Chief Moore Announces FS Temporary Housing Refund

Here is a link; letter from Chief Moore

Let me begin by saying thank you.  Thank you for sharing your ideas and stories at our all-employee forums and the many other avenues for sharing. We heard you and are using that information to work with employees and the department to find solutions to the housing affordability crisis. 

Today, alongside Secretary Vilsack and Under Secretary Wilkes, I am pleased to announce a temporary housing refund that we estimate will benefit 4,500-5,500 employees in Forest Service housing through the end of fiscal year 2024. This refund will cover half the rent for the following Forest Service employees in government-owned housing:  

1. GS 1, step 1, through GS 10, step 10 

2. Wage-grade employees 

The refund also will cover 10% of the rent for employees GS level 11, step 1, through GS 13, step 10. 

This temporary housing refund will address the March 10 annual rental rate increase and will be retroactive to that date. Secretary Vilsack, Under Secretary Wilkes and the National Federation of Federal Employees were key to getting this refund and I am including messages of support they asked me to directly deliver to you at the bottom of this email. Employees will receive the refund within 9 to 11 weeks. It will be provided within our existing budget; we will make trade-offs to focus on this high-priority need. 

The amount of rent charged for government civilian quarters is determined according to government policy described in Circular A-45. The bipartisan Wildfire Commission has recommended review and potential updates to these policies. We and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are reviewing these recommendations.

The temporary housing refund is provided under the Secretary’s emergency subsistence authority under Section 5 of the Department of Agriculture Organic Act of 1956, 7 U.S.C. 2228, which was delegated to Under Secretary Wilkes and the Chief of the Forest Service. This emergency subsistence authority authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to provide subsistence, including for quarters, during emergency conditions. 

Since this refund relies upon specific emergency conditions, it is temporary while emergency conditions last. USDA’s Forest Service anticipates leveraging the emergency authority for no more than a year while we concurrently work on government policy changes that address the emergency conditions. Once emergency conditions are addressed, the Forest Service will provide a 60-day advance notice to employees announcing the end of the emergency housing refund. If you live in government-owned housing, there will be future information sessions to help you understand the housing refund and answer any questions you may have. These sessions are tentatively scheduled for the week of July 8. More information will be provided, to include virtual invitation links. Frequently asked questions are available on the National Housing Hub SharePoint site.


I also want to acknowledge that this refund doesn’t benefit all our employees. Housing affordability significantly affects the lives of employees across the agency. We are taking this action with the authority and resources available to us. We need to use all the tools in our toolbox, even if they aren’t as far-reaching as we’d like. We continue to: 

1. Submit housing-specific budget requests for congressional consideration through the annual budget process. 

2. Use all possible funds from the FY 2024 budget to prioritize investments in employee housing. 

3. Finalize the National Housing Strategy, a comprehensive plan that will assist the agency in addressing the affordability, availability and condition of Forest Service housing. 

4. Continue to make progress and administer our existing Quarters Program thanks to employees like our national housing project manager, Procurement and Property Services housing managers, and district-based tenant managers. 

5. Collaborate with NFFE. 

These collective efforts are consistent with our needs and align with the recommendations of the bipartisan Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission. We continue to explore other creative opportunities to assist you with obtaining affordable housing. I want to emphasize our unwavering commitment to ensuring you have access to safe, comfortable and affordable housing near your duty station.  


Your well-being is of utmost importance to us, and we will persist in our efforts to provide you with the support and resources you need to thrive in your role for the Forest Service. Thank you for your hard work and dedication.  

Two Sides to Every Story: What’s the Other Side? Housing for Employees at Seeley Lake

Thanks to Nick Smith, I ran across this from Scott Snelson in the Hungry Horse News. I know there are many Region 1 retirees out there, so would appreciate any info you would be willing to share, either in the comments or by contacting me directly via email.. “sharon at”.
In my experience, there are always reasons for peoples’ actions.

