While ecotourism has been touted as a way to save everything from tigers to sea turtles, it might also prove an economic boon to the financially beleaguered U.S. Forest Service.
Heritage Expeditions is part of the user-fee demonstration program that allows federal land management agencies to charge fees for recreation on public lands.
A recent tour offered in an old-growth forest in Oregon featured ancient Native American rock art and was led by a Forest Service archaeologist. The tourists paid $1,400 each for the experience, which included, education, recreation, volunteer work restoring vandalized sites, as well as tasty meals, fine wines, crackling fires, and soft beds at a nearby inn. The profits from the tour will all stay in Oregon’s Umpqua National Forest where they will be used to protect archaeological sites.
Some people object to the Forest Service getting into a for-profit venture, while others think it is exactly what needs to be done. They point out that it is an excellent use of the agency’s expertise and resources, and still does not exclude others from hiking and touring in the same areas.
Plans are in the works for other tours focusing on the preservation of historic buildings and the legacy of Chinese miners. Anyone interested in a Heritage Expedition in a western state should contact Jim Keyser at the Forest Service in Portland (503-808-2644).