From: alra@governance.net
Subject: Attention All Cabin Permittees

Land Rights Network
American Land Rights Association
PO Box 400 – Battle Ground, WA 98604
Phone: 360-687-3087 – Fax: 360-687-2973 – E-mail: alra@landrights.org
Web Address: http://www.landrights.org
Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE – Washington, DC 20003
Phone: 202-210-2357 – Fax: 202-543-7126 – E-mail: landrightsnet@aol.com

Attention All Cabin Permittees



CUFFA Comment Deadline - Proposed Rules, Regulations and Guidelines


Download your person comment questionnaire from www.landrights.org

Mail it to American Land Rights, PO Box 400, Battle Ground, WA 98604.

We will hand deliver it to the Forest Service.

Dear Cabinowner and Friend:	

     The deadline is here for your comments on the new implementing regulations for the Cabin User Fee Fairness Act (CUFFA).   The Forest Service must have your comments in their hands by August 11th.  But there is a problem.  Because of the Anthrax scare, mail to the agencies and Congress gets screened very carefully and usually delayed, sometimes for a long time.  You cannot count on your comments getting there in time unless you send them very early.  

That is why we are asking you to fill out this Testimony Questionnaire and mail it to American Land Rights in the enclosed envelope.  We will use Federal Express to Washington, DC and then hand deliver them to the Forest Service in time to meet the deadline.  BUT YOU MUST MAIL THEM TO US BY TUESDAY, AUGUST 5TH.     If you prefer, try to fax them to the Forest Service at (202) 205-1604.  You can comment on the FS CUFFA Website which is http://www2.srs.fs.fed.us/cuffa/cuffa.html.    We AGREE with all statements on the Testimony Questionnaire, but you don’t have to.

     The Cabin User Fee Fairness Act of 2000 (“CUFFA”) will guide all future appraisals upon which your annual permit fees are based. To implement CUFFA, the Forest Service was required to develop and propose rules, regulations and guidelines (“RR&Gs”), which they published on May 13, 2003. 

     Since their publication, a Coalition of cabinowner groups has been studying these RR&Gs.  Leaders from various groups did a hard and great job.  There are serious problems with all three documents.  Your help is needed, and the help of your families and cabin friends, to join us in submitting comments on these proposed regulations.   You need to change them drastically.
Here are four key problems:  (Each has appropriate statements on your Comment Questionnaire.  Remember that we would agree with each statement on the Questionnaire but you don’t have to.)

-----1.  CUFFA defines what is to be appraised as the “lot” on which your cabin sits.  The definition was specifically designed to stop instructing appraisers to appraise the “site” rather than the “lot.”  Focusing on the site resulted in labeling some lots as lakefront, when they were not, which resulted in higher fees. 

     The RR&Gs propose to require the appraiser to include in his or her appraisal all off-lot uses, including docks, water tanks, water lines, roads, paths, trails, and areas of “vegetative manipulation” including landscaping, mowing, shoreline stabilization and, presumably, rock walls mandated by the Forest Service to stop erosion. If the appraisers are not already confused having to appraise an item that is fictional (a lot in its native pre-cabin state), this will make things impossible.  Do you have a great view?  What gets appraised now?

      Such a definition of what is to be appraised could easily result in double fees.  If the Forest Service provided the road, then the lot is to be appraised as if it has a road. If not, then the cost of adding a road can be deducted from a comparable sale with its own road.  If the appraiser adds to the “site” the road itself, the road gets counted again. 				                              
-----2.  Third Party Improvements:  The proposed Forest Service RR&Gs also seek to enlarge CUFFA’s specific language with respect to when the appraiser can consider certain improvements – such as utilities and roads -- as part of the value of the lot.  If the cabin owner provided it, then CUFFA specifies that the appraised value is not to include the improvement. If the Forest Service provided it, the appraised value is allowed to include this.  But if a third party provided it, then CUFFA states that the appraisal is allowed to include this only if the Forest Service can “document” the fact that the cabin owner did not pay for it. The Forest Service must prove this in order to get the value in the appraisal, and the burden is on the Forest Service, not the cabin owner.

     In the RR&Gs, an attempt is made to relax this requirement by allowing an authorized officer to “determine” that the 3rd party paid for the improvement. This is not the same standard as the language in CUFFA that requires the officer to “produce evidence” that the 3rd party paid for the improvement. This is also not the same as “an assumption” that the 3rd party paid. CUFFA puts the burden on the Forest Service, not the permittee. The regulations should not shift it back. This language may look innocuous, but it is crucial to many permittees. 

     In another location, the regulations proposed to determine by definition that an improvement was not paid for by the cabin owner.  It states that “tap fees” and “hook-up fees” are not evidence that a cabin owner paid for the improvement. This is not the same as documentary evidence and our experts say that these fees DO represent the required cabin owner expense in many circumstances.  The rates paid by the cabin owner over the years may, indeed, cover the cost of the installation. Any blanket assertion otherwise is not consistent with CUFFA’s requirement that the Forest Service prove that the 3rd party paid. All such language in the RR&Gs should be eliminated.

-----3.  Inconsistent Definitions:  All definitions should exactly mirror CUFFA.  No other changes or additions should be made. The proposed Guidelines to Appraisers particularly suffer from this defect. There is much repetition, but each time the language is slightly different. This is an invitation to misinterpretation in the future, by both the Forest Service and the appraisers.

-----4.  Retain Real Peer Reviews: CUFFA provides that the cabin owners represented by a typical lot may request a peer review of the existing appraisal or a new appraisal after adoption of the final Rules, Regulations and Guidelines.  The proposed RR&Gs severely limit the effectiveness of the peer review by allowing the peer review to only determine whether the appraisal under review complies with CUFFA.  This effectively guts the usefulness of a review that can determine whether the appraisal is unacceptable for other reasons or could adjust the appraisal without a full blown new appraisal if the peer review finds specific defects that can be fixed within the information provided in the appraisal to result in a more correct appraised value.

There are some other important issues we have also included on the Testimony Questionnaire.

What you should do immediately:

We’re sending Comment Questionnaires to all permittees nationwide and your financial support will allow that to happen.  Time is critical.  

Please send a special contribution quickly to allow ALRA to mail 15,000 questionnaires to all cabin permittees nationwide.  We’ll send them as fast as the money comes in.   There is time if you act quickly.   Your special contribution check for $15, $30, $50, $75, $100, $200 or $500 will allow us to get all cabinowners involved.   Please mail it by Tues. Aug 5th. 

Send your Comment Questionnaire immediately.  You cannot afford ANY delay.

You have a chance to really help save family recreation in the forests.  Please do your share.

Chuck Cushman

PS.  Please mail your comment questionnaire by Tuesday, August 5th.   No money is required to mail your Testimony Questionnaire.  But it sure is needed.  Please send a special contribution for whatever you can afford to help us send the questionnaires to as many cabinowners as possible.   It is vital to build support in Congress and the Forest Service.   Any amount is appreciated.  Send it by August 5th.

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