The lack of vision from the U.S. Forest Service Regional Supervisor, as well as her staff, helped sink Pyramid Lumber, with it taking the livelihoods of over 100 Montanans along with rich opportunities to help the climate and reduce fire fuel hazard risk. Solid and innovative solutions to significantly help the housing issues in Seeley Lake and other communities have been presented to Regional Leaders for years without any meaningful action.

A group of U.S. Forest Service District Rangers from the Northern Region began meeting in 2021 to work on solutions to the housing crisis faced by existing and future USFS employees. It was painfully apparent to the rangers that our ability to attract and retain high quality employees and get the public’s work done was unreachable unless we found solutions to the high cost of housing.

At the same time, it was clear to the rangers that unless there was an expanded market for small diameter wood, our ability to treat meaningful acres of overstocked stands to reduce wildfire risk was also unreachable.

The nexus of these challenges also provided incredible opportunity for the communities in the Seeley/Swan Valley and the Flathead. An emerging small diameter cross-laminated timber (SDCLT) industry that utilizes the very type of wood we need to remove from our stands for fire hazard reduction, could have been further catalyzed by the purchase of “temporary” panelized houses. These units could be rapidly deployed on USFS administrative sites to give Forest employees and others an opportunity to transition into tight local housing markets. Should the housing crisis wane, the SDCLT units are designed to be easily dismantled and easily moved to other locations. This type of construction is wood (carbon) intensive and stores the carbon for the life of the panels (designed to last decades longer than traditional frame construction).

The District Ranger at Seeley Lake had identified approximately 20 acres of USFS lands that could have been rapidly developed for USFS and other community housing to meet the housing crisis. These concepts were presented to the Regional Forester and her team years ago and were met with the standard chorus of excuses why the status quo needed to be maintained.

Providing employee housing at administrative sites is far from novel. Until the 1980s, it was common for the USFS.

In my nine years as a USFS line officer in Region 1, I haven’t seen any indication there is meaningful leadership capacity in the USFS Regional Office to face the multiple crises we are encountering; climate, fire hazard, housing, and employee recruitment and retention. The guardians of the status quo have circled the wagons and armed themselves mightily against change and innovation.

Some Stories About Housing and Some Reflections: III. The Concept of Rural Gentrification

I’m sure that US social scientists have examined rural gentrification, but I’m not up on current literature, so please link in the comments to any studies.

I did run across this Chinese paper  (2022) by Lu, Rao and Duan, that had a brief literature review from the worldwide perspective.

