After about four years of discussion and planning, the Bitterroot National Forest is increasing some of its fees for cabin rentals, campgrounds and group sites. Tod McKay, public affairs officer of the forest, said that the changes are part of a region-wide plan that was approved by the Regional Forester, after being recommended by the Ravalli County Resource Advisory Committee.

First of all, there is no change to the Daily Use fee at Lake Como. It will remain $5 per day (or get the season pass if you're planning a few visits during the year). McKay said the increases are related to what services are available at each site. For instance, the Como RV campground has parking for large vehicles, electricity, water, garbage collection and a camp host. That campground, just below the dam, will increase from $21 to $25 per night. The Three Frogs tent campground on the north side of Lake Como will increase from $8 to $15 per night. Elsewhere on the forest, other cabin rentals will be increasing to be more in line with nearby national forest rental fees. Fees have not been increased in about 20 years.

McKay said, "Again, 95 percent of the fees we collect on the forest stay right here locally and allow us to maintain these sites." He said there was about $780,000 in deferred maintenance needs at the campgrounds and cabin sites. More information on the fees are at the Bitterroot National Forest website. And, even with the rental and campground fees, McKay emphasized that most opportunities and sites, such as trailheads and trails, are free to the public.

The Bitterroot National Forest is adding another historic rental cabin to the public rental program next year. The Lost Horse Guard Station, at the intersection with Lost Horse Road and the road to Twin Lakes, will be renovated this summer. It's been there since 1935, so there's a bit of work to do turn it into a rental site. The building is also on the National Register of Historic Places. For information on when the new fees take effect and to rent such facilities on the Bitterroot National Forest, check the website recreation.gov. By the way, the forest has a great Facebook page, too.

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