Fee Demonstration Protest Letters

Below are letters received by Wild Wilderness from real people who are deeply troubled by the recreation fee demonstration program and the associated commercialization of America's public lands. Many of these letters were sent to Senators, Congressmen, federal agencies and/or local newspapers.

It's important that such views be widely heard. Please consider sharing your thoughts on this important subject with your friends, your community, your elected representatives and with us.

Thank You

 


 

One man's honest opinion

I am thankful that I got to enjoy wilderness in the 80's when you just drove 
to your favorite trailhead, signed the trailhead register, and started 
hiking with no bureaucratic interference of any kind.  Those were the good 
old days.  I still go to wilderness areas, but the permits and parking fees, 
mountain fees, reservations required in some areas, and all the other 
bureaucratic wastes of my time and taxpayer dollars piss me off and they 
degrade the overall experience.  I have seen no improvement of any kind to 
my wilderness experience due to the fees and permit requirements.  But I'm 
sure a lot of bureaucrats are happy to collect a fat paycheck for collecting 
the fees and issuing tickets because someone took a hike on land they 
already owned without a permit.

Thankfully, I'm now 46 years old and in at most 30 or 40 years will no 
longer give a shirt.  Also, thankfully I do not have children who will have 
to live in this sad country of bureaucratic morons.

The fees are having a negative impact on conservation groups.  They have 
seen membership go down as people were forced to spend their money on fees 
forced upon them by the federal government at the point of a gun. Many 
people had to drop memeberships in groups such as the Mountaineers (me 
included) because the fees simply got too high.  Serves the Mountaineers 
right, since they came out in support of the fees, but many groups are 
pro-wilderness and the future of wilderness is at greater risk because of 
reduced membership and revenue.  I am now a member of the Mazamas and will 
continue to support them as long as they are against the bureaucratic, 
senseless fees.

I had my forest pass but it wasn't good enough on Mt. Adams where they want 
$30/year for a Cascade Volcano Pass as if Mt. Adams isn't part of the 
National Forest System.  The person that dreamed up that pass ought to be 
taken out to the woodshed to be given a good old-fashioned ass-whipping.

Then I went down to Mt. Shasta and my forest pass wasn't any good down there 
either.  They wanted all kinds of parking fees and hiking fees to hike up a 
mountain I already own and pay taxes to support!

I'm sure the fees and permits will explode completely out of control.  Now 
that they've gotten their foot in the door there is nothing to stop the 
bureaucrats from ruining the wilderness experience completely.  Remember, 
many of them hate wilderness and environmentalists/hikers in general because 
the FS is buds with the loggers first and foremost.

Keep up the good fight against ignorance and bullcrap.

R.W.	

 

 

And Now the Best Reason of All

Dear Commissioners;

I appreciate that our  County is considering this resolution against an
expanded fee system in our forests. 

I can cite numerous good reasons to pass this this county resolution
against these fees and fee demo. 

Best of the good reasons? Fee demo has NEVER been properly voted on.
Both times it made it through federal legislative procedure using
anti-democratic midnight riders attached to omnibus bills. This was
done because the corporate forces (ARC) behind these fees knew they
could never stand up on their own merits.

It was originally called fee-demo back in 1996 to demo-nstrat that
people would go for it, which they have NOT done, in droves!   

The single best reason our county has to reject fee demo and this
recreation access tax (RAT) is that fee demo dumps an inordinate amount
of the hidden costs  of maintaining the Land, which Colorado donated to
the federal system, right back on the very descendants of the people who
gave the gift in the first place! 

We volunteer to maintain and build the trails, our people volunteer to
go find lost hikers and hunters, and  recover injured ones too. We
volunteer to oversee the health of the forests in unpaid committees that
check on the federal government. On and on. Now if this fee demo is
allowed to stand, I believe we are doomed to eventually paying  every
time we want to go camp or go for a walk. 

This is like sending France a yearly maintenance bill for the Statue of
Liberty, or any time a Frenchman wants to go see the Statue of Liberty.
"Thanks France we really like the statue, but you owe us for it's
upkeep."

The counter-claim that fee demo is a small fee, very limited and won't
stop Americans from free access to the federal lands is akin to the
claim that the Iraq war will be over quickly, it's costs will be
nominal, we were defending ourself from WMD's, the drug prescription
plan will only be 400 billion,... you get the idea!  

Here is an example of where this fee program is headed. When the
National Parks started charging fees for private Grand Canyon river
trips back in the early 80's it was $25. I just paid almost $1,900 for a
Grand Canyon river permit last year! This is a 76 fold increase! 

I suggest if the Federal government is unwilling to properly fund our
gift to them through general revenues, simply give the land back to us
Coloradoans, and we'll take care of them ourselves! I suggest our first
'fee' will be to any non-Coloradoans, (especially those from Ohio,) to
come see our "purple mountain's majesty, above the fruited plains."  
( These well known words were written from the summit of Pikes Peak.)

...AND NOW THE BEST REASON of ALL 

The altruism of our ancestors that recognised the great gift to the
future of wild and untamed nature, free for all Americans to enjoy their
shared history, and the beauty of our mountains, is being gagged and
tied to the auction block of commerce. The stewardship of these lands,
which was given to us, and we owe to the future, we now abdicate for
thirty pieces of silver.

People can still see and enjoy the land,.. only as long as they can pay?

Fee demo and the RAT in all it's perverse forms is akin to standing on
the shoulders of giants,... wearing very tight blindfolds. I have a
suggestion in the same vein as the RAT,... this Spring lets toast up the
seed corn for pop corn, and all go to the movies!

I know our county has already passed one resolution against fee demo,
and I'm grateful they did so.

I hope you will continue to reject the shortsighted manipulations of
commerce, forced on us by the federal government, and clearly understand
the stewardship responsibility we all owe to the future. 

J.F.
		

 

 

Double Taxation and Fairness

		
Public lands were established so that all Americans could enjoy them.
Part of our income tax (proportional to income) was meant for their
maintenance budget. Now there are fees that are not proportional to
income.

A low-income family of four would have to pay $20 each to take a hike,
have a picnic, or even park. (Unless they paid $85 to $100 each for an
annual pass.) Such recreation is clearly prohibitively expensive for
them. Should middle- and low-income taxpayers make up for the immense
tax breaks for the rich that have contributed to a $400 billion
federal deficit?

Deadbeats who don't pay up. Not only do they risk being cited for
non-compliance, they will be charged with a misdemeanor carrying a
fine of $5,000 and six months in jail. By comparison, damaging a
fragile wetland with an all-terrain vehicle results in a $75 fine.

"Let us hope that is not the case." If most of the fees collected are
to be used at the discretion of public land managers, what possible
accountability will there be?

Whether or not income from fees is spent on pick-up trucks, consider
this: A General Accounting Office study recently found that the USFS
spent about as much on administrative costs and enforcement as the
amount of recreation fees collected.

Sen. Larry Craig has long been an opponent of fees for public lands.
He was one of the four western senators who fought hard to exclude the
provision from the Omnibus Appropriations bill. That provision (HR
3283) was inserted as a rider by Ohio Rep. Ralph Regula, who has no
public lands in his district. This far-reaching bill passed without a
single public hearing, any congressional debate, or even a vote. Talk
about fairness!

L.J.	

 

 

Forest fees now permanent

		
Remember the Northwest Forest Pass, a $5 fee to stroll in our national
forests? Fees for remote trails were dropped in response to public
outrage. High-use areas still charge fees. Now the bad news. Forest
fees just became permanent for all Forest Service and BLM lands
nationwide. HR 3283, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, was
attached as a rider to the giant, $388 billion omnibus appropriations
bill by Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio (who has no public lands in his
district). HR 3283 never received House approval, was never even
introduced, given a hearing or voted upon in the Senate.

This law represents a staggering loss of public access. Hundreds of
millions of acres administered nationwide by the Forest Service and
BLM are now potential fee zones. Failure to pay is punishable by up to
$5,000 and/or six months in jail. Drivers, owners and occupants of
vehicles not displaying a pass will be presumed guilty of failure to
pay and can all be charged, without obligation by the government to
prove their guilt.

Some national forests already require fees to place foot or tire
anywhere inside their boundaries. Will local forests soon follow suit?
Learn more at www.wildwilderness.org.

S.M.		

