's the point?

  2. Jon Nichols:

    I'm not sure that last statement is true. While there's not much snow, they may be prevented from preparing the parks for the season, which could result in some hardship (especially if closed for many weeks).

    Note: I am not an operator of a ski resort, nor am I a very good skier.

  3. jon:


    Some ski resorts have summer activities also. And if they are large enough to have hotels then people will also stay in those during the summer.

  4. Orion Henderson:

    You're both right. Most ski resorts do have offseason activities, from golf, to mountain biking, to music festivals. Right now they are also prepping the mountain for the upcoming season. A few of the high altitude resorts typically open in October if they can. Not this is at all relevant to Coyote's post.

    I don't work at, or operate, a ski resort. And I am a good skier..I will be even more peeved if they don't open on time.

  5. Matthew Slyfield:

    "Many state parks, including at least 3 in Arizona and many in
    California, are actually on US Forest Service land and operate through
    special use permits almost identical to those we have with the USFS, yet
    none of these parks have been asked to close (Slide Rock and Fool
    Hollow State Park in Arizona and Burney Falls SP in California are just a
    few examples of state parks that operate on US Forest Service land"

    Are you sure that they haven't received closure notices as opposed to keeping quiet about having received them?

  6. ColoComment:

    Colorado ski resorts have already begun making snow.

  7. Joe_Da:

    The lake reno incident where private individuals own cabins/homes on property on long term leases along the shores of lake reno have been temporarily evicted.

    Bar Harbor / Arcadia national park in maine encompasses most if not the entire island. there are also numerous private homes, business and restaurants through out the island. Not sure how many of the private residences sit on federal land, though I havent heard much about evictions inside the park.

  8. mlhouse:

    You need to create an association of park operators and jointly seek redress.

  9. pokeyblow:

    Either your contract terms were specifically violated, or they weren't.

    This victim mentality won't help you in life.

  10. MingoV:

    What irks me is that many Forest Service and National Park Service employees dislike what they're told to do, but they do it anyway. The same is true of the TSA workers who hate groping travelers. They're all federal employees with more job protection than almost anyone. Why don't they just say no?

  11. marque2:

    I really don't think these orders came from the forest service, I think they came from higher, and certain rangers seemed more than willing to comply. Ooh I have this gun, now I have a real excuse to seem threatening - You old folk, get out of Yellostone, and no bathroom stops either!

  12. marque2:

    I think some of the rangers guarding hotels and such at Yellowstone and threatening tour bus drivers if they stop at a private ranch to use the bathroom, are actually enjoying their new role - as essential terrorist personnel.

  13. marque2:

    That might work, but it is a little too late for this round, unless Warren quickly lawyers up.

  14. marque2:

    Many of the ski resorts to considerable summer and fall activity. They run trendy shops all year round, and use the snow trails for mountain biking. You take your bike up the lift and ride down. They also have "rides" and things at the base.

    Admittedly you are correct though, I would imagine that October is a bit slow even with the newer year round operations.

  15. MNHawk:

    We get back to the costs of doing business in a backwards ass, third world, banana republic nation full of pokeys, like the United States of America. Pay to play is everything. You didn't, they did, now you get to pay even more. Microsoft learned the lesson in the 1990s, you're learning it today.

  16. JK:

    Some of the local DC area privately owned parks on federal land seem to be winning individual battles.
    Claude Moore Colonial Farm -
    Mount Vernon -

  17. smurfy:

    A) Season pass sales occur in September.
    B) West Coast season pass prices have become volatile and competitive over the last few years. My pass was super cheap last year following a poor winter the year before and rose $100 this year following a good winter.

    How do you suppose being closed by the Feds during your Big Annual Sale would affect the price you could command and the incentives you would have to offer?

  18. smurfy:

    September is when you blow your load on your pass, October is when you blow it on your new gear. And maybe some cross-fit training... and a new Subaru. Right now people are picking out their ski cabin leases and signing the lease on the kid's race gear. Where skiing exists it drives pretty much the entire economy. Every little dent in the season hurts a whole lotta people, beyond the actual participants. Lot's of pissed off constituents, and vail executives.

  19. Larry Sheldon:

    Looks to me like the size of the operator to be shut down is a function of the likelihood that the operator can afford a lawyer.

  20. Gdn:

    People at the Pisga Inn, one of the first franchisees having this happen to them that hit the news, said they were told by the Rangers that this was from the White House OMB.

  21. markm:

    And you solve that with a class action lawsuit.