Federal Use Permit Holders

Fees soar for those who own cabins on federal land...

By Dennis Wagner, USA Today, 11/30/2009

The above article by USA Today gives good background on the issues surrounding Federal Use Permit Holders.

Cabins on National Forest Land in Minnesota

Federal Special Use Permits Exempt in Minnesota

After a four year struggle, MSRPO was able to shepherd legislation through the process that removed federal special use permit holders in Minnesota from having to pay property tax on the land covered by these permits.

Those with cabins on leased federal land have begun paying steep fees for these permits, and 25% of this revenue is returned to Minnesota as Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT. The state was double dipping on these families, and many feared they would have to give up places that had been in family ownership for generations.

National Cabin Users Fee Fairness Act, CUFFA

In 2010 the USFS began implementing new Cabin Users Fee Fairness Act, CUFA rules on many Permits in Minnesota. As a result, permit fees jumped sky high, much higher than any property tax bills. Owners of cabins on the National Forests should contact the National Forest Homeowners, NFH, has pushed Congress to adjust the CUFFA standards, and force the USFS to change the way it interprets this law and assesses the value of these special cabins. Interested owners should contact their Congresspersons today.

Cabins on the National Forest are in now way comparable to privately held properties.

Use Restrictions on Permit Holders:

  1. Limited term of the permit authorization. Twenty year term with no certainty on renewal.
  2. Determination can be made for a "better use" and cabin owner will be required to remove the cabin at their expense.
  3. No permanent residency.
  4. Renting of cabin is allowed with advance Forest Service permission, but only on a minimal basis, no commercial use is permitted.

Public Right of Access:

  • The public has free and unrestricted access around and across recreation residence lots.

Forest Service permit language and regional guidelines outline cabin owner limitations.

  1. Limit on size of cabin, varies region to region (900 - 1500 sq. ft.).
  2. Limit on size of deck, porches/patios, varies region to region.
  3. Some regions permit an open loft and some do not, but a full 2nd story is not permissible.
  4. Height restriction on cabin.
  5. No guest cabin or auxiliary sleeping quarters.
  6. One outbuilding for storage allowed, limit on size & varies by region.
  7. Plans for reconstruction or alteration of cabin owner improvements require advanced Forest Service approval.
  8. Exterior colors, including roofs, must have Forest Service approval.
  9. Fences/gates are not permitted.
  10. Satellite dishes are not permitted.
  11. Yard lights by approval only on buildings, no automated safety lights.
  12. No new permanent outdoor fireplaces are permitted. Fire rings of a temporary nature are acceptable.
  13. Only native plantings are permissible. There is minimal lawn area.
  14. Removal of vegetation, including hazard trees only with Forest Service permission and at cabin owner's expense.
  15. Any exterior repairs/alterations must have Forest Service approval, whether other governmental agencies requirements are needed or not, i.e. county building permits.
  16. Cabin owners assume all risk of loss to their improvements resulting from acts of God or from a catastrophic event. The Forest Service will conduct an analysis and determine if rebuilding will be allowed.

In addition to the above, the Forest Service permit process and implementation have a significant impact on how the public perceives value in the permit:

  1. Transfer of ownership: The permit is not transferred at the point of sale. A new owner must apply with the Forest Service after the Bill of Sale is completed for a new permit. A cabin owner during the sale process cannot make binding representation that the Forest Service will reauthorize the use.
  2. As the permit does not convey any leasehold property rights, it is very difficult, if not impossible to get financing (bank/lender) for a cabin purchase. It is very difficult to secure loans on structures only.
  3. Due to the nature of a Federal agency needing to be in compliance with other Federal laws (for example, the Historic Preservation Act), cabin owners face additional limitations on use.


Note: This listing is not all inclusive, as local decisions can and often do impose additional restrictions on use, maintenance and exterior impacts.