 

 

Congress takes pass at double taxation

An Editorial by the Pasadena Star News
 Published on December 04, 2004

COME on, fellas. The public is not that stupid.

We're speaking about Congress voting to make the forest Adventure Pass
a permanent program (ouch!) while at the same time saying the Forest
Service will let up on those who drive in and park on the side of the
road. However, everyone else i.e. the vast majority will still be
required to buy the pass or face fines.

If this was an attempt to mollify their citizenry, the Forest Service
can go fish. The public can see through this hypocrisy. The Congress
is simply polishing turds. We all know it, citizens know it and county
supervisors know it.

The Adventure Pass program stinks. It is double taxation, an excuse by
Congress and the Department of Agriculture for not fully funding the
forests with existing tax dollars. It is a way to keep poor people out
of the forest. It is part of the commercialization of our public
lands. It gives pay-to-play new meaning.

No matter how much Congress or the Forest Service tries to pretty it
up, the Adventure Pass will always be an ugly stain on our forest.

		

 

 

Recreational Access Tax - the RAT has passed

		
Recreational Access Tax - You've just been forced to buy it.

Public lands should be exactly that..public. Meaning accessible to
all, not accessible to who has $85 or more. Forcing the public to pay
this fee to walk in their public forests goes against what our lands
were set aside for.protection and for the enjoyment of the public.

As with many issues these days, it seems that in order to win, one
markets and sells the issue like a deodorant commercial convinces you
you'll become beautiful with the use of their product. And if this
doesn't work, you buy a few politicians, sprinkle it with some behind
the scenes back scratching and throw in some blackmail for good
measure, and your born the Recreation Access Tax, (appropriate
acronym, R.A.T).  As is all too often, the unknowing victim, ends up
the American public.

The unpopular R.A.T. program was attached as a rider to the giant
omnibus appropriations bill by Ralph Regula (R-OH), after the bill
went through the House and Senate. It was signed off on Monday. Regula
interestingly enough, has no public lands in his district. Slipping
the Recreation Access Tax into a must-pass bill is abhorrent and goes
against the democratic process. This is the wrong way to create law.

If you're against the program, no worries, the fine is only $5,000 and
up to 6 months in jail for not buying your pass to take a walk.

I used to believe that our democracy had enough checks and balances to
prevent abuses of power.  Now I now that it only takes a group called
the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) to buy themselves Ralph
Regula.

L.M.		

 

 

Saying NO to the Recreation Access Tax

		
Dear Congressman:
  
In recent months, I became aware of HR 3283, the Federal Recreational
Lands Enhancement Act, sponsored by Representative Ralph Regula of
Ohio and recently amended by Representative Richard Pombo of
California. In recent weeks, I have followed HR 3283, very closely in
sincere hopes that it would fail to be added as a rider to the Omnibus
Appropriations Bill for 2005.  To my utmost disappointment Mr. Regula
managed to attach it as a rider during closed door negotiations.
 
I have read the Bill through many times.  The more I read, the more I
question why a Bill of this nature has any business becoming law and
imposing threats of serious criminal offense on Every Citizen of Our
Great Country.  The very idea of imposing a Class B Misdemeanor which
carries a $5,000 fine, up to six months in prison, and possible
probation is a slap in the face of Our Democracy.  To add further
insult to injury, a Class A Misdemeanor with a $100,000 fine, up to a
year in prison, and up to five years of probation was included.  Plus,
according to the United States Code, a group or organization would
face double the fines for not purchasing the proper pass or permits.
Why overload our Federal Court system with noncompliance violations?
Penalties as listed above, make not having a permit or pass a greater
crime than which people who operate a vehicle under the influence or
users of illegal drugs have to face.  Plus the Class B and Class A
Misdemeanor would make it very difficult for some people to be hired
for certain jobs, thereby forever damaging their employability record.
 
My interpretation of the collection and spending of the fees reveals
very little accountability for the possible Trillions of Dollars that
stands to be collected from, primarily, those citizens living closest
to Federal Recreational Lands.  I say Trillions because estimates I've
heard is that the Pass this bill proposes may cost somewhere between
$85 and $100.  If only the 44 million sport fishermen in the United
States were charged that much for a Pass it would mean between $2.94
trillion and $4.4 trillion dollars would be going into Special
Accounts for the Lands Agencies and out of our economy.  What about
the Hunters, Hikers, River Runners, Kayakers, Picnickers, or simply
people who want to get out of the city for a few hours?
 
HR 3283, nor any of its predecessor Fee Demo Bills and extensions,
ever received a full vote in either chamber of our Congress.  This
Bill will be Law that the Citizens of Our Country must Abide by Unless
it is pulled from the 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill NOW.
 
The Fee Demonstration Project that spawned the Permanent Fee Bill is a
miserable failure, I see evidence of it everyday in the National
Forest in my "backyard."  Throwing more money at a failed program is
not going to fix it.
 
We are a Nation of Innovative People and Given Creative Incentives the
problems existing within the maintenance of our Jointly Treasured
Federal Recreational Lands will be managed without having to disguise
a tax as a user fee.  HR 3283 is not and never will be an effective
Democratic Recreational Lands Policy.  It actually bears the
appearance of placing a great segment of Our Nation's population on
involuntary house arrest and herds the other segments of Our Society
in to over-managed controlled  areas almost like concentration camps.

For the benefit of every citizen in the United States of America, I
call upon you to Honor the Ideals set forth by our Forefathers to
maintain open lands for the enjoyment of us all  in continually
supporting Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Restore
funding to our Federal Lands Agencies, Stop HR 3283 now.

V.H.
		

 

 

First a fee, now punishment


Congress tacked a particularly noxious rider onto the recent
appropriations bill, extending by 10 years the unpopular forest fees
we must pay to visit our public land.

The rider makes the punishment for walking on our public lands without
paying a fee up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

These draconian penalties are over the top and must be removed by our
representatives before the bill is voted on in final form next week.

Something is deeply wrong with a system that punishes a citizen for
walking on public land with six months in jail. Public land
maintenance money must come from Congressional appropriations -- not
from coercing hikers and locking out low-income people from the
forest.

K.R.

 

 

Support S.1107 - Oppose H.R.3283

		
Dear Congressman Walden:

I wish to express my concern over the public land user fee proposals
currently under consideration.  I urge you to support legislation
similar to Senator Thomas's S 1107 as it is currently written and to
oppose Congressman Regula's highly objectionable bill HR 3283.

I moved to Oregon to enjoy the outdoors and the hiking, camping, and
climbing that this beautiful state offers.  To me, being able to get
away from the world of cars, buildings, roads and signs of human
activity to go to this precious national commons, to walk in the
outdoors, climb a mountain, sit by a pond is a spiritual experience, a
return to my roots, a revival of the relationship between myself and
nature.  But these values?and my activities?have been severely crimped
by the grim imposition of hiking and climbing fees.  Although it is
not impossible for me to pay them on a teacher's salary, these fees
are so morally repellent that I find myself avoiding going to areas I
once loved.

What is the injustice?  First, it is unjust that a family which cannot
afford its own vacation hideaway should now have to pay simply to
spend time in the woods.  I remember my pre-teaching years living at
poverty-level wages.  Every free day saw me climbing in the Cascades
or the Olympics.  Had trail fees been in force in those days, I would
have been priced out of my only activity.

I understand that there are provisions for contributions of in-kind
volunteer work instead of fee payment.   But when I called the office
of the Wallowa Whitman National Forest to arrange my in in-kind
volunteer hours (I was willing to do anything but collect fees from
others), I was told I had to pay the cash instead.

Second, Public Law 104-134, which created Fee Demo, directs the Forest
Service and BLM to: "encourage private investment and partnerships to
enhance the delivery of quality customer services and resource
enhancement, and provide appropriate recognition to such partners or
investors."  But the bill was passed without hearings as to whether
the public wanted its forests  "enhanced."  Mr. Pombo, as a citizen, I
am an owner and stakeholder in these national forests and resent the
attempt to transform me into a customer of a service.  Nothing ruins
my sense of freedom in the wilds more than having to pay to hike,
climb, and cross-country ski in a national forest.  The wilderness
values I and many other Americans hold dear are ruined by commercial
concessions and facilities for the motorized vehicles whose
manufacturers sponsor "partnerships."  For those who want such
"enhancements," there are numerous private facilities.

