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MANY FOREST SERVICE WORKERS DON'T LIKE IDEA OF NEW FEES

The first story can be found at:  http://www.columbian.com/09142002/clark_co/316724.html

The second is minutes from FS meeting to not approve free passes for low income forest useres

The third is commentary from Scott Silver, who has worked to oppose fee-demo since 1997.
MANY FOREST SERVICE WORKERS DON'T LIKE IDEA OF NEW FEES

Saturday, September 14, 2002
By ERIK ROBINSON, Columbian staff writer

Fewer than half of Forest Service employees in the Northwest support the
imposition of visitor fees in national forests, according to a survey of
agency employees.

The agency released the results of its survey on Friday.

"If the Forest Service can't muster better than 50-50 support for the
program among their own employees, then that says
support isn't as high as they've tried to lead people to believe," said
Scott Silver, a central Oregon resident who has led public opposition to
the fees since they were first imposed in 1997.

Out of 2,240 surveys returned by Forest Service employees in Washington and Oregon, 41.5 percent reported that they
support the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program. An additional 34.5 percent
reported that they oppose the program, and 24 percent said they were
neutral.

The survey was distributed to employees last spring by researchers at
the University of Florida and Pennsylvania State University.

Jocelyn Biro, regional coordinator for the Fee Demo program, said the
survey showed that many employees need more information about the benefits
of the controversial program. About 80 percent of the fees for trailhead and
parking passes are supposed to be funneled back to projects on the forests
where it was collected.

"We're really asking the forests to do a better job internally in terms
of educating their employees about how they're spending the money on the
forests," she said.

Without the $30 annual Northwest Forest Pass ($5 for a daily pass),
officials say the Forest Service would be unable to maintain many recreation
sites. On the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, for example, the pass last
year generated $900,000 money that went toward resurfacing the rugged South
Climb Road to Mount Adams and improving trails and providing interpreters at
Mount St. Helens.

Critics say much of the money goes toward collecting the fees,
commercializes public lands and discriminates against low-income citizens.

Biro said she was struck by the survey's finding that 61.1 percent
agreed with this statement: "Recreation fees are unfair to people with lower
incomes." Biro said the Forest Service is working with the states of
Washington and Oregon to formulate a way of distributing free forest passes
to low-income residents.

Silver said the survey reflects a concern by many Forest Service
employees that the fees will lead to more partnerships with companies intent
on exploiting public lands for private profit.

After spending the day sifting through responses of Deschutes National
Forest employees, Silver said he suspects the program's base of support lies
in the regional office in Portland not in the national forests where
employees must collect and enforce the fees.

"The regional office is responsible for implementing the program and for
ensuring its success," Silver said.

By the design of the survey itself, Forest Service officials
acknowledged some employees might refuse to enforce the Fee Demo program.
Almost one of five survey participants agreed with this statement in the
survey: "I do not actively implement/enforce the fee program because I do
not support the program."

National forests aren't the only places where visitors are being
confronted with parking fees.

Faced with budget cuts due to a sagging economy, the Washington Parks
and Recreation Commission on Thursday voted to impose a $5 daily parking
pass at 125 state parks. By 2007, that fee could rise to $7.



^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
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

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RELATED INFO QUOTED BY SCOTT SILVER:
[Minutes from:]
Fee Demo Issue Team Meeting

September 28 - 29, 1999

In attendance:

Bob Burger (R8), John Knorr(R4), Ann Melle (LE&I), Gina
Thompson(R5), Lind a Feldman and Greg Super

(Absent: Dave Burich, Fiscal and Brad Marman,
Office of Communication)

Purpose of the meeting was to continue work on
national philosophy for a permanent program, make decisions on
cutting edge issues of national or multi-regional significance.
Following general remarks or decisions for the team is a report of
discussions and decisions of cutting edge issues. Towards a
national program document, our national philosophy, has been
updated and is a work in progress.


Report of discussions and decisions of issues

Exemptions from fees for low-income populations:

Issue:

Region 6 was considering a low-income exemption
in its transformation efforts.

Decision:

The Forest Service will not grant exemptions for people of low-income.


Discussion:

CRIA is in place to establish activities to increase access to
recreation opportunities on National Forests where fees are in
place. We must be sensi tive to all groups in establishing these
activities and actions (i.e. free day s should not fall only on
Christian holidays).

If data from general population surveys show that
we are discriminating against people with low incomes we
may revisit this. Research to date shows few are discouraged
because of cost

Fees are already set on the low end

The National Park Service does not give these exemptions.

Many activities on national forest lands require a high investment
already.

There are choices, people are not compelled to recreate on
national forests

Fees are only a part of the cost of recreating.

OGC did not see this exemption as being legal under current law.


--------------------------------------------------------------
COMMENTARY BY SCOTT SILVER, (copied from his cc list):

In the first above article, Region 6 Fee-Demo
coordinator, Jocelyn Biro, says
the FS is trying to "formulate a way to
distributing free passes to
low-income residents" so that they can, once
again, use their public lands.

..... to which I respond on the record in a
message copied to scores of
reporters and to hundreds of fee-demo activists:

"Jocelyn, the USFS's Office of General
Council
determined way back in 1998 that there was NO
LEGAL
WAY to do what you are suggesting. You may
not create
a new social grouping of second class
citizens, no
matter how much it might convenience you to
do so."

At the end of this message I've provided an
excerpt from a Sept. 28-29, 1998
Region 6 USFS Fee-Demo Meeting attended by the
two top-ranking fee-demo
managers in the Washington DC office of the
Forest Service, amongst others.

Their conclusion on this matter was, and I quote:

"OGC did not see this exemption as being legal
under current law."

Why, so I wonder, has the Forest Service never
stated this publicly?

Why is it that four years after internally
concluding that fee-demo was
unfair to low income persons, is the USFS still
pretending otherwise???

Why must Wild Wilderness always be the one to set
the record straight?

How about a little honesty from the USFS, for a
change???!!!

Scott Silver