Don't believe Forest Service public relations managers and media flaks when they try to convince you that fee-demo enjoys board public acceptance and support. That simply is untrue. And what better proof of that claim could anyone furnish than to provide you with the comments of Forest Service employees provided to Wild Wilderness by the US Forest Service itself?
Comments submitted by Forest Service employees of USFS Region 6 as part of "Internal Recreation Fee Survey 2002"
What follows are a selection of substantive comments by employees of the Deschutes National Forest written in March of 2002 and recently made available to Wild Wilderness through the Freedom of Information process.
This is not an exhaustive listing and ignores the dozens of short comments that simply read: "Dump it", "Abolish it", "Make it go away" -- and the like.
This listing also ignores the relatively few comments submitted in support of the Recreation Fee program (Employees of the Deschutes National Forest opposed fee-demo by a margin of two to one) . Positive comments, in general, said things such as "Enforce it", "Stay the course" ,"One pass for all Federal sites", "Better education needed", "Allow for hardship cases" , "Offer additional free days" and "The Public will get used to it."
The numbers which precede the comments are the identifying serial number printed on each completed survey. The quotes are accurate, direct quotes. For a more thorough analysis of responses from Deschutes National Forest employees, click here.
553 "Cancel it. It's an unfair rip-off of our public. You assume that everyone wants our sites to be developed. The program has gone to great lengths to post every possible site with the permit requirements."
515 "Forests are not Disneyland and people should not be charged to recreation on the N.F.. Recreation should not build facilities they cannot afford to maintain within their budget. This program should be abolished and the people that came up with the program fired."
517 "Stop it!! Drop it!! The public should not be charged to use these lands."
522 "I feel it should be dropped & other funding explored. Congress needs to understand the importance of funding rec. sites & facilities."
502 "People see it as a ploy to get money, creating a negative image of the FS…"
582 "It should be scrapped and congress should be pressed to properly fund rec!"
530 "This program will continue to be a train wreck and a black eye to the agency"
569 "Hiking on National Forest should NOT require buying buying passes. It is OK to charge fees in developed campgrounds and snowparks."
549 "Does the cost of the program significantly outweigh the benefits? or do we pay more to collect & manage the fee system than we take in. Secondly, what do we pay taxes for?"
611 "Go back to the tax implemented budgets provided by the federal budget. The declining budgets are a result of tax cuts and budget misappropriations."
601 "Drop it, except why (sic) use and/or resource impacts are very high. Stop doing trail maintenance in wilderness areas, let the users do this or let the trails go away."
695 "I pay enough in taxes. This is public land for the Public. Get rid of it."
551 "It appears that the fee program is being used as justification to further cut budgets - which is not acceptable."
513 "Cost to administer program is too high because the public does not support it. Discontinue the fee program and reduce services until funding allows us to provide that level of service."
681 "Parts of it should be scraped! No trail fees" No boat launching fees! Maintain the campgrounds! Be honest about this program! NO ONE SUPPORTS IT! … except those people who have some investment in it. (Recreation Managers). We are paying a heavy price with the public over this issue. Why?"
675 "Eliminate it and encourage congress to belly up to the bar & fund rec programs appropriately. We already pay fed tax to manage national forests. Shouldn't have to pay "additional tax" to use.
694 "Eliminate it. Give the public back their freedom to visit and recreate in their (our) land. The person(s) who thought this up and implemented it should be severely disciplined…. Dumbest thing we have done in years. Absolutely asinine."
610 "Dump it - fees to use the forest for a recreation endeavor is wrong - Recreation is not the same as timber extraction (material, energy, etc.) - It's easy to justify fee w/ dwindling support from Washington. But it is one way to move closer to privatization of Public Lands - just exactly what the financial conservatives in Washington would like to see."
696 "Why do taxpayers have to pay taxes, campground fees, & now a NW Forest Pass? I'm afraid too much money is being wasted in overhead (SO, RO, WO) & planning & not enough is spent on the ground."
600 "Stop reducing the Rec. Budget by the amount of monies brought in by the fees program. Abolish it & return the forest back to the Public."
568 "Bad Public relations. Put it to rest. RIP"
518 "Originally I supported it. But after learning how much was being spent on collections. Then combining that with public disapproval."
506 "Are we headed toward more commercialization of forest recreation? This remains the public's #1 concern… end subsidies to timber, grazing, & mineral extraction. As long as we subsidize these, we should subsidize recreation. This is the major hot point with the public and no amount of PR will overcome this until the playing field is level… We must honestly account for all the costs (financial, social) & benefit of the program. We spend way too much time, money & goodwill on this program.
525 "Fees eliminate / are unfair to low income families."
865 "It should go away and congress should fund recreation again. Charging fees gives the wrong impression to the public and causes bad feeling towards the government and gov. employees. We need to be giving the impression we are stewards of the forest not owners. It don't think that impression will go away until the fees do."
852 "Get rid of it & the use of concesionaires in campgrounds."
827 "With shortage of money, give the campground management back to rec. employees."
841 "We have given away our true opportunity to be a self supporting business-like recreation provider (through the concessioning of campgrounds) - Regain control of those Pubic facilities (campgrounds), include them in "the program" and realize our mission.
406 "It's embarrassing that over half the money collected (I think?) is used for enforcement, when enforcers can't give out tickets. Most locals know this and opt to get a warning."
407 "Abolish and then get congress to actually support the programs that most visitors to the N.F. use. This program is the easy way out for congress. It puts all of the burden on the F.S.
362 "Fees, info kiosks, etc. have no business in any proximity to wilderness or other wild/remote areas. Drastically takes away from feeling/experience of freedom to just "take off up the trail."
588 "You charge too much for an annual fee! Too greedy - even the State with much better facilities don't charge that high a fee! Be realistic. I refuse to camp on Forest cmpgrds & hiking now. I use the State."
415 "Do a way with the program & give all of recreation back to the forest service & not contractors."
412 "I don't like paying extra fees for contractors doing the same job forest service employees are being paid for. The fee program has kept me from rec. as much as I'd like or as much as I used to do."
786 "There is no amount of justification that will help. I tell them to call their congressman if they do not like it. I would if I was not an employee… It should be done away with. If you read our local paper it runs approx. 90% of the people are against this program. I thought our mission was to serve our public, is some may be we should listen to them. Next thing we will have a fee to use the toilet which is where this program should go."
369 "The program will continue to be immensely unpopular and cause civil disobedience (refusing to pay the fees) because it seems to strike at a core value that people have - that their public lands are in fact their lands and "I'm damned if I am going to pay a fee to simply walk on my land". Even though the program does generate $ that do good work, it is not worth the price. We are treading on what people perceive as their constitutional right? Give it up and let us work in peace!
Scott Silver, Executive Director,
248 NW Wilmington Avenue, Bend OR 97701
Phone (541) 385-5261 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org