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Here are some of the milestones in development of the Forest Service’s recreation residence program, which allows private cabins on forest lands:
1891: Congress authorizes the president to establish forest reserves, now called national forests.
1897: The Organic Act opened national forests to the public, authorizing federal managers to permit additional uses of the forests. Construction of some cabins was allowed, but the one-year permits made them risky investments.
1915: Congress authorizes the Forest Service to set aside parcels of 5 acres or less for construction of summer homes with multiyear occupancy permits. The homes could be inherited, but ownership of the land remained with the Forest Service.
1920s: Congress authorizes 25 percent of the fees paid to the Forest Service by cabin owners to go to the local counties, with the balance going into the federal Treasury.
1969: Forest Service begins issuing 20-year cabin permits, with fees set at 5 percent of the lot’s appraised value.
2000: Appraisals in the late 1990s caused spikes in user fees that made cabins unaffordable for many ordinary citizens. Congress enacts the Cabin User Fee Fairness Act that is designed to ensure that lots being appraised are not overvalued. Cabin owners complain that the new system remains flawed and fees continue to rise.