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Fees to use public lands could become permanent

Thursday, July 26, 2001

By Environmental News Network

Democratic Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii are hoping the bill they introduced last month, the National Parks Stewardship Act (S.1011), soon becomes law. They say it will be good for America's public lands. But many U.S. citizens feel they will be taxed twice if the bill now before a Senate committee becomes law.

Under the bill, anyone wanting to enter public lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service or the National Park Service would have to pay a recreation fee of at least several dollars per person per visit or pay an annual fee. The fee has been tried on a temporary basis since 1996. It would be permanent beginning in October of 2002 if the bill passes.

Sen. Graham believes the fee is needed because the nation's parks are "struggling to keep up with more visitors and aging infrastructures, and permanent fees are part of the solution."

But Scott Silver of Wild Wilderness, a critic of the fee-demo program, says the fee excludes poor families who want to spent quality time with nature. It encourages partnerships with private industry to provide development dollars in lieu of federal funds, he said.

Floyd Thompson, program manager for the Forest Service Office of Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness Resources, admits, "Marketing plans and business plans are now becoming part of the Forest Service lingo." The Graham bill encourages the hiring of "professionals with expertise in areas such as business management" to work as National Park Service managers in a new "Professionals for Parks Program."

"Most of the businesses that provide public services on Forest Service land are small businesses," said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. "This agreement creates the framework that will give the Forest Service a better understanding of how to help these businesses succeed and how to best communicate with owners."

But critics say small business is not the intended beneficiary. The American Recreation Coalition, an industry group that includes corporations involved in the recreation industry such as Disney, REI, and the Coleman Company, has been working to privatize public lands, according to Silver.

"By introducing the transparently bad Graham Bill, the proponents of fee demo have become overly cocky," said Silver. "In making what must be recognized as a mad dash for the end zone, they have unmasked fee-demo and exposed it as the shell game it really is."

The Florida Senator pitched fee demo to President George W. Bush during the President's June visit to Everglades National Park. "The president suggests addressing these problems by simply shifting funds from one part of the National Park Service's budget to another," said Graham, who believes that approach is not sufficient.

Under the Graham bill, between 60 and 80 percent of the money collected at a site would be spent to maintain the park or forest land at that location. The remaining funds could go to other projects overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

The original fee-demo proposal earmarked at least 80 percent of fees collected at a national park or forest to be spent at that location.

The Graham bill also allows the U.S. Forest Service to replace budgeted funds with income derived from fees. Graham says it "stresses the importance of ensuring that all activities in parks are compatible with the parks' mission to preserve and protect our natural heritage."

The bill creates a process to ensure that federal lands adjacent to parks "are used in a manner consistent with the parks' mission."

Fee demo was created in a 1996 rider to an appropriations bill. It directed land-managing agencies to begin charging fees above and beyond campground or dock maintenance fees on national lands. Fee demo was renewed in 1999.

A fee-demo bill passed the House of Representatives in June. The Graham bill is currently making its way through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


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Just got this email, looks like very good news for everyone.


Fee-Demo articles have begun popping up like wildflowers after a downpour

and the news is all good. I've pasted short snips from three articles below

and encourage people to read the entire articles online.

My thanks to everyone involved in making this news happen and a very special

thanks to those fee-demo protesters in Arizona who appeared in court

yesterday and who, through their efforts, confirmed that the USFS MAY NOT


Activists have been saying exactly this for years

(www.wildwilderness.org/docs/tips.htm), but the truth never seemed to

prevent the USFS from issung these inappropriate tickets.

Perhaps the USFS will pay attention to US Magistrate Judge Stephen Verkamp

and will finally stop issuing tickets they have NO authority to issue. All

forest visitors must be presumed INNOCENT of fee-demo offenses unless the

USFS can provide evidence to the contrary. That is a constitutional right

.... and it's something the Forest Service has somehow forgotten.


PS... Senator Graham's Fee-Demo Bill S1011, would change the law such that

forest visitors could be PRESUMED GUILTY UNTIL PROVED INNOCENT. S1011, if

passed, would force Judge Verkamp to find future recipients of these same

fee-demo tickets GUILTY as charged. If Senator Graham's bill passes, I hope

its constitutionality will be immediately challenged!!


---- begin quoted ----


In the great outdoors, resistance to rising fees

Opposition builds as more federal lands ask visitors to pay.

By Hal Clifford | Special to The Christian Science Monitor

OURAY, COLO. - Retiree John Montle has never protested anything in his life.

Now the avid outdoorsman is waiting to appear in court for defying the

federal government.

Mr. Montle is part of a growing revolt over a controversial pay-to-play

program being tested on federal lands nationwide.

For years, the federal government has charged entrance fees to national

parks - and even raised them recently - with relatively little complaint

from the public.

Now, however, several other federal agencies - including the US Forest

Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Fish and Wildlife

Service - are levying user fees at a growing number of outdoor haunts that

used to be free.




Red Rock pass system in trouble


Sun Staff Reporter


A federal magistrate in Flagstaff has dealt what appears to be a major

setback to the ability of the Coconino National Forest to enforce its Red

Rock Recreation Pass demonstration program.

Before a packed U.S. District Court in Flagstaff Monday, three of four

people who refused to pay fees associated with the program were not required

to pay fines because they were not seen by rangers near vehicles that were


That means Forest Service rangers will have to spend more time trying to

find the owners of vehicles illegally parked in the National Forest, said

one Forest Service official.

Previously, rangers had been ticketing vehicles parked at trailheads that

did not display the Red Rock passes regardless of whether they made contact

with the owners.




Courtroom erupts in applause for verdict


Sun Staff Reporter


The four people who decided to take their cases to court on the

recommendation of the AZ NoFee Coalition were Margaret Jackson, Ken R.

Brinkel and David L. Kuhn of Sedona; and Evaline C. Derosa, of Truckee,


According to citations issued to the four, only Kuhn was contacted by a

Forest Service Ranger. The other three were not in the vicinity when their

vehicles were cited.

Two immediately had their cases dismissed by the U.S. Attorney's Office. The

cases of Jackson and Brinkel were dismissed by Assistant U.S. Attorney

Joseph Lodge just before the four trials were to begin because he said the

cases were unlikely to result in convictions based upon U.S Attorney's

Office guidelines



Scott Silver

Wild Wilderness

248 NW Wilmington Ave.

Bend, OR 97701

phone: 541-385-5261

e-mail: ssilver@wildwilderness.org

Internet: http://www.wildwilderness.org


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