There is some controversy as to Downieville shuttle usage and new USFS fees. Joe Chavez of the Tahoe National Forest wrote me this morning and had this to say:
"Certainly the discussion is distorted. The reality is that in 2004 the Forest Service, nation wide, has changed its regulations to close the loophole that commercial businesses used to run shuttles and guiding when they only used Forest Service roads or trails, without having to be under permit. Now these commercial operations, like all other commercial operations using National Forest Lands, are also required to be under permit. We are not curtailing their business, in fact I have asked each shop to give me their past numbers over the last six years to set the capacity of shuttles to Pack Saddle at a level that reflects their highest use year's numbers. They would be required to pay a fee of 3% of their gross ($0.45 added to a shuttle fee of $15, or $1.80 added to a bike rental of $60) for the permit. This is part of the national policy that all commercial users benefiting from use of the National Forest must pay a fee.
There is nothing personal about putting the two shops under permit, it is our national policy. Based on user conflicts and trail impacts, the Forest Service would have the option to restrict their use numbers, but we are not proposing this because we do understand the importance of this economic engine to Downieville. The Forest Service also requires being additionally insured to protect the public's liability. Other areas, like the Forest Service in Moab, implemented the permit requirement back in 2004.
Appreciate any objectivity and reality you can shed on the issue with the community, thanks. Joe"