I have no objection to reasonable fees to use developed campgrounds or
enter national parks, which by their very nature have more developed
lodges, visitor centers, and activity programs.  But I strongly object
to fees merely to walk in the backwoods.

Third, the Forest Service makes several disingenuous claims.  The
first is that the number of users who pay fees indicates public
support.  Instead, many of these payers do so rather than risk an
unpleasant encounter with an armed ranger.  The Forest Service does
not count those who complain or protest.  Neither does it count those
who simply avoid hiking because they cannot pay or are otherwise
offended by these fees.

A second claim, that "all users should pay," is also a spurious one.
There is a tremendous difference in charging corporations who profit
from high-impact extraction of resources from public lands and
ordinary citizens who hike privately and engage in other low-impact
activities.  Furthermore, extractive industries are charged fees far
below market value.  The price paid for many timber sales does not pay
the Forest Service's full cost of administration, roadbuilding, and
other expenses.  The anachronistic and exploitive 1873 Mining Law
permits mining companies, some of them foreign, to scar the landscape,
extract minerals without royalties and even buy patented land for
pennies on the dollar.  Under the hiking fee scheme, ordinary citizens
engaged in low-impact hiking and camping are being forced to subsidize
corporate resource extraction.

Third, legislative requirements and the rangers' claim is that at
least 80% of the money will be used for direct trail and facilities
maintenance for the upkeep of facilities and the protection of the
forest.  But both the General Accounting Office audit of 1998-1999 and
the Department of the Interior report of 2001 show that the actual
percentage was only 34% and 27%, respectively, far below the
advertised 80%.  These numbers support the claim made above that
hikers are being forced to subsidize activities other than hiking.

With the proliferation of "No Trespassing" signs, there are not many
Waldens left where we can roam free.  Hiking fees sell our national
commons, our freedom and birthright.  I resent the attempts to take it
away.  I resent being forced to pay the fees.  I resent the secretive
way in which fees were established.  I resent the way appropriations
were cut to make the Forest Service dependent on hiker fees.  I resent
being charged with a misdemeanor?as Regula proposes?if I do not pay.
I resent the exploitation and commercialization of our wild heritage.

To ensure that national forests are fully supported and funded by
Congress as a commons for all Americans, to eliminate the cruel fees
on ordinary citizens, I urge you to look towards Senator Thomas's bill
as it was passed and to reject Congressman Regula's exploitive and
punitive bill.

Respectfully submitted,

D.R.		

 

 

"Fee Demo" must be rescinded

Dear Congressman,
		
Please do not support extending the Recreation Fee Demo Program for the US
Forest Service, or the BLM and US Fish & Wildlife Service. Their intended
use for local improvements is a sham, as most "improvements" are unwanted.

The April 2003 GAO Report shows it cost the Forest Service $15 million of
our tax money to net $15 million in Fee Demo fees. This is a fiscally
irresponsible misuse of taxes and a public burden.

The money raised by Fee Demo to use lands we already own is not worth the
ill will generated. I'm outraged that I should be at risk of a fine for
parking off the shoulder of a forest road for a 10 minute walk, for taking
a photograph, watching passing wildlife or for briefly using a pit toilet
(yes, one must even pay $5.00 to park for that unavoidable human need)!

At Madeira Canyon in the Carson N.F. in AZ. and elsewhere, I have observed
that Fee Demo income has chiefly been used to erect "improvements" such as
unsightly "No Parking" signs everywhere, and to block all roadside parking.
This prevents dispersed forest use by forcing humans into a few new
"improved" parking lots and fee campgrounds where they must pay a per diem
close to the annual free-ranging cattle unit fee. There are a lot of
ironies here. What net benefit is all this? How does it enhance the
recreational experience or our freedom?

"Fee Demo" must be rescinded. All it "demonstrates" is that those without
an alternative, must pay. Public objection has no official expression. Fees
penalize those Americans who most use public lands - families of  urban
workers and the rural taxpayers, by doubly taxing them, and worse, by
taking the 'wild' out of their hard-earned wilderness recreation.

C.G.

 

 

Do Not Support Trailhead Fee Fraud

Back at my car after a hike, I received my first "Test" of the season
- a certificate of Non-Compliance - which looks just like a parking
ticket.  It is not a real parking ticket - not yet.  It is a
manipulative sneaky lie.  "The Test" is to realize this -- to stay
Non-Compliant - and simply not pay the fee, which is really just a
bluff - "testing" who will blink first.  I have discovered that many
others are not paying the fee.   Recent editorials in Twin Falls and
Denver papers ask people not to pay the fake fee.  This is a national
issue, testing the future of commercialization and privatization of
our public lands.  We are being trained and "tested."

Many people say "Oh George, it is only $16."  This is not about money.
I smell a rat.  Actually, I smell three rats.  Rat One;  Why is there
no fee to camp along many local creeks?  Rat Two; Why such sneaky
legalistic wording on the trailhead signs and fake tickets?  Rat
Three; Since there is no common sense or business logic to this
program, what is the real agenda, and who is behind it?

There is NO fee to camp along many local creeks.  Heavy RVs, trucks,
bikes, horses, kids, dogs and garbage - in meadows? -- along delicate
stream sides? - with NO fee?  Yet, the impact of my car on a gravel
lot requires some kind of extra double taxation.  Completely
illogical; this concept would fail the third grade business class.

Why are so many signs needed?  One sign says "Recreation Fee Test
Project."  A few feet away, needing to be on a completely different
sign, for some legalistic reason, it says "Trailhead Parking Pass
Required."  Well make up your mind.  Why so sneaky and secretive, with
legalistic word play?  Why not just speak in clear straight forward
terms?   This creates suspicion and ill-will.  If it is a real law,
why are banners over the road trying to convince us? - claiming: "It
is the right thing to do."

I made some calls.  I found www.wildwilderness.org - and downloaded
the latest May report of Government Accounting Office Report -
regarding USFS Management of the Fee Demonstration Program.  The GAO
report is absolutely scandalous, revealing total unaccountability,
millions of slushy dollars floating to and fro to prop up balance
sheets.  The Fee Demonstration program is loosing money, just trying
to pay for program administration, say nothing of doing anything for
forests or people.  In any decent small business, or pre-Enron
corporation, the managers of these programs would be fired.

So what is the real agenda behind this mess?  Who is pushing it?  Who
is tolerating this mis-management?   This is not about the Forest
Service.  This has been dumped on them.  Also, we must not be
distracted by petty partisan politics - used brilliantly to keep the
public polarized.

The money lenders are in our temples.  American politicians, land, and
business are all for sale to the highest bidder.  Like all deep
politics, we need to keep our eyes on the money trail.  It seems the
big agenda is to slowly train the public consumers -- to accept
attitudes for how the corporate mentality will slowly and steadily
inherit mis-management of our public lands.  They hope to train us to
pay fees, for more concessionaires, for more parking lots, air
conditioned 3-D movie theatres, more trendy lodges with clean
boutiques and other money making ventures we don't need on public
lands.  A $16 trailhead parking pass is just the tip of the iceberg.
Write your senators.  Invoke the GAO May Report.  Do - Not - Pay - The
- Fake - Fee.

G.G.

 

 

Say no, to 'Fee Demo'

Now is your chance to stand up for freedom in your own back yard.  The
Fee Demonstration program that took away your right to freely travel
your canyons and much of the Forest , is up for comment from the
public.

"Those who would trade their land and freedom upon it for outhouses,
deserve neither"  Are you willing to trade your freedom on public
lands for outhouses???  Well that is what the Fee Demonstration
program suggests.  Ask any lawyer, if you willingly pay a fee to enter
a property, you are admitting that you are not an owner of that land.
Think ot it, in one fell swoop con artists in the Government took away
your land and your freedom upon it

Freedom loving leaders of the past realized the importance of free
public lands.  Most of America's founders came from nations where the
land primarily belonged to the king or his lords.  Anyone who didn't
pay the bribe etc. to get on the land got an arrow between the
shoulder blades or got their hands cut off if they were caught on the
land.

Consider the fact that the government knows they can get money for
improvements on this land by indirect taxes, but instead some have
opted for an ' in your face, direct demand for their paid permission
before you enter the land'  thus crushing any notions you may have had
about the land being yours or you having freedom upon it.

