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A Free Hike: National Forests To Drop Fees
Angeles National Forest.
Credit: USDA.

Soon you can add national forests to your list of free things to do.

As soon as next year, the U.S. Forest Serviceis expected to drop the fees at many national forests, reported the Los Angeles Times. Following a review, the service proposed dropping fees at nearly three-quarters of the forest areas that now have fees. That means many trail heads, daily recreation sites and general forest areas(not national parks) will soon be free. A recent ruling by a federal court could chip away at the fees even more.

The fees have been around since 1996, and have been controversial from their inception. Hikers hated the fees, even though they do provide money for the parks. Bumper stickers popped up with phrases such as, "Can't see the forest for the fees."

The fees were frowned upon from both sides of the political aisle. Conservatives cried double taxation. Liberals said the fees keep the poor out of national forests.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals doesn't approve of the fees either. The court's recent ruling, in a case involving parking fees in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, said that the forest service has overreached. They sent the case back to a lower court to sort out.

So far, nature buffs have reacted in favor of no-fee national forests.

"I don't think a nature hike is a forest product and that hikers are forest consumers," John McKinney, author of more than two dozen hiking books, told the Los Angeles Times. "We're out there for something that you can't put a price on."

You can follow OurAmazingPlanet staff wri­ter Brett Israel on Twitter: @btisrael. Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet and on Facebook.