The GCA is opposed to the Recreation Fees

What is the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program?

The fee demonstration program was instituted in 1996 for a three year period as a test.  It has been extended for one year periods and it looks like it will be extended again as a rider on the Interior Appropriations Bill (HR4578).  There is also a bill (S2817) to make it permanent.  The program imposed fees to certain recreation users of lands managed by the National Park Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Forest Service.  Up to 80% of the fees collected are to be spent within the area where they were collected.  Sound good, huh?

So why should you care?

There is a difference between entrance fees and these "user" fees.  The fee demo is being unfaily assessed to a small portion of the visitors to an area, and if there is a river in a fee demo area you can be assurred that river runners are being charged.  About a quarter of these fees are assessed to paddlers!  Paddlers hardly make up 25% of the users of our national lands.

Also, the funds from these fees are not really being spent in a fair manner.  Look at the Nantahala.  (First, the flush toilets at the put in were funded prior to the Fee Demo so your dollar did not help build them.)  The new take-out at the bottom was obviously built with no input from paddlers.  There is a bridge over a creek below the NOC that could only be of use to commercial rafters.  And the expansion of the Patton's Run viewing area is more for tourists than paddlers.

One argument for the fees is that they free up funds for backlog projects.  This is not the case.  The USFS budget was cut by $20 Million in 1998, the same amount received in fees.  This is simply moving the cost of our lands from all of the country to selected users.

The Slippery Slope

The Fee Demo is the first step in the attempt to commercialize our national lands.  It is being pushed most by the American Recreation Coalition, a group consisting of Disney, KOA, Exxon, and Yamaha among others.  The logical conclusion to these fees is concessionaires in all of our National Lands.

If you think this is a little far-fetched, just take a look at Stone Mountain in Georgia.  After the State of Georgia instituted fees on its state parks, a concessionaire was brought in to manage the park.  Fees went up, amenities were cut, and now there is talk of building an amusement park. Our national lands have been conserved for all of us by removing the possibility of personal gain.  These fees are diametrically opposed to that goal.  They would turn them from areas to be preserved to profit centers.

Current Status:

The U.S. Senate's Fiscal Year 2001 Interior Appropriations bill (HR 4578) contains language to extend the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program (Fee Demo) by one year (section 334), until September 30, 2002. This extension would apply to all Fee Demo projects including the Forest Service's Adventure Pass Program. Additionally, Senate Bill 2817, the Recreation Fee Authority Act, was recently introduced to make Fee Demo permanent. Furthermore, the Clinton Administration is asking the Senate to make Fee Demo permanent this year.

The Interior Appropriations bill will be sent to the president to sign after going through a conference committee involving both the House and Senate. Please write Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who chairs this committee, by September 6th. Ask him to ensure that the Interior Appropriations conference committee deletes the one year extension of Fee Demo and that the Forest Service recreation budgets get restored to a point where fees are not necessary.

Additionally, the Interior Appropriations bill includes a provision that guarantees concessionaire operators of Forest facilities that the Forest Service will not displace them from their concession (section 331). During the past decade, in the wake of budget cutbacks, many facilities that were run by the Forest Service were concessioned out. This provision would make that privatization permanent. Please ask Senator Stevens to remove this provision as well.

What to write:

Let them know that

Who to Write:

Any citizen may write to this Senator and be heard, regardless of what state that individual is from as the actions of this committee affect all Americans.

Attention: Senator Ted Stevens
Senate Committee on Appropriations
131 Dirksen
Washington, D.C. 20510

It is very important for us to let the conference committee know just how much opposition there is to Fee Demo. To make this happen, individuals should write to Senators and Representatives from their states who are on the conference committee, as well as Sen. Stevens. Since there is not a representative from Georgia on this committe you can write to the Minority Chair:

Attention: Sen. Robert Byrd
Senate Committee on Appropriations
131 Dirksen
Washington, D.C. 20510

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