Brainwashed?  many of the general statements coming from the public
are favorable to the program.  It appears some like the program and
prefer outhouses to freedom.  This is a sad indication of just how far
removed Americans are becoming to the concept of freedom.  The
Founders of America did all in their power to get governments thumb
off their necks, and we are doing all we can to put it back on.

Tell the Forest Service how you feel, after all it ''WAS'  your
Forest.
 
W.S.

 

 

Tell the Feds to Fund Recreation

		
The Forest Service has nearly bled to death from congressional budget
cuts. Smelling an opportunity, the circling vultures who came up with
fee demo are largely those who believe the USFS would be better run as
a business (translation: if they controlled it). The only way to
control a common public stock is to deregulate it and turn it into a
commodity. Some public stock does not lend itself to deregulation or
commodification. I mean, you’re from California, do we need to revisit
the energy debacle?

Fee demo is double taxation (triple if you put volunteer hours in on
trails), exclusory and discriminatory to those with limited incomes,
unconstitutional, and downright annoying by nickel and diming the
public whenever they take a walk in the woods. And much of the fee
goes to implementation and enforcement rather than back out onto the
districts. Public land management must come from the public coffers.
Every citizen receives benefits from public lands in the form of
watersheds, clean air, wood products, etc. Even if they never get off
the couch and visit, that opportunity is available for them or their
heirs. I have no objections to all of the programs that are in place
to protect our natural resources. In fact, most of them have been in
place long before fee demo was ever invented. What ticks me off is how
the public has been bamboozled into thinking it’s their fault the land
management agencies can’t do their jobs. If you want to tell the Feds
something constructive, tell them to adequately fund the USFS with the
fee you pay every April 15.

D.R.	

 

 

Disney is the Wrong Model to Follow

		
In addition to the unjust & unfair fees to visit our national forests
& BLM lands, I oppose paying visitor Fees & the Disneyfication of our
nation's National Parks

Why?  We once had a great and extensive wilderness & living life
support system.  And I didn't use to oppose Park fees.

But yes, as the fees have continually been increased, as the Parks
have been increasingly commercialized and operated by concessionaires,
as my visits have been increasingly managed, controlled or directed,
the more I have come to believe these fees are also bad.  The
collecting of the fees and the corresponding commercial management of
our Parks are turning Nature, that should be part of our collective
and individual birthright, in all its sacredness & glory into but
another Disney-like commodity.  Available to the highest bidder for
despoiling or trashing with footprints, garbage cans, RVs, pollution
and asphalt.

Disneyland is also very clean, neat and organized, the attendants are
very helpful & nice, but it is not and will never be Wild Nature.

T.H.

 

 

Fee-Demo is hardship to many

		
I wish to register a protest against fees for use of federal lands.
We have this in CA and it is a hardship for people on fixed incomes
and low incomes. With all the new taxes, fees, higher gas prices,
etc., etc., you will be eliminating a large segment of the population
from using public lands which belong to the public!!!!!!!

It is terrible to not be able to drive through a forest or other area
without paying to stop and walk through an area or perhaps picnic and
just get away from the city to breathe a little fresh air and see some
scenery.

I am on a fixed income and I am just about at the point where I will
be eliminated from doing something that helps to give a lift to my
soul.  I have been a Republican, but I am getting very  frustrated
with so many of the things that are being eliminated that the "common
man" could alway take for granted in this country of ours. Please pass
this on to the legislators and President Bush for me.   Thank you.

D.J.	

 

 

Public lands are priceless, but don't pay to hike

Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the "lower 48," attracts thousands
of hikers each year, for good reason. From Whitney's 14,494-foot peak in
Sequoia National Park, an awesome array of Sierra Nevada mountains
extends to the north and south horizons. Hikers celebrate completing the
John Muir Trail on its summit.

 But today hikers cannot set foot on Whitney without entering a
political dispute. Park and forest officials now charge permit fees of
$15 per person to hike at Whitney and other popular areas. Everyone who
visits them casts a vote on this policy by choosing to either pay or not
pay.

 For this, you can thank Congress and Presidents Clinton and Bush, who
authorized the Fee Demonstration Program in 1996 and renewed it every
following year. An experiment at 385 national parks and forests, the Fee
Demonstration Program fundamentally changes citizens' legal rights on
public land.

 To generate money to support national lands that lawmakers had
neglected, the Fee Demonstration Program increased park entrance fees as
much as 400 percent. In Yosemite National Park, for instance, the
entrance fee jumped from $5 to $20. No one likes bigger bills, but
national park visitors have long paid entrance fees, and at least the
parks collect these equally from everyone. Other aspects of the program
are less palatable.

 Actually, the Fee Demonstration Program breaks new ground in two
revolting ways. Through it, the government charges for access (in the
form of parking passes) to lands previously admission-free, like
national forests. For example, the government wants visitors to forests
in Southern California to buy the Adventure Pass for $5 per day, or $30
per year.

 In parks where the government already charged entrance fees, the
program seeks to raise additional revenue selling hiking permits for
popular areas. In California, these include $15 fees per person to hike
at Mt. Whitney or Mt. Shasta.

 In summary: national forests, which require little maintenance and have
never charged fees, now do. National parks multiplied their fees several
times and now charge visitors an extra tax to take a walk. This is bad
policy for several reasons.

 First, it financially discourages low-impact hiking, which would be
detestable even if the government didn't simultaneously subsidize
destructive forest industries such as logging and mining.

 Second, this represents double or even triple taxation. American
citizens own public lands and pay taxes to finance their management.
When park officials dramatically raised entrance fees under the Fee
Demonstration Program in 1997, insisting they needed money for
backlogged maintenance projects, that showed Congress had already failed
its duty to adequately support parks through appropriations.

 Taxing those visitors again for hiking compounds that failure by asking
Americans to pay the same bill a third time. If we do, what's next? Toll
booths on Crystal Springs' trails? User fees for walking on sidewalks?
 I'd like to hike up Whitney again, and I can afford $15. But I can't
live with myself if I encourage the government to swindle more hikers,
or even worse, prevent poor Americans from visiting public lands. So if
I return, I'll probably hike "unofficially."

 Someday this attitude will get me in trouble with a ranger. When that
happens, I'll politely point out that I'm an American citizen and that I
don't recognize the government's authority to tax me for hiking on land
the people own.

 I encourage you to likewise oppose this extortion by writing Congress.
Better yet, refuse to pay the fees. America's people deserve their land
back, and this asinine policy will never change unless we complain
loudly.

M.J.		

 

 

Naming Names - Assigning Blame

		
There is a man in our midst that some people may not be familiar with.
Derrick Crandall of the American Recreation Coalition. His coalition
signed a 1996 agreement to help promote and explain the fees for the
Forest Service.

The coalition represents sporting goods retailers, amusement parks,
campground chains, snowmobile manufacturers and other segments of the
recreation industry. The Coalition's goal is to see to it that federal
forests eventually become more like amusement parks  where major
corporations can make a profit, rather than the backwoods place's free
Americans have always been able to use at will and take their children
to, to be close to creation and away from what the coalition want's
the outdoors to become.

Mr. Crandall, the coalition and the Forest service has been challenged
by opponents. Calling it undemocratic, unconstitutional and
discriminatory.

Crandall and the USFS have responded in effect by stepping on their
own foot in acknowledging that they propose giving free permits to
anyone who can prove a financial need or is willing to volunteer for
trail maintenance work. They propose creating "second-class citizens
passes" In other words, they suggest that poor people should be
allowed to earn passes by working at sub-minimum, virtually-slave,
wages. No one should have to suffer having to prove themselves to be
poor to be able to enjoy what is rightfully ours.

I have never been against the paying of fees in campgrounds. But that
is not the point here. The point is that these proposals have tinges
of Nazism. To charge us every time we might want to stop along the
highway to take a walk in the woods.

These power hungry corporate opportunists have but one objective. To
get the forests commercialized. It has nothing to do with maintenance
or public participation. It is strictly money and profit orientated.
To eventually commercialize the recreational freedoms of this country.

They have the nerve to say, "We believe that this nation needs more
people with an intimate connection to the great outdoors than ever
before." Now that is a crock of you know what if I ever heard one.
They have no idea what "intimate connection" is except their hands on
our money. What they are really saying is that "This nation needs more
people to pay them for what many, like my self fought for and many
died to preserve. Our freedom and the freedom for "all citizens" to
use and enjoy the true heart and soul of this country. The outdoors.

