The Forest Service recently and retroactively imposed a 150% increase in a permittee’s fees for the period 2011-2015. The Forest Service decision was based on the views of outside third party auditors it had hired to audit the agency’s fee assessments during that period. The permit involved shuttle operations and fees were established under the Graduated Rate Fee Structure (GRFS) which sets fees based on the type of operations. Because GRFS does not contain a classification for shuttle operations, the agency had previously categorized the operations as “Outfitting/Guiding.” When the third party auditors reviewed the agency’s prior fees, they believed that the shuttle operations should have been classified as “Rental and Services” by the agency.
In 2016, the auditors completed their review of the prior five years of fee assessments and issued their final audit. The permittee had paid fees totaling $99,231 for the period 2011-2015. After changing the classification of the operations under GRFS, the auditors asserted that the permittee owed an additional $148,305 for that period. The District Ranger decided at that time not to implement their findings. However, in 2018, the Forest Supervisor unilaterally decided to implement those findings just three days before the permit expired. While the agency’s policy is not to retroactively impose fee changes which are the result in a change of policy, it asserted that the change at issue was to correct a prior error. The permittee is appealing the revised fee assessment.