15 November 2021

Cabin in the Woods

Written by: Jamie Chong

Hello again from the Rio Grande National forest.

I’m 2 solid months into this internship, and I have already learned so much. In the past 2 weeks my supervisor and I have concentrated our efforts on getting our Districts Recreation Residence’s caught up. This includes doing inspections of the property and going through the files for each residence to make sure everything follows the Forest’s standards. Recreation Residences (rec residences) are cabins situated on National Forests all over the country. The cabins are privately owned by individuals or family trusts, but the land is still owned by the American public and under Forest Service management. The cabin owners acquire a Special Use Permit to occupy the land for a 20-year period on our forest. These are renewable permits that come with a number of responsibilities and limitations that have to be adhered to in order to continue use of the land.

I had no idea this was a thing!

It all Started with the "Cabin in the Woods" program. Between 1897 and 1914 annual permits allowed discrete rec residences. In 1915, Congress passed the “Term Occupancy Act” to allow private rec residences on FS land. This establishment by Congress in 1915 aimed to facilitate family recreation experiences on our National Forests. By the 1950s the demand for outdoor recreation grew exponentially so the emphasis on the program was put on a decline to protect the natural resources. In 1960 they stopped promoting the program and by 1968 The Chief of the FS issued a moratorium to end development of new rec residence tracts. In 1976, all expansion and track development ceased.

 At one time there was approximately 20,000 structures on FS land. Today, due to non-renewal of permits or expiration, there is roughly 14,000 cabins in the program nation-wide. As cabin owners they are considered partners with the Forest Service in stewardship of these historic resources. Owners are expected to follow the requirements set forth in the “National Historic Preservation Act.” Located in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 800, section 106, it specifies a standard process that Federal agency officials must use to consider the potential impacts of proposed “undertakings” (projects) on historic properties. Any to changes to be made on the outside of the cabin must be approved by agency officials. To get that approval the agency must take into consideration and consult with all interested parties such as State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), Native American Tribes, and possibly NEPA to minimize or negate any adverse impacts to natural resources and historic properties.

 All that is to say….with such beautiful views, comes great responsibility.

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Lost Trail

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