We did not fight to allow people such as these to scheme on how to
profit from our freedoms.

President Bush and some members of congress want to make this
‘demonstration' permanent. Please contact your congressman and ask him
to oppose this ‘undemocratic' action.

 M.F.		

 

 

Let's put this into perspective

Dear Editor,

I read your recent story about Fee Demo with some interest. Five years
ago, Fee Demo was a non-issue and those few of us who challenged
recreation user fees were marginalized as nuts. No more!

The main reason for supporting Fee Demo has always been that the money
goes to support our national forests. If only this were true!

Despite a milder than expected fire season in 2001, the U.S. Forest
Service overspent its firefighting budget by about $230 million.
According to an AP story, "The overrun comes even though this year's
fire season burned roughly 520,000 acres, about one quarter of the 2.1
million acres that burned last year. It also happened despite the $1.9
billion that Congress sent the Forest Service to bolster firefighting
ranks and reduce fire hazards after the major Western wildfires of
2000."

As a result of this overspending, the USFS took money from it's
recreation budget to cover the shortfall, suspending more than $12
million in national forest spending, including trail and campground
construction and replacement of decaying public toilets to replace
money overspent in its fire-fighting budget.

Let's put the size of this cost overrun into perspective. In
Congressional testimony on Wednesday, September 26, 2001 Forest
Service Acting Associate Deputy Chief, Denny Bschor, stated that the
USFS had collected $71 million from recreation user fees CUMULATIVELY
since the introduction of the highly unpopular Fee Demo program in
1996. That means the USFS's 2001 fire-fighting cost overrun is three
times the cumulative gross fee-demo revenues collected in five years!

June 15th, 2002 will be a National Day to Protest Forest Fees. I
suggest your readers do what they can to take part.
		
P.S.

 

 

Opposition is NOT a money issue

Editor:
This is a response to the letter to the Editor on 2/14 which unfairly
characterizes Fee Demo opponents as those who don't want to pay their
share. If we want to try on cute metaphors to simplify a complex
issue, let's try this one: A proponent of the expansion of fees on
public lands reminds me of a person who supports charging admission to
public libraries, placing toll booths at all Interstate Highway
interchanges, and making public school students purchase punch cards
to attend classes. Is this fair to level such a blanket charge? Of
course not. This discussion needs to be elevated a few notches.

The debate centers on how we should manage and pay for the management
of our public lands. Most of us who oppose the expansion of the
controversial Fee Demo Program share a number of key philosophical
beliefs:

1. The American People already own the Public lands and pay taxes each
year for their upkeep and management. Low impact uses like hiking,
fishing, hunting, crosscountry skiing, picnicking, or going for a
scenic drive should not be assessed an additional fee. Paying
reasonable fees to use developed sites like National Parks and
maintained campgrounds is OK.

2. More fees mean less funding from the government. The net financial
situation for public land management agencies will not improve.

3. A shift to the "pay to play" mentality will inevitably create an
economic dependence on motorized recreation and commercial
development.

4. The requirement to pay on-site access fees falls heavily on those
least able to pay. Studies in New England have found the fees to have
a "significant exclusionary effect" on lower income families who are
just not going to public lands as much.

The opposition to fees is not a money issue, it's a management issue.
For over a century, the opportunity to enjoy simple recreation on our
public lands without being overly regulated, harassed, or charged has
been a "Birthright." We'd like it to stay that way for our children.

M.N.	

 

 

What is it but thievery?

		
    Though I can afford to pay the fees, I wouldn't enter a public land
area that charged a fee if it was the last wild space on earth.  The very
idea is so despicable...that armed, uniformed police would check one's
papers and extort money under threat of fines or arrest in the
wilderness!!....that the mind reels that anyone would accept it or dare
to promote it.  This is, of course, especially true when one considers
the toleration of scofflaw resource extraction industries all over our
public lands...industries (some not even from this country) that barely
pay anything, IF anything, to take and destroy what they please.

  This is not, of course, comparable to some private entertainment
business. This is OUR land...PUBLIC land...owned and maintenence paid for
(if necessary) via EVERYONE'S taxes...at progressive rates everyone can
afford with ease.    Support services and infrastructure for various
private park enterprises MUST be, of course, paid for BY those
industries, if such industries are allowed into our public lands at all. 
 If these enterprises can't afford their own expenses, what are they
doing in this business in the first place?  

   I'll just sit on a public bridge and watch some river roll underneath
before presenting myself or family to some quaintly-dressed police
officer to PAY (!!!) to walk in the woods.   I don't know about others
but I go to the wild lands to get AWAY from such stuff.    I CERTAINLY
don't go there to help support businesses that hope to profit without my
approval or with no financial return to me for use of MY public lands.
No...I do not consider the "convenience" of a restaurant or hotel
adequate return.

   The only silver lining to this "fee" business is that finally, both
left and right wing people are coming together in protest, realizing that
they are all being TAKEN to the cleaners by corporate thieves.   If those
who destroy and use our forests, deserts and beaches etc for free...and
even at a profit...don't pay for their damages or even pay proper
royalties to the owners, what else is it but thievery?   It's only
"legal" because private business allies happen to have inserted
themselves into public government and have excluded the public from
decision-making.   And that only happened because the mainstream media
are part of this system and, understandably, declined to TELL anyone
what's going on. Wouldn't work if anyone knew about it, would it? 
Stealth business.   Is this some form of "victory" for some?  Do they
enjoy taking advantage of people?   Why?   What were their parents like? 
 
 J.J.

 

 

Opposition is widespread and diverse

		
 Regarding The Daily Sentinel's Jan. 25 editorial concerning the Yankee Boy
Basin court case: I'd think the Sentinel would wait until the defendants had
a chance to present their case before acting as judge, jury and hangman. The
editorial used words like "political theatrics," "comic opera" and "palpable
nonsense" to describe protesters' intent and attempted to paint the
defendants as wild, insane radicals. Actually, they are a mix of Democrats
and Republicans, college students and retired professionals, motorized-use
advocates and environmentalists working together to ensure that our heritage
of public access to public lands continues without fees.

 The editorial mentions that the public agencies can charge access fees to
"specific areas." However, all 19 national forests in the Pacific Northwest
have been considered one "specific area," and four in California are
"specific areas." Yankee Boy Basin is a very small part of the Fee-Demo
puzzle, but it represents the beginning of enforced fees on a variety of
federal lands in Colorado.

 It should be pointed out that charging businesses to make money off public
land is far different from charging taxpayers.

 It seems to me that the "widespread debate in the West," outside of one
county commissioner and the Sentinel, is between 3rd District Rep. Scott
McInnis and his constituents. The Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, many of
whom have been McInnis supporters in the past, have tried to meet with the
congressman to no avail. We have met with eight county commissions which
have passed resolutions encouraging Congress to restore federal funding for
public lands and to abolish the Fee-Demo program. Rep. McInnis refuses to
acknowledge the widespread disapproval of the program in his own district.

 It is not through the courts that this wrong will be righted. Only through
citizen input to senators and representatives that our heritage of open
access to the public lands continue.

R.F.

 

 

How the Fee Demonstration Program Affects Freedom

		
I do not know of a free society, past or present.  I consider a free society
one in which freedom is accessible to everyone and I define freedom like
Thoreau; one is free if they can excersise their own moral sense (but not a
lack thereof).  One of the things I love to do the most involves a desperate
climb to the summit of some remote peak where (if I can stand to sit there)
I sit and feel things that very few other people will ever feel.  It is no
overstatement to say that while I cling with human claws to a knife-edge
ridge with the wind in my face and a thousand feet of air below my feet I
feel a reverence and a humbling smallness that I have never felt anywhere
else.  The experience in its entirety is spiritual for me.  It is a lonely
state often made more so because I like to do it alone.  It is a pilgrimage
of sorts that allows me to let all the extraneousness of life fall away
leaving only the "essential facts of life".  Imagine then that I am often
required by a new "rule" to pay for this experience.  Congress has allowed
the US Forest Service to charge me five dollars every time I park my car
near a trail.  On some peaks I must pay fifteen dollars to go above 10,000
feet.  Needless to say I can not stand being charged by mankind to see God.
Such an imposition is immoral in the deepest sense.  It is as if the police
have come into my church and demanded that I pay for my sacrament.