British scholar Parsons first observed the phenomenon of rural gentrification in a study about British residents’ classes in rural areas. The rural gentrification mainly refers to the urban middle class migrating to rural settlements, for living and recreational space, thus causing the change in the rural social class structure, and leading to the shortage of rural housing and the relocation of indigenous people [15]. Gentrification is a gradual process mainly initiated and maintained by immigrants. These gentrifiers may be urban middle- and upper-class residents with rich capital, such as retirees and “urban elites” (national economic elites and cultural elites), who pursue rural pastoral life in order to “escape” from the city [16,17]. They may be artists looking for cheap accommodation near the countryside and are described as well-educated low-income people [6,11]. The motivations of these migrants in rural areas are different from those in urban centers, where, for example, the middle class is attracted by employment and undervalued housing, whereas rural migrants are attracted by specific rural amenities, especially those related to the natural environment. Parsons and other British scholars have shown that the “gentry” in rural gentrification is not limited to some specific middle-class people with high economic level and social class, and economic level and class composition are not the only criteria to identify the gentry group in rural areas. Diversified social groups with different purposes are likely to become the subjects of rural gentrification. As long as the cultural capital and economic levels of immigrants are higher than that of local residents, rural gentrification may occur [17].
Rural gentrification is a complex process involving the migration of the urban middle class from cities to rural areas [18]. It has brought about four major changes: the transformation of rural class structure, the post-productive process of rural capital accumulation, changes in rural housing structure and the motivation of rural reform [19]. In the study of rural gentrification in Quebec, Guimond and Myriam also emphasized the complexity of rural gentrification at various levels, including social population, housing and economic impact, community and culture, material, environmental and political aspects [20]. Davidson and Lees point out that any form of contemporary gentrification should include: capital dominating the restructuring of the architectural environment, a large number of high- and middle-income newcomers, local residents’ displacement and landscape change. The restructuring of the architectural environment means that the built environment in rural areas is changed by the capital “reinvestment” of land owners, housing owners, investors, developers, etc., emphasizing ecological aesthetics and environmental governance [21]. The structure change of the rural population is the most outstanding impact of rural gentrification, involving the characteristics of the population moving from the city to the countryside. The aging of post-war baby boomers in the United States shows a strong willingness to move to rural life. It is estimated that 2.7 million baby boomers moved from cities to villages in the first 10 years of the 21st century [16]. Landscape can most intuitively describe the great changes in rural gentrification areas, such as the transformation of rural areas from primary production to consumption LED landscape, the changing housing tastes in rural areas and the rising real estate prices [22,23]. Displacement has always been an important result of gentrification, including population displacement, housing displacement and space displacement in rural areas [24]. In addition, rural gentrification also means injecting new classes and social structures into the destination, not only bringing better social capital and networks to the local community, but also triggering discussions on rural governance issues, such as local land use planning, environmental aesthetics and resource management [16,25].
The cause and influence of gentrification in rural areas can be interpreted from the perspectives of consumption and production [26]. From the perspective of consumption, rural gentrification highlights the existence of a “new cultural class” in rural space consumption. It suggests that the core of the economic form in the process of rural gentrification is an experience economy and an aesthetic consumption. In the process it also emphasizes the experience of rural cultural connotation and the formation of specific cultural taste. [17,27]. The “idyll” in rural Britain and the soothing “Rocky Mountain” lifestyle in rural western America have attracted highly skilled urban labor, entrepreneurs and retirees [16,22,28]. From the perspective of production, it emphasizes the redistribution of capital and profits to interpret rural gentrification, not from the perspective of people. N. Smith put forward the theory of the “rent gap” (the difference between the potential value of land and the actual value of land) to explain gentrification [29]. With the decline of rural traditional agricultural productivity and the weakening of agricultural policy protection, rural landscape, rural space and rural built environment become less attractive to capital, and the potential value cannot be realized as actual monetary value, which objectively requires the emergence of more diversified rural economy and investment models [30]. Globalization is seen as one of the main drivers of rural gentrification because the middle and upper classes, the main components of urban-to-rural mobility, benefit from globalized capital accumulation and appreciation of land or property values. They allocate their assets to highly comfortable rural destinations. For example, the rural gentrification in remote and comfortable areas in the United States reflects the spatial positioning of surplus capital accumulated by high-wage urban occupations in the globalized service industry [31,32]. Clark believes that the two explanations are complementary [33].


I’d also point out that both gentrification and tourism leads to a combined need for low-income workers.  So there is a correlated need for new lower income workers to move in to meet that need. At the same time, housing prices go up.  When you think about it, it’s surprising that communities are doing as well as they are.


Some Stories About Housing and Some Reflections: II. Denver Post Article on Mountain Towns’ Efforts, Including Building it Themselves

I’m posting these so that others can share if housing is or is not a problem in communities nearby to federal land, and if so, what are the communities doing about it?

The Denver Post has an excellent series, including one article on resort town efforts with inclusionary zoning.

Redefining affordable

At the core, inclusionary ordinances represent a realization that the free market, left to its own devices, won’t supply enough affordable housing to lower and even middle-income workers in expensive real estate markets.

“Housing is inextricably tied to economic success and our community can’t exist without a strong housing program,” said Betsy Crum, housing director for Snowmass Village. “People need to be able to live close enough to where they work, or the town will face an existential crisis.”

Click to enlarge

An influx of high-earning remote workers during the pandemic caused housing costs, already high, to surge even more in desirable places to live.

