The Recreation Fee Demonstration Program (Fee-Demo) was authorized by a rider to the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1996 (PL 104-134). Fee-Demo was to be a 3 year experiment "to demonstrate the feasibility of user-generated cost recovery for the operation and maintenance of recreation areas or sites" on public lands. Extended till Sept. 30, 2001 by a rider to 1997’s Interior Appropriations Bill, (and extended until Dec. 31, 2005 by several other riders) the Fee-Demo Program has met with support from the public lands agencies and Congressional committees.
Bipartisan legislation, HR 786, was introduced in 1999 to terminate the US Forest Service’s participation in Fee-Demo. Many National Forest user groups, notably the Sierra Club, oppose Fee-Demo because they expect it will lead to increased commercialization, privatization and motorization of America’s public lands.
The US Forest Service has requested legislation to make Fee-Demo permanent this year, a step which would remove the present cap of 100 fee test sites on National Forests. The Bush Administration is seeking to further extend the scope of this program with additional legislation.
SUPPORT FOR FEE-DEMO ON NATIONAL FORESTS
Fee Demo has the support of the Clinton Administration, the pertinent Congressional committees, the US Forest Service and major recreation interests, all of whom favor funding National Forest recreation facilities substantially from user fees.
After a decade of gradually diminishing federal appropriations for recreation, the US Forest Service sees Fee-Demo as the only source of funding by which they can keep recreation sites open to the public.
OPPOSITION TO FEE-DEMO ON NATIONAL FORESTS
Fee-Demo is opposed by Congressional Representatives of both parties, who have received numerous constituent complaints about National Forest fees. HR 786, the Forest Tax Relief Act, had eight bipartisan cosponsors as of May 15, 1999.
The State of California passed a resolution (Assembly Joint Resolution 77, filed Sept. 4, 1998) opposing the Program. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors filed a similar Resolution on April 13, 1999, stating that fees keep low-income families away from Forest recreation areas.
The Sierra Club and over 100 conservation groups oppose Fee-Demo as do a growing number of recreation user groups. Within segments of the recreation industry, opposition is now developing. The organization Free Our Forests lists over 250 organizations as opposed to Fee-Demo at www.freeourforests.org/opposition.html.
Scott Silver, Executive Director,
248 NW Wilmington Avenue, Bend OR 97701
Phone (541) 385-5261 E-mail: email@example.com