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PUBLIC LANDS "NO FEE" LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN U.S. SENATE

A bill introduced by three western Senators on December 10 would
repeal the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) and
restore free public access to millions of acres of federal public
lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and
Bureau of Reclamation.
December 18, 2007
Contact Alasdair Coyne, Keep Sespe Wild, (805) 921-0618

PUBLIC LANDS "NO FEE" LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN U.S. SENATE

A bill introduced by three western Senators on December 10 would
repeal the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) and
restore free public access to millions of acres of federal public
lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and
Bureau of Reclamation. Montana Senators Max Baucus (D) and Jon
Tester (D) joined with Idaho Senator Mike Crapo (R) as original
co-sponsors of S.2438, the Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act of 2007.

The Fee Repeal and Expanded Access (FREA) Act, would halt National
Park Service plans to increase National Park entrance fees
automatically, every three years. The FREA Act would require
Congressional approval of future National Park entrance fee
increases. It would also eliminate existing fees for backcountry
hiking and interpretive programs, though it would allow fees to
continue to be levied at most developed campgrounds and boat launches
in National Parks. The National Parks pass ($50) would be reinstated
and the current America the Beautiful pass ($80) would be removed.

The FREA Act would return the Forest Service, BLM and Bureau of
Reclamation to the provisions of the Land and Water Conservation Fund
Act (LWCFA) of 1965, which governed recreation use fees for 32 years.
Fees would be allowed only in developed campgrounds and swim sites,
and at specialized boat launch facilities. Fees would be specifically
prohibited for drinking water, wayside exhibits, roads, overlook
sites, visitor centers, scenic drives, toilet facilities, or solely
for the use of picnic tables. Fees would also be prohibited for
dispersed, undeveloped camping and recreation.

"Forest fees have for ten years been a burden on the American public
that owns these lands. The Forest Service has failed to run an
accountable fee program and has frequently resorted to levying fees
far beyond the statutory language of the fee legislation. It is time
for Congress to end this failed experiment," says Alasdair Coyne,
Conservation Director of Keep Sespe Wild, a Ventura County based
non-profit.

The FLREA fee law restricts forest fees to developed sites where six
listed amenities are present (permanent toilet and trash can, picnic
table, interpretive sign, designated developed parking and security
services). Most forest fee sites in Los Padres Forest do not have
all these six amenities present.

The 1965 LWCFA rules were repealed in late 1996 by the Recreational
Fee Demonstration Program, that came to be known as Fee Demo.
Originally limited to a 2-year experiment at no more than 100 sites,
Fee Demo was repeatedly expanded and extended, but met increasing
public resistance. Fee Demo's successor, the Federal Lands Recreation
Enhancement Act was attached as a rider to a must-pass omnibus
appropriations bill, which went into effect on December 8, 2004.

Agency studies have established that Park Service visitation has
fallen 5% since 2000, and Forest Service visitation declined 25.7% on
forests surveyed in 2000 and again in 2005.

Fee opponents claim that fee retention is at the heart of the
problem. The fee legislation has allowed local land managers to keep
whatever recreation fee revenue they could raise, instead of
returning it to the Treasury. Congressional oversight was lost, and
appropriated funding was diverted to other uses. "Local managers were
left to raise their own budgets, and their incentive changed from
land stewardship to revenue generation. They began looking at
citizens as customers, instead of as the owners of public lands,"
adds Coyne.

The full text of the FREA Act/S.2438 can be found at:
 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.2438:

sorry but this leg. is DOA 21.Dec.2007 07:56

vargas

Sorry to disappoint, but this admirable legis. is just grandstanding for select groups.

The legislation has NO cosponsers other than the three who intro'd it and NO support in the House.
Also Crapo mainly cares about lowering the National Park entrance fee and is known to trade his FLERA opposition for these fees. This bill was created to give him something to horse trade with, and its a fairly cheap horse at that.

I am just saying, dont pin you hopes on this and especially CRAPo.