The U.S. Forest Service’s campground concessionaire program started 30 years ago as an experiment.

Short-staffed, the agency slowly began turning over the operations, maintenance and management of campgrounds and trailheads across the country to private contractors, who in turn got to keep the fees.

Today it is an industry, according to a report in the Verde Independent, Cottonwood, Ariz.

And as of this week, it is an industry under attack.

On Sept. 11, six individual parties filed suit in a Washington, D.C., federal court, challenging fees charged by concessionaires that are not allowed in Forest Service operated sites, as well as the rationale under which the Forest Service allows them to charge the fees.

Specifically, the suit challenges the fees charged to individuals who are entering campgrounds, day-use areas or trailheads operated by concessionaires, solely to park a vehicle or access public lands.

It also challenges the method by which fees were imposed at some of the concessionaire operated day-use areas, contending the Forest Service never went through a mandatory public involvement process or properly noticed the fees in local newspapers or the Federal Register.

The case targets five specific sites in three western states, but if the plaintiffs prevail it would impact campgrounds and other concessionaire-operated sites across the country. Nationwide, nearly half of all Forest Service campgrounds are operated by private companies.