 Perhaps the most essential part of my moral sense is my free access to
those experiences that bring me the deepest kind of understanding
(enlightenment, if you will).  No doubt I endure other indignities to have
these experiences but at least I could previously feel that once I left the
trail that I was in my church all alone.  I can no longer get that feeling
so easily and, I'm afraid, the Forest Service has made my cathedrals into
Disneyland.  Yes, I feel that my connection to the cosmos is now blocked by
a sign that demands money.

 This "Fee Demonstration Program" is still not a law in the technical sense
and I have written impassioned letters to my representatives and the
president telling them how much the idea offends me.  Little good it will do
me because every six months since 1998 the Forest Service has gone to
Congress with the numbers of permits sold and used them as "evidence" that
the public is willing to pay (even though you can be cited and fined for not
paying).  I feel I have no recourse and that I am a slave in some sense to a
system that I believe is irresponsible and immoral.  When I think of it (not
all the time of course) I feel extremely angry and trapped.

 I don't know of any other wilderness area where you are charges simply for
access.  In many places you can be charged for mandatory rescue insurance,
transportation, etc. but these are charges for goods and services that cost
money to produce.  There aren't that many wild places left where people can
go to experience things that humankind had no part in producing and I
believe that even if you never go to these places that there is something
about the mere existence of wild places that maintains intact some part of
the original animal nature of humankind.  What could be less natural than
being forced under rule of law to pay to walk in the woods.  What if Thoreau
was charged fifty cents to watch the ants at Walden?  If he were he could
not have been confronting the "essential facts of life" but would rather
have been confronting the seedy greediness of humankind.

 I can't imagine (for myself) how I could be made to feel less free than to
be charged to sit up on a mountain wondering how long its been there and
what forces willed it to be there.  I can't give you five smelly one dollar
bills to breathe the incense of the firs after a rain and to sit on that
snowy ridge wondering if that wind is a caress or a thrashing.  Not less
could I give you money for the trees and mountains that are not yours or
mine because to do so would be to admit that there is no place beyond your
reach.  And that, is a lie I will not be enslaved to.

K.R.

 

 

We already pay taxes

		
 Did The Daily Sentinel's editors go to school in America? They do not yet
understand the basic precepts under which this nation was founded.

 I read the Sentinel editorial supporting Fee Demo with some dismay.

 We already pay taxes. Taxes are intended to pay government labor, materials
and other special programs. If we start paying for public-lands access, what
precedent will this set? Other federal, state, county and city governments
will start to do the same.

 Consider property taxes. Imagine our property taxes no longer provide for
our city parks... our sidewalks ... our street lights ... our schools. We
will start paying separate fees for each and every little item.

 There is a reason for the federal tax we all pay to one place - so that we
know exactly how much we pay and to provide us some reasonable ability to
hold our government accountable for its spending.

 I challenge the Sentinel's assertion that there are only a "few" people
fighting Fee Demo. The Sierra Club for one is hardly a "few" people - not to
mention the hundreds of other environmental and educational institutions
that are speaking out against this effort to commercialize our public lands.

 And then there are the hunters and fishermen like myself. For once, I am
standing with the environmentalists. The Sentinel proposes to sell away all
that this country stands for.

K.B.

 

 

Learn the truth about this scam

		
 In response to The Daily Sentinel editorial, "Tickets, Please," the
Sentinel defends the U.S. Forest Service enforcement of the agency's
"clearly stated rules" - rules that were promulgated with absolutely
no public input. The only input came from corporate interests whose
goal is to develop and control access to public lands for profit.

 The Sentinel claims that the program allows public-lands agencies to
charge access fees to specific areas and use the bulk of that money to
improve or otherwise protect the resource areas burdened by excessive
public use.

 Well guess what? The Forest Service's own literature states that a
taxpayer earning $40,000 annually contributes a measly three cents to
the entire recreation budget of the U.S. Forest Service. Now Congress
is withholding those three cents from the agency and demanding people
pay five bucks at the trailhead.

 The Forest Service is doing a great job sugar-coating this program.
But it won't tell the public that the state legislatures of
California, Oregon, and New Hampshire have all issued resolutions
seeking an end to these fees.

 If one doubts where Fee Demo is heading, just look at California's
"Adventure Pass." Taxpayers in California have to pony up five bucks
simply to enter their national forests and step outside their
vehicles, for any reason, regardless if they use a trail. If Fee Demo
becomes permanent, this will ultimately become the norm on public
lands nationwide.

 Learn the truth about this scam called "Fee Demo" by visiting
www.freeourforests.org . Then write Congress and demand they return
everyone's three cents to the Forest Service and dump the fees.

S.M.

 

 

Public land is NOT a commodity

		
Public land is NOT a commodity for the private sector to develop into
a playground for only those able to pay.

Public land was set aside decades ago to provide unspoiled terrain for
American Citizens to enjoy. Now the ARC holds closed door meetings
with land managers and is attempting to "steal" our land from us (the
public) and then re-sell it to use for profit.

I am not a customer, I am part owner. Public land is NOT a commodity.

How soon until these audacious, greedy people usher in "swingset fees"
and "fun taxes" at the city park? Is not Public land analgous to your
city park? It's land set aside for all to enjoy, funded through taxes.

National Forests should be there for all to see and enjoy regardless
of personal income.

Any fee is double taxation.

The money collected thus far from the demo program has not even been
used as promised and is frequently diverted from the "promised" end
use. The whole thing stinks and seems to be filled with half truths
and lies about where and how the money will be spent.

This isn't the real issue though. The private sector should not be
able to take over, control, and profit from people visiting, public
land. Special use permits on public land have existed for quite some
time now. They do not allow an entry fee to an area to be collected
though, only to charge for services rendered on a specific plot of
public land. They do not allow anyone to deny access to an area if
they don't wish to buy and use the offered services though( example: a
backcountry lodge can be maintained and operated in a certain area,
but folks can still visit the area without paying for use of the
lodge).
		P.S.

 

 

Watch out, Nevada!

		
So the federal government is looking into charging you fees to let you
into their Spring Mountains? (Review-Journal Jan. 24). The issue of
charging people admission to public lands has touched off furious
public outrage everywhere they have has tried to introduce it. Let me
tell you how it works here where I live. Our local version was
introduced as an "experiment" four years ago, the fee is a $30
"Adventure Pass." Make no mistake, they have to enforce this thing:

We have forest service employees ticketing people for pulling to the
side of the state highway to enjoy a viewpoint or throw snowballs.
People have been brought to court for back country bicycle riding.
Picnic areas are now deserted, even on big holiday weekends. Our local
businesses are mad, almost all refuse to sell Adventure Passes, and
the perception is that weekend and holiday traffic is down. Flustered
visitors from "down the hill" often can't find anywhere to buy the
thing and turn around and go back. Us locals ignore it, except when
the forest service starts chasing our school kids away from the spots
where they "hang out", which they have done. Any warm and fuzzy
relationship there may have been with the forest service has turned
cold or even adversarial. Volunteering is way down.

Watch out, Nevada! People shouldn't have to pay admission, under
penalty of being fined, to enjoy their great outdoors.

J.K.

 

 

Volunteer on Strike

		
Who owns the public lands? The people or the government? This fee plan
has been a long time in the making.  For more than a decade before the
Recreation Fee Demonstration Program came along Congress kept cutting
the budgets of the public lands to the point they could not keep up.

So how have our fees been used? What of the $120,000 out houses? What
of the signs that imply that volunteer labor is paid by the fees? What
of signs that say services that have been there for 20+ years are now
paid for by the fees?

The Recreation Fee Demonstration Program is part of a plan to turn the
people from owners / citizens into just more customers. The public
lands offices do not have owner relation's desks. They have customer
relation's desks. If the backers of this program can get us used to
paying to go on public land then they can come in and give us some of
what they call quality recreation for a Disney size fee of course.

So just who is lobbing for user fees on public lands: To name a few
supporters

American Association for Nude Recreation, Walt Disney Company,
International Association for Amusement Parks and Attractions, foreign
manufactures, big oil companies. So join up with the nudists and give
your owners rights away and pay the fee.

If the forests are to be run with a profit motive why should we
volunteer? Who volunteers for Wal*Mart?

US Forest volunteer on strike

 

 

Should one laugh or cry?

