Adams v. USFS

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 02-09-2012
  • Case #: No. 10-16711
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Gettleman for the Court; Chief Judge Kozinski and Circuit Judge Bea
  • Full Text Opinion

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act unambiguously prohibits the Unites States Forest Service from charging recreational park users an amenity fee solely for parking or using the undeveloped areas of a Park.

Recreational visitors of Mount Lemmon High Impact Recreation Area ("HIRA") in Coronado National Forest, brought suit against the United States Forest Service ("USFS") seeking a declaration that USFS could not charge fees for visitors who did not use the Park’s facilities under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Recreation Act ("REA"). Under 16 U.S.C. § 6802(e)(2), the USFS may only charge recreational users a “standard amenity fee” for using certain “facilities and services” which meet specific criteria. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss, finding the REA to be ambiguous and the USFS’ interpretation of the statute to be reasonable. Plaintiffs’ appealed, contending that the statute unambiguously prohibits charging recreational users a fee solely for activities such as parking, picnicking, hiking, or camping in undeveloped areas of the Park. The Ninth Circuit considered whether the district court had committed error by granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss by first considering whether the statute’s text was ambiguous and, if so, whether the agency’s interpretation was reasonable as applied to the circumstances. The Court found that 16 U.S.C. § 6802(d)(1) unambiguously stated that USFS may not charge recreational park users “solely for parking” or for using the Park for various activities which do not meet the minimum standard of amenities, thereby entitling USFS to collect a standard amenity fee. As such, the Court held that the district court’s dismissal on the grounds that the text was ambiguous, and USFS’ interpretation of the uses it could charge for as reasonable, was in error. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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