Legislation was recently introduced which would allow the Forest Service to lease structures such as ranger stations or storage facilities to private entities. Notably, the agency does not need to make any determination that the structures are no longer needed before leasing them out to third parties, but presumably only these structures would be offered for lease. The legislation as proposed also does not place any limits on the term length of the lease. The authority, if enacted, would allow the agency to lease structures to local towns and counties in situations where a local entity is adjacent to or surrounded by National Forest and in need of access to additional structures.
Before entering into any lease, the Forest Service would have to consult with local government officials and provide public notice of the lease. The agency must also receive fair market value for the property being leased, but that value could be provided in either cash or with the construction of new facilities and improvements which would then be owned by the Forest Service. Payment could also be made through maintenance efforts or other services at the site. In addition, the review otherwise required under the National Environmental Policy Act is limited to an analysis of the most likely use of the facility under the lease.
The proposed legislation, entitled the Forest Service Flexible Partnerships Act of 2017, has now been submitted to the appropriate Senate Committee for review.