U.S. District Court Judge Terry Hatter entered final judgment in the landmark case on June 23, ordering the Forest Service to stop charging forest visitors to hike, fish, bicycle, walk and even park in the forest, according to the judgment. Hatter ruled that charging a recreation fee to a visitor who does not use “developed facilities and services” violates the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA).
Hatter also denied the U.S. Forest Service’s cross-motion, meaning the case is over unless the Forest Service appeals the ruling to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court within 60 days.
The ruling affects the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino national forests, an area that stretches from Monterey to San Diego and from Santa Clarita to Big Bear.
The Forest Service would not answer questions directly but in a written statement released Wednesday said it was still evaluating the court’s decision and deciding what steps to take next.
“Recreation fees are still in effect in the four southern California national forests and the Adventure Pass is still valid,” wrote John Heil, press officer for the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region.
An attorney for the plaintiffs said they received no indication whether the Forest Service would appeal. However, the ruling is in effect and must be obeyed, said Matt Kenna, an attorney for the four hikers.
Kenna said he has the option to file contempt of court proceedings if the Forest Service does not comply with the judgment.
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