About 75% of remote workers in Colorado’s mountain resort areas in 2021 were making $150,000 or more a year, while only 30% of locals were making that much, according to the Mountain Migration Report from the NWCCOG.

In a fight for housing, locals were the ones who lost out to newcomers. In Snowmass Village, home prices have risen 81.5% in the last four years, in Steamboat Springs, they are up 81.5% and in Basalt, they are up 76.3%, according to Zillow.

Although it isn’t the norm, Aspen has a deed-restricted home valued at $2.5 million, in part so it can attract doctors to work in the city, Anderson said.

Along the Front Range, and across most of the U.S., affordable units target those earning between 30% to 80% of the area median income or AMI, with 60% as a common definition.

That range reflects federal rules for using Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and Denver adopted that definition in its inclusionary ordinance. But in resort areas, 80% up to 200% is more typical in inclusionary ordinances.

“You can be in the workforce earning 150% of the AMI and be nowhere close to being able to afford a home,” lamented Hannah Klausman, director of economic and community development for Glenwood Springs.

That 150% number works out to an income of $104,250 a year for a single person and $148,800 for a family of four in Garfield County. The median price of a home in Glenwood Springs is $862,500, according to the Zillow Home Price Index.

And things only get more expensive the further up the Roaring Fork Valley someone goes. In Carbondale and Basalt, someone making double the area median income will struggle to find a home or apartment, she said.


In 2019, Glenwood Springs tightened the rules on short-term rentals and a year later it loosened rules on accessory dwelling units, which had been in place since 2013. Last year, the city created rules that made it easier for hotels to convert to residential units in exchange for deed restrictions, and this year it is considering rules to make it easier to add density.

But Glenwood also faces a balancing act. If it makes things too difficult, development could flow to areas with lower requirements and costs like New Castle, Silt and Rifle.

A criticism of inclusionary zoning is that it can make private development too costly or push it toward areas without requirements, an issue Denver will likely have to deal with. And like a big champagne powder day, the conditions have to be right.

“Whenever you introduce a subsidized component to a development project, it puts pressure on the upper price point to carry that,” acknowledged Tim Belinski, president of IND Ventures and a developer in Basalt.


But Belinski said inclusionary rules have been part of the equation for so long in the mountains, and the math mostly works, assuming land is available. Resort residents also are acutely aware that the economy needs to have enough workers to function, and housing is a key part of that happening.

Several communities, facing critical shortages, have put on their hard hats and started building housing themselves from dedicated revenue sources, like a portion of sales taxes, fees on deed transfers and short-term rentals. Colorado is also setting aside a share of state income tax revenues for housing.

“Local governments getting involved in building housing has increased since the pandemic. The need is very great, to what some communities were calling crisis proportions,” said Rachel Tuyn, director of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

The city of Aspen recently completed 79 units in the third phase of its Burlingame Ranch project and up next is Lumberyard, which will provide 277 deed-restricted units on an 11.3-acre parcel near the Aspen Airport Business Center.

Avon is looking to annex 100 acres of state land to build 700 deed-restricted units and 60,000 square feet of commercial space. Winter Park Resort, with the support of the Town of Winter Park, is looking to build dorm-style housing with 330 beds. The Yampa Valley Housing Authority has a 10-year plan to build 1,100 housing units for those earning the median income in the Steamboat Springs area.

Some Stories About Housing and Some Reflections: I. High Country News Article on Building on Public Land


A recent High Country News story talks about housing developments on public land.

The U.S. government owns 49% of the land in the 13 Western states, including Hawai‘i and Alaska, according to Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research group based in Montana. (And that’s not counting all the land owned by the states, municipalities and the military.) In the remainder of the country, the feds own just 3.5%.

At the same time, the West is also experiencing a severe housing crisis: Seven of the 10 states with the greatest housing shortages are on this side of the country.

