Fee Demo....... What are you really paying for??
As you may have heard the Forest Service has created a pilot project to simplify forest visits in the Columbia Gorge by binding together state and federal "use fees". There is also talk of coordinating various federal agencies to charge a single "fee" for recreationists to access public lands. Beyond the questionable legality of this (neither congress nor state legislatures have given responsibility or oversight for the various agencies to tax you), the money will unlikely be returned to the area you visited.
You can contact their web site @www.naturenw.org
for the latest info. It's best to use the free areas shown on the web site
for your recreation instead of the "Fee" ones. This is one vote you have
against a highly undemocratic program. Please don't buy a Pass!
Charging the public to be on public land goes on while domestic and off shore mining, logging, and grazing interests receive their usual generous government subsidies. Leaving aside the question of how many of them actually pay taxes on their commercial activities ( a la Enron), Fee Demo is a minuscule portion of the Forest Service budget. At 4.3 billion dollars annual F.S. appropriations (350 million for recreation) Fee Demo only brings in 35 million (max). This is an "engineered" shortfall, folks. Those of us who care about our public lands should demand the reinstatement of these funds and to question the budgetary policies that got us here.
This is the opening wedge of much bigger appropriations "shortfalls". The real money will come later with privatization and commercialization.
Its eerie to reflect that commercial logging on
public lands has something in common with Fee Demo. Both started (separated
by a century) as congressional riders. Prior to 1996 charges on
public land were strictly illegal. According to the Land and Conservation
fund Act of 1964 (pl 88-578), "the Forest Service can charge fees only
for the use of 1) boat launching facilities that offer services such as
mechanical or hydraulic boat lifts and 2) campgrounds that offer
amenities such as toilet facilities, drinking water, refuse containers and
tent or trailer spaces".
It is not too late to go back and remove the profit motive from public lands
management, the very breeding ground for the anti environmental American
Recreation Coalition. ARC, coincidentally, is the driving force behind Fee
This is a pivotal time. In the next 6 months Fee Demo permanence will be one of the Presidents top public lands priorities (in a related matter he is studying a 50% private outsourcing for National Park employees) By saying no to Fee Demo we can prevent our entrance on to this dangerous and slippery slope.
We owe it to ourselves and to society to have an outlet from a commercialized and jaded culture. It is incumbent upon us to keep these lands and their creatures out of the hands of unaccountable private entities which seek to separate us from our natural legacy and role as stewards. They are here to charge us for a 'ride'.
This leads me to my next point. Democracy is not what we have, it is what we do, and there has not been enough of it lately. You need pick up your phone and call your Senators and Representative now.
Senator Smith - 503.326.3386,
Senator Wyden - 503.326.7525
Representative Earl Blumenauer - 503.231.2300
Representative David Wu - 503.326.2901
Tell them to end Fee Demo and to properly fund
recreation with the tax dollars we have already paid.
Special thanks when you write the above and/or to
the Editor of the Oregonian (or the Portland Tribune) ! ! !
P.S. In researching this article the author
called and spoke to a Forest Service Fee Demo staffer in Washington state.
They were asked if there were any guarantees that the budget would not be
further cut once Fee Demo was made permanent. Their response? " I have been
with the Forest Service most of my life. I think there is something wrong with
this program. I really encourage people like you to get involved and
contact your congressman.....soon."
The Sierra Club is sponsoring a peaceful rally to end Fee Demo. Please come
with your friends!
June 15, 2002
Terry Shrunk Plaza
S.W. 3rd and Madison
(parking @ 4th and Yamhill)
Speakers include but not limited to;
Scott Silver, Wild Wilderness
Philip Johnson, Oregon Shores Conservation
Plus special guests!
Music by 'Old Friends'
Go to www.wilderness for up to date information,
or Stephen Gerould
email@example.com/ 503.221.7253) to help