		
The January 25 editorial, "Tickets Please" attempted to ridicule those
who, essentially,  prefer to have open access to their own public lands
and pay for its maintenance by two or three cents a year in progressive
taxes instead of being forced, by armed forest police, to pay "fees" and
have to show "passports" to even take a ten minute walk in their own 
woods.     There is nothing ridiculous in this position.

The editor might have gotten away with this derision of activists using
the time-honored tactic of civil disobedience to protest, but the
dishonesty of the editorial was glaringly, almost humorously, revealed
half-way through. The editor claimed that "...ranchers, timber companies
and mineral firms pay for the costs their respective activities impose on
public lands."    Should one laugh or cry?  These  users of public lands
do not pay anywhere near fair trade rates for  services rendered and, in
fact, are regularly exempted from paying compensation and reparations for
effects of even repeated violations.   These entities are charged rates
that were below bargain rates over a hundred years ago, a result of
tactful political payoffs. These private industries, some not even from
the U.S., take huge profits and never return appropriate royalties to the
public owners of the lands. They are, in huge effect, paid by U.S.
citizen's tax money to take whatever they want.  It's as if they charge
the Forest Service fees to let them steal public property and revenue.

If the Forest Service wants to charge fees...fine.  But make those fees
a percentage of tangible profits taken from the lands and make sure that
damages and environmental law violations result in adequate restitution,
economic penalties and jail time.  We are a "tough on crime" society, are
we not? 

It is also glaringly unjust that the public owners of these lands must
pay at "going rates" equivalent to admission to commercial, non-public
recreation sites...yet the resource-using and extracting industries are
still, in the year 2002, paying rates established in the 1800's!   Apply
this rate system to mere visitors who take nothing from their lands and
we'd have an annual fee of about three cents...coincidentally, just about
what we already pay in taxes to take care of our forests, beaches,
mountains, deserts and the rest.

J.J	

 

 

User fee program is a smokescreen

		
The user fee program is a smokescreen: a deception designed to distract the 
public from its real intent. It is simply a means to transfer the burden of 
budgetary constraints back to the public sector.

The usual argument for the defense of the fees is that they generate income 
that provides trail maintenance and facility upkeep. What the Forest Service 
fails to mention is that none of these programs are new. Facility and trail 
maintenance have been in the budget for decades. In fact, much trail 
maintenance is done through volunteers, trail adopters, or programs like the 
Northwest Youth Corps who receive their funding under the auspices of 
providing positive, alternative, avenues for teenagers to engage in. The 
only thing new is HOW the Forest Service has determined to pay for facility 
upkeep.

My two primary complaints are that the fee amounts to double taxation since 
we already pay for the Forest Service/Park Service/BLM with our income tax 
and that it is discriminatory to those with limited incomes. But at the most 
fundamental level it sets a bad precedent. Once we accept the burden of 
holding up the Forest Service  what's to keep the fees from escalating like 
postage rates? That is not a governing body I'd like to see managing our 
public lands. I would prefer to see the lean efficient organization that for 
100 years has managed to do an adequate job of balancing conservation with 
preservation. That opinoin varies depending on whether you're speaking with 
Earth First! or Wayerheauser. Congress was wise to make the user fee a demo 
program. I think they knew the public would revolt to a sudden, absurd 
policy change. Like a frog in a frying pan with the heat being turned up 
gradually until it's too late to jump out, we're getting slow cooked.

There are those in Congress as well as a few corporations who specialize in 
selling outdoor recreational equipment or providing recreational services 
who would like to see our use of the public lands regulated. They veiw the 
public as consumers and our use of public lands as a commodity to be 
brokered. I suggest that this is condescending folly and that they would be 
better suited to regulate something important; say, the utility industry 
perhaps. I suspect the public believes taking a random walk in the woods is 
a basic tenant of American freedom and that subsequent attempts to regulate 
our use of National Forests is akin to claiming ownership and in conflict 
with the concept of public trust for which the government is responsible.

I continue to believe that until Congress makes the user fee mandantory 
civil disobedience is one of the strongest voices we have in this issue. 
Until it is law; only our unified non-compliance will speak our discontent. 
The root of the deception is that if you paid your fee last year during the 
demo period; that was your opt-in acceptance of the fee program. Don't' be 
fooled. Get out of the frying pan while there's still time. I can't ask 
everyone to take this risk but I wish we would all go to our favorite 
trailhead and put a sign on our windshield that says 'I will not comply with 
the user fee'. I applaud Mr. DeFazio for taking on this covert, 
imperialistic threat in Congress.

D.R.		
		

 

 

God Never Charged Us

		
The book of Revelation in the Holy Bible predicts a time when no one
on the earth can buy or sell anything without a physically applied
mark to justify their personal allegiance to the government of their
country.  The "Mark Of The Beast", as it is referred to in the Bible,
is definitely going to present problems for those who refuse to accept
it. They won't be able to buy food, pay their mortgage, pay their
taxes, or anything else you can think of. They will be incarcerated
and killed for failure to comply.

Now we have the Adventure Pass. We cannot go into a National Forest,
supposedly given to the "people"/ "U.S. citizens and worldwide
vacationers" and supported by our Federal tax contributions, unless we
purchase an Adventure Pass. We have check points, gates, and Forest
Service employees that will write us a ticket if we fail to comply. We
have others that will sell the pass for their own personal profit
motives, not giving a second thought that they are helping to support
a program that has taken a personal and very important national
freedom away.

Our elected officials have selected this program called the
demonstration program. Do they all agree with this program? No, thank
God; although the majority seems to according to their vote in
Congress. That's the scary part. Presently, Terry Dahl, a member of
the FREE OUR FORESTS office for failure to pay a fee, (Adventure
Pass).  Mr. Dahl is using his constitutional rights to protest the
adventure pass. Freedom of speech, the right to assemble, the right to
protest, are included in his defense. U.S. District Court Judge
Christina Snyder will make a ruling in this case. If Mr. Dahl loses
this case, we as a nation have lost so much more. I will use my
freedom of speech rights, which we still have at this writing, when I
go into the forest.

If a person protests the Adventure Pass and applies the Freedom of
speech statute, a judge must decide if in fact other laws are violated
against the protesters constitutional rights. I will keep you posted
as to the Judges final decision. God never charged us anything to
enjoy his creations. It's a shame elected officials can't follow that
wonderful example.

Thank God Adam and Eve didn't have to purchase an Adventure Pass in
the garden of Eden. Where would they get the money?

L.C.
		

 

 

"Is this America or Russia?

		

"Is this America or Russia? We now have to purchase a pass from the
government to take a hike or bike ride or to look at wildflowers on
our own public lands. It's not enough anymore to just pay taxes; we
must now pay the government for the pleasure of enjoying Nature as
well.

Congress sold our valuable right to freely access public land in 1996
when it surreptitiously authorized the Recreation Fee Demonstration
Program without any public discussion. It allows the Forest Service,
BLM, Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife to charge fees and enter
partnerships with private corporations to develop and commercialize
the 631 million acres of public land they manage. Corporations now
operate campgrounds for profit, and fees can be charged to access all
of our national forests and public lands.

Do we need to see a Berlin Wall around our public lands to realize
that government has created a barrier locking us out of the most
precious areas Nature has to offer and into our cities? This barrier
is detrimental to the health, wellbeing, and freedom of our citizenry.

Separation of business and state is just as critical as separation of
church and state. Only Congress can end this egregious scheme by
restoring funding for forest maintenance and protection, ending the
commercialization that demands our money to enjoy what Nature, not
corporations nor the government, provides.

A.L.		
		

 

 

My Taxes Became Corporate Subsidy

		
I believe that the practice of charging American citizens to access
publicly-owned lands is unethical, immoral, and a gross
misinterpretation of the power than has been vested in our government
by the American people.  There are numerous economic and
constitutional reasons why this "pay-to-play" program should be
scrapped immediately, but the most important is that our
publicly-owned lands are held in trust by the government for the
American people, and not for ransom from the American people.

Taxes paid from the hard-won wages of our citizens support the work of
the Forest Service, who is entrusted with the stewardship of the lands
that belong to every American.  To this day, these funds have been
allocated to aid corporations, and not to preserve or protect our
greatest natural heritage-our forests and rivers, our living
life-support system.  The amount of money spent by the Forest Service
to develop roads, suppress fires, and prepare forests for harvest are
truly subsidies for corporate profit, and nothing else.  The same is
true for other industries, including mining, grazing, and drilling.
	