It’s not surprising, then, that the region’s combination of limited housing supply and vast tracts of undeveloped land has prompted the question: Could building on public lands help ease the housing crisis? From Colorado to California, politicians, academics and housing advocates are trying to find the answer. Here’s what you need to know.


Projects on federally owned land: These can occur when a federal agency, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), sells, leases or trades parcels of land for development. Due to the nature of federal holdings, these parcels are more likely to be on the outskirts of communities. In Nevada, for instance, the BLM has been selling land around Las Vegas to local developers since 1998, with profits flowing back into the state; a new bill could open up nearly 16,000 additional acres of land, most of it federally owned, for housing around Reno.

Federal lands in the Western U.S. managed by five agencies, using 2005 National Atlas data.Congressional Research Service

Lawson said we have two choices: Either build more densely on already available land, or open up new areas for development. The latter option, she said, is particularly pertinent in urban areas where land is scarce, and in rural communities that are surrounded by public lands. Teton County, Wyoming, for example, where Jackson is located, is 97% public lands.

In scenic places like Vail, Colorado or Bozeman, Montana, often referred to as  “gateway” communities, Rumore said that increasing the housing supply doesn’t necessarily result in affordability. “If you build more housing and your community is a very popular place to visit, then often that housing gets consumed by short-term rentals” or second homes, she explained. Unless new projects are “very carefully protected for the local workforce,” Rumore fears they won’t make a dent in the housing crisis.

Lawson, the Headwaters economist, agrees, saying that it’s crucial for projects to explicitly tackle affordability. She is optimistic about one in Colorado, where the U.S. Forest Service leased a parcel of land to Summit County to build housing for middle-income earners, such as teachers and firefighters.

On the other hand, Lawson isn’t a fan of efforts that fail to guarantee affordability, such as the HOUSES Act sponsored by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee. Research supporting the bill suggests that just 0.1% of the West’s federal lands could provide space for 2.7 million new homes. But the lack of affordability provisions in Lee’s bill has led some critics to call it the “McMansion Subsidy Act.”

While affordability is paramount, Lawson noted a few other factors to keep in mind.

  • The local economy: In areas like Jackson or Moab, where nearby public lands drive tourism, Lawson warned against developing any land whose loss could negatively impact the local economy— either by removing recreational areas or creating sprawl that detracts from the town’s appeal. As she put it, “It’s very difficult to undo these decisions.”

  • Infrastructure: When deciding whether a piece of land is worth developing, Lawson recommended examining the existing infrastructure. Are there water lines nearby? What about roads? If infrastructure is lacking, she said, residents need to understand that the cost of building it will likely fall on their shoulders.

  • Hazards: Communities should also ask whether building on a particular plot will increase the risk from natural hazards, especially wildfire.

Overall, Lawson believes housing projects on public land make a lot of sense when they’re close to towns and existing infrastructure. “It helps communities build more densely within their existing footprint,” she said. “Where I get concerned is when the parcels being talked about are on the fringes.”






Bill to Use Federal Land for Affordable Housing: HOUSES Act of 2022

This isn’t about employees, but is of interest.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis has co-sponsored legislation that would allow federal land to be used for public housing.

The Helping Open Underutilized Space to Ensure Shelter Act (HOUSES) would open up parcels of federally owned land for states or local governments to buy for the purpose of increasing the availability of housing.

“The purpose of the bill is to make state and local governments able to buy local land for home development,” Lummis told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday afternoon.

The legislation would amend the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and also proposes that state or local entities would be allowed to buy federal public land at a discounted rate “well below market value,” ratioed by a Payment in Lieu of Taxes price.

The HOUSES Act was first introduced in 2022 and was recently reintroduced by Lummis, bill sponsor Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. Lack of affordable housing has become not only an issue in Wyoming in recent years, but also throughout the entire West.

“Housing affordability is a nationwide problem. Rent is high and mortgages are even higher thanks to Bidenomics,” Barrasso said in a statement. “The HOUSES Act will provide new options to state and local governments by allowing them to buy certain lands from the federal government for residential purposes. As more people move to Wyoming, growing communities need options to expand housing.”

