NEWS RELEASE - February 11, 2004, 12:52 PST
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Courtesy of: Wild Wilderness
248 NW Wilmington Ave.,
Bend, OR 97701
Scott Silver, Wild Wilderness 541-385-5261
Robert Funkhouser, WSNFC, 802-867-2298
Alasdair Coyne, Keep the Sespe Wild, 805-921-0618
GRASSROOTS EFFORT MOVES PARKS FEE LEGISLATION
In what is being called a 'remarkable victory,'
opponents of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program are today
celebrating what they see as the beginning of the end of recreation
fees on the National Forests and other public lands.
Fee-opponents in recent days had flooded Senate
offices with faxes and phone calls, expressing their general support
for National Park fees and their adamant opposition to fees for
recreation on lands managed by the US Forest Service and Bureau of
Fee-opponents said they recognized the fundamental differences
between the National Parks and other public
lands. They said that while entrance fees were acceptable
for the parks, such fees were anathema when charged for a walk in the
woods or forms of undeveloped recreation.
On Wednesday morning, the Senate Energy & Resources Committee
advanced legislation from Senator Craig Thomas (The Recreation Fee
Authority Act, S1107) to permanently authorize the collection of
entrance fees for National Parks and allow those fees to be retained
and spent where they are collected. Entrance fees have long been
charged at National Parks, but without the authority of the
fee-demonstration program, those fees could not be used where they
had been collected. The passage of S1107 will allow recreation fees
charged since 1996 by the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land
Management and US Fish and Wildlife Service to lapse when the current
Fee-Demo authorization ends on December 31, 2005.
Opponents of recreation user fees came together to prevent Thomas'
legislation from being amended and to ensure that it would be moved
out of committee as a 'parks only' bill. Secretary of Interior Gale
Norton had lobbied Senators hard in her effort to included permanent
fee authority for 5 federal agencies within the Thomas Bill.
"For a totally grassroots effort to prevail over the Secretary of
Interior is an accomplishment of incredible proportion" said Scott
Silver, Executive Director of Wild Wilderness and a long time
opponent of the fee-demonstration program. "We went toe-to-toe with
some powerful players and this time the people won", adds Silver.
Another long time opponent of these fees, Alasdair Coyne, of Keep the
Sespe Wild said: "The tide has turned and with a growing groundswell
for ending this ill-conceived recreation fee program it is becoming
ever more clear that we will soon see the end of fees to take a hike
in the woods."
"Senator Thomas and Senator Craig (R-ID), Chair of the public lands
subcommittee as well as all Senators on Committee did an excellent
job protecting their constituents' ownership of these public lands,"
said Robert Funkhouser of Western Slope NoFee Coalition.
The Fee Demo program in the Forest Service, BLM and USFWS has been
recognized as a failure in terms of public acceptance and financial
viability. Recent administrative changes to enforcement procedures,
particularly for the BLM, have fueled the growing
Fee Revolt taking place across the nation.
For more information, contact:
248 NW Wilmington Ave.
Bend, OR 97701
Renee Van Camp, Wolf Recovery Program Director
Membership Director/Office Manager