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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Fall 2004 arrow Nationwide: Development of a Programmatic Agreement for National Forest Recreational Residences

Nationwide: Development of a Programmatic Agreement for National Forest Recreational Residences

Agency: U.S. Forest Service

From 1915 to the mid-1960s, the U.S. Government allowed citizens to build private cabins in National Forests. The program was especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s, when roads were built in the forests and automobile ownership increased. Many of the cabins are located near areas of great scenic beauty and have been passed down through several generations.

Today, more than 15,000 of these “recreational residences” still exist in the National Forest System. Federal, State, tribal, and local preservation groups are working with the U.S. Forest Service to develop an agreement to include tribal consultation and maintenance standards for these historic properties, many of which are—or soon will be—eligible for the National Register.

The U.S. Forest Service maintains an inventory of more than 15,000 recreational residences spread across most of the units of the National Forest System. The residences were authorized in 1915 by an Act of Congress to encourage the recreational use of the National Forests.

Recreational residence, Winema National Forest, Oregon (photo: U.S. Forest Service)



Recreational residence, Winema National Forest, Oregon (photo: U.S. Forest Service)




The program expanded rapidly in the 1920s and 1930s as roads were constructed to and through the National Forests and as automobile ownership became more widespread. The construction of new recreational residences was halted in the 1960s.

The residences are located on platted lots organized into tracts, which were laid out by the Forest Service on land that was judged to be suitable for recreational use and less significant to the primary mission of the National Forest System. Many of these tracts are located near areas of high scenic beauty, and are highly prized by their owners.

Because the residences are on public land, the Forest Service has a management responsibility to the residence owners to ensure that there is reasonable access to the cabins and that their use and exterior appearance are appropriate for the forests.

The agency also has a responsibility to other users of the forest to ensure that the residences are not an intrusive element.

The Forest Service manages the cabins through special-use permits that require the owners to obtain approval before changing the cabins’ exteriors or the lots on which they are located. The agency has always maintained design control over the residences through the general requirement that the cabins be constructed in a rustic manner, using wood as the primary building material.

In 1995, the Forest Service, the ACHP, and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) signed a Programmatic Agreement to facilitate the identification and evaluation of the recreational residences. The agreement was not implemented, however, and a new agreement is needed.

Within the next several years, the Forest Service must reissue permits for all of the recreational residences, and review and approve all exterior changes to the buildings and grounds. This includes roofs, windows, porches, decks, accessory buildings, and water and septic systems.

Preliminary estimates indicate that 20 percent or more of the properties are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and additional properties will become eligible over the next decade.

To manage the recreational residences efficiently, the Forest Service will work with the ACHP, NCSHPO, Indian tribes, the National Forest Homeowner’s Association, and other stakeholders to develop an agreement that incorporates a programmatic approach to surveying and evaluating the residences.

The agreement also will be designed to improve and strengthen the tribal consultation process, establish design guidance and standards, and enable the Forest Service and the SHPO to facilitate homeowner requests for renovation projects.

The Programmatic Agreement for the National Forest recreational residences is expected to be signed in spring 2005.

Staff contact: Stephen DelSordo

Posted December 17, 2004

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