What It Does?
Lummis said the legislation could have a particular benefit for a number of Wyoming communities like Jackson, Sheridan and Cody that border federal land, which makes up nearly 50% of Wyoming’s total acreage.

“Affordable housing is becoming less and less capable in Wyoming,” she said.

The Joint Economic Committee of Congress estimates the bill would lead to the construction of 2.7 million more homes in the U.S. and alleviate Wyoming’s entire housing shortage.

Under the bill, development would be limited to federal lands directly adjacent to where existing sewer infrastructure could be developed and would also exclude particularly sensitive tracts of land such as wilderness areas and national monuments. This would leave out most federal land aside from BLM and Bureau of Reclamation property.

I don’t think that’s true.. it sounds like FS would be included.

It would ensure that lands are primarily used for housing with a mandate that at least 85% be dedicated for residential purposes and the community’s related needs. It also includes density requirements, ensuring a minimum of four homes per acre and prohibits the development of luxury second homes on these parcels.

“It allows the carve-out of small parcels and is especially for the purpose of adding affordable housing,” Lummis said.

A local entity would be allowed to use the land for low-income housing, condominiums, single-family homes or even mixed-use developments.

The local government would submit requests for conveyance to the Secretary of the Interior, who would then need to approve the sale along with a state’s governor.

Not Just Houses …
According to the bill text, construction of community amenities like assembly halls, firefighting facilities, grocery stores, health clinics, hospitals, libraries, churches, police stations, recreational facilities and schools would also be allowed.

It would also require the construction of water, sewer, electricity, communications infrastructure and some connection to public transit.

Creating industrial areas would also be allowed if they include “manufacturing, assembling, processing, extracting or otherwise treating raw materials.”

The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act already allows for the exchange of specific, low-value, isolated parcels of public land where it is necessary, seen most prominently on the far edge of Las Vegas.

“Instead of doing these on a case-by-case basis, this will establish an act of Congress to allow it,” Lummis said.

Some conservatives have criticized proposals like these as the government meddling in the private market. Lummis doesn’t buy that argument because the land being discussed isn’t available to the private market anyway.

“The private market is already cut out now because it’s federal land,” she said.

Lummis added that she finds it nearly impossible these days for the private sector to make money off building affordable housing.

The HOUSES Act also has been derided by a handful of environmental groups like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers as anti-public lands.

“The availability and affordability of housing is a real concern that impacts everyday Americans; however, the HOUSES Act does not present a meaningful attempt to solve this issue,” the group said in a Monday press release. “Rather, it would facilitate the removal of multiple-use lands from the public estate.”

I have some questions..probably someone has been following this..

  1. Why Nevada and nowhere else?
  2. To environmental groups, is this more OK if done piece by piece, or not acceptable at all?
  3.  Does the land have to be transferred, or could it be traded or leased?

More on RVs and Potential Housing for Federal Workers: Colorado Sun Story

Kristin McGrath and Collin Vlass have been living in their 2015 Outback Keystone travel trailer for over two years with their dogs, Ola and Clyde. McGrath has had to move frequently to do clinical work for her degree in nurse anesthesia through Westminster University in Salt Lake City. The couple has lived in New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado and will soon move to Las Cruces in New Mexico. Vlass is a firefighter and wildfire paramedic. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)



Kelly’s and Rebecca’s comments on housing reminded me of this article from the Colorado Sun.  Apologies if I have already posted, my list of items to post is long and my memory is not perfect (nor is the search engine on TSW).   I think there’s definitely something there, especially compared to the difficulties and long-term nature of building permanent housing. Or reducing the cost of housing more generally (requires, I don’t know, messing with the economy?) so definitely above our pay grade.

Kristin McGrath and Collin Vlass have gathered plenty of first-hand information about trying to live in an RV while working in Colorado.

McGrath is a nurse anesthetist student and Vlass fights wildland fires.

Last year, McGrath learned she would have to move five times to do clinical work for her degree. She and Vlass have two dogs and own a house in Durango, “and seeing housing prices go crazy, rent gouging and having the dogs, we knew it was going to be astronomically expensive to find housing anywhere for a couple of months,” she said.

So they bought a used RV thinking they’d live in RV parks while they worked. But that plan would turn out to be more difficult than they thought.

In Manitou Springs’ Pikes Peak RV Park, where they currently reside, the two pay $1,300 a month for a concrete parking slab, water, power, sewer and the use of amenities — coin-operated laundry, bathrooms with showers and access to the Manitou Pool & Fitness Center. It’s the most expensive park they’ve lived on their journey, McGrath said, and “it seems as though they’ve seen the demand and are cramming as many RVs in there as possible.”

The crowding issue sometimes creates problems with renters not knowing which hookup pedestal to use, and McGrath said on the couple of instances when other campers unplugged them from electricity and turned off their water, the managers on site told them “it didn’t happen.”

When you mix vacationers with long-term renters, “they rarely have situational awareness,” Vlass added. “It’s bad because Kristin is pregnant and has to get up at 4, 5, 6 a.m. to go to school. I’m sorry, but even if it’s like nine people who came from three different spots in Colorado and chose Manitou for their reunion, even though we’re paying a pretty premium cost, there’s no separation between us and them.”

At least the two have been able to live in RV parks while traveling for work, something not everyone can manage due to aesthetics.

Many Colorado parks have restrictions around who can and cannot stay. A big one: If your RV is 10 or more years old, forget it, because they’re often rejected for being too worn or weathered, out of a concern they’ll ruin a park’s image.


But for the Coloradoans living in wheeled homes out of necessity, very little assistance has been available.

Jonathan Damon, a ski coach who lived in Colorado for a time, characterized long-term RV camping here as “a nightmare” and “impossible,” because “there are too many wealthy people who don’t want to see affordable living near their backyard.”

A situation last year in Grand County highlighted another challenge nonrecreational RV campers face, when a couple renting a site from Sun Outdoors Rocky Mountains resort, in Granby, was forced to leave after miscalculating the price of their site.

After renting at Sun Outdoors for a short time, camper Aaron Keil realized he couldn’t afford the $2,500-per-month rate. With no other place to legally park his RV, he moved onto Bureau of Land Management land outside of Kremmling. He planned to move campsites every two weeks, to stay in compliance with BLM policy, according to reporting in the Sky-Hi News. But he didn’t see the part of the policy that states each move must be 30 miles — as the crow flies — from the last site.

Steven Hall, Colorado communications manager for the BLM, said it’s difficult to get an accurate number of people using BLM lands for “residential use,” but “it’s an ongoing challenge for us with law enforcement and recreation staff in field offices like Kremmling.”

Hall said two of the most popular places for this kind of camping are the outskirts of Grand Junction and Cañon City, and that when BLM finds someone who has violated the two-week restriction, they’ll contact the person, let them know they’re in violation and help them find another campsite “where they would be in compliance.”

If a camper ignores the warnings long enough, agency law enforcement will “take action, including escorting them off the land and seizing what they’ve left behind,” Hall said. Cleanup can be a big job, because sometimes what’s left behind is the RV.

“BLM is trying to preserve the natural environment, which is hard to do if you have someone living there. People get concerned about ongoing hygiene issues and the watershed. But I worry less about people not using BLM land to help solve the housing crisis and more about the unused land that gets snapped up by market-rate developers,” said Curtis, from the safe parking organization. “We can’t build housing without land, and if you’re an affordable housing provider, you’ve got to have a wing and a prayer to get access to usable land that’s decent, near transit and a grocery store — all things we need to have.

And yet, some people (including, but not limited to, federal employees) who need space have cars.. so don’t need to be “near transit and a grocery store.”  So there’s that. It seems like such places could be limited to preferentially feds and then if space is available to other public employees.  It seems like it might be worthy of piloting such an approach at least.