In short, I have paid taxes for years that have not been used to
create and maintain the recreational facilities that this fee demo
program is supposed to support.  My taxes have instead been turned
into corporate subsidy.  This is a disgusting abuse of power,
resulting in the destruction of the environment that supports all our
lives.

For more information about these very real and disgusting abuses,
please visit www.forestcouncil.org

B.S.		
		

 

 

User Fees are a Cynical Con Job

		
I write to you to express in the strongest possible terms my
opposition to the attempt by Congress to force the American people to
pay a fee to use their own Public Lands.  I would remind you, Sir,
that the Public Lands are ours by statute and long custom and that the
Congress' function in the matter is to appropriate the funds to care
for them and not to charge the owners for their care twice, first by
taxation and then by so-called "user fees."  The concept is shameless!

The outrageous "user fee" scheme, hatched in the minds of unscrupulous
elected officials who have no respect for either the rights or the
intelligence of the citizens of this country, is a cynical and blatant
con job which some of you with a remnant of integrity and courage
should be loud in protesting on our behalf.

Beginning in the 80s and continuing through the shoddy, disgraceful
era of Mr. Gingrich and his gang of embarrassing frauds, the Congress
has engaged in a systematic shell game to shift funding of programs
designed for the nation's benefit onto the taxpayers who already pay
for them.  It must not continue and you must not contribute to such
chicanery with this unjust, ill-considered, and punitive outrage.

I ask you to see to it that the idea of  "user fees" on citizens for
using their own property be killed in your subcommittee, as it
deserves to be.  The American people whom you are elected to serve
will thank you.

P.E.		
		

 

 

A Transparent Shell Game

		
I would like to add my voice to those in opposition to fees under the
USFS Recreation Fee Demo for simply hiking in our national forests.  I
am a biologist, and my family and I are frequent visitors to the
forests where we live in Oregon as well as elsewhere in the West.  I
am unwilling to pay an "access fee" on top of the income tax I already
pay for the extremely low impact activities I pursue on national
forest land.  It is inconceivable that just as we have record federal
surpluses and are considering massive tax cuts that we can't provide
for the free enjoyment of federally owned land.  The fee demo is part
of a transparent shell game, any money collected results in less
appropriated from general funds for the USFS.  Please increase the
Forest Service recreation budget to a level necessary for this
unpopular fee program to be dropped.  Please add this letter to the
record for Public Witness Testimony on this issue.

N.H.		
		

 

 

I Oppose Forest Fees Because ...

		
  I oppose forest fees because part of my taxes already supports
recreational use and the Forest Service.  We pay taxes annually to support
government and important programs.  I appreciate the services these taxes
bring me.   But the highly unpopular and unjustified Recreational Fee
Demonstration program is not in accordance with the rights and  needs of
our citizens with regard to their public lands.

  I am also concerned because the fee program discriminates unfairly
against people with lower incomes.  It is a regressive tax.  And it
encourages Congress to lower, even more, the appropriations to the agencies
for managing recreation.  At this rate, soon only the rich can enjoy our
public lands.

   Another reason why I strongly oppose forest fees is that putting visits
to public lands on a fee basis has an insidious effect on managers -- it
gives them an incentive to make decisions for the wrong reasons; they will
be not only tempted but financially forced to prioritize the uses that
bring in the most income -- even if these are uses that cause the most
damage.  This is no way to manage our public lands.

  I ask the Subcommittee to increase the Forest Service recreation budget
by $50 million.  This may be what it will take to manage appropraite
recreation positively.  Citizens everywhere are increasingly turning to our
public lands for recreation, and at the same time Congress is reducing
budgets.  This is not logical and it is not right.  I do not object to
paying fees for modest facilities like campgrounds, but I and others do not
consider it fair to have to pay for simple access to our public lands.  We
should not be treated as "customers" paying for a "service" which the
agency "sells us; we are the owners and the managing agency is hired to be
the stewards of our lands.  National Forest improvements to infrastructure
should not be upgraded as much as National Parks, for example.  Simple
upkeep and maintenance is all that is necessary.

V.H.		
		

 

 

Dear Government Representative,

I recently spent a wonderful week in Washington DC at taxpayer's
expense enjoying the Smithsonian and Art Galleries, National Postal
Museum, and other free taxpayer American heritage sites.  I think it
is wonderful my money is being used to teach so many people about our
heritage.

Out west, we don't have much culture and history.  We do have the
marvels of our forests and the ecosystem learning and recreational
opportunities.  I want my tax money used to provide these amenities as
freely to our hardworking citizens and school kids as Washington DC
provides their citizens and tourists with their free amenities.

Furthermore, my tax money was already used to help the timber
companies extract much of our resources by creating roads and
providing planning through the USFS.  It stands to reason then, that
I, as a taxpayer and westerner should be able to drive these roads for
free and park at the trailhead to walk in my heritage without these
fees, which obviously violate the concept of sharing the resources of
America freely with the citizens who own it.

Please eliminate the Fee Demonstration Program and let Americans of
all economic classes have ready access to the recreational
opportunities and educational resources of our forests.

Sincerely,

P.P.
		

 

 

User fees are an outrage

	
"User fees" for the simple act of walking on public lands is an affront to
taxpayers. As more and more land is developed and population density
increases, the need for simple recreation and rejuvenation also increases.
As a mother of two, the idea that Oregonians should have to pay for the
right to take their kids on a simple weekend hike in the woods is an outrage. 

While the program's Trojan Horse was the plan that such fees would pay for
ecosystem restoration, in fact that is not where the funds are being spent.
New signage, paving parking lots, office space for USFS staff, and new
toilets, plus a huge budget just for collecting the fees, is how the money
is being used. These items in the Forest Service's budget may be worthy,
but they are not restoration efforts and it is a lie to say restoration is
the point of the program.

The Forest Service provides useful services to the public in various ways,
but to, in effect, erect toll gates for the right to walk on public lands
is not the way to fund those services.

B.T.	
		

 

 

Hold USFS accountable


Telluride Daily Planet
Friday, May 25,2001
http://www.telluridegateway.com/archive/2001_archive/052501dp.html

Dear Editor,
The "Forest Circus" sure has received a lot of attacks lately. I wonder why? 
Well, let's just think about the reasons. The Forest Service doesn't consider 
what us lay people think they should be doing with our money and resources. 
But we shouldn't expect anything otherwise from such a wasteful government. 
For example: our leaders sitting in D.C. won't even pass a bill restricting 
campaign financing, so they continue to accept outrageous amounts from mining 
kings, oil dukes, ranching rulers and timber monarchies. The timber industry 
produces reports that this or that forest should be harvested to prevent 
disease or forest fire, etc. Who made them the scientists of our natural 
resources? Of course our leaders listen to the industry because of the 
copious amounts of donations paying into their retirement funds. The Forest 
Circus practices a policy of below-cost harvesting in which it costs us 
taxpayers more money to build roads, develop areas, etc., in order to get 
into remote areas and harvest the trees which don't even provide a break-even 
source of income. The government lets ranchers run their cattle all over our 
public lands for as little as $1.50 per head of cattle. Meanwhile, the beasts 
are destroying the soil, eroding riverbanks, trampling seedlings and eating 
all the oxygen-producing green plants. Is it all about the almighty dollar? 
What happens after these mega-money-making, environment-destroying 
corporations have extracted all the resources, left our environment ruined, 
laid off all the workers and left the area? Nothing. Does the government 
require them to clean up? Rarely. Just take a look at the end of our 
beautiful valley and you see the examples everywhere.

Perhaps if our government managed its budget (our money) appropriately, we 
would not have to pay these extra user fees that are being implemented this 
summer. Or perhaps if our so-called leaders forced the industries to invest 
money and resources back into the environment from which they stole from, we 
"users" would not have to pay again. There are some recreational uses that do 
have an impact on the environment but they are not nearly as bad or polluting 
as the major resource industries (the real "users"). The government promises 
the user fee money will be returned to the area, but will it make a 
difference? Probably not because I assure you the government will only 
decrease the budget that would have otherwise been allocated to the resource 
protection. They are quite famous for deceptive plots such as this.

Another issue: Our tax money is paying for Forest Circus employees to hike 
the woods looking for illegal camping. Are they going to hire someone to walk 
the woods looking for illegal mining, off-roading or cattle grazing in 
sensitive areas? Will the Forest Circus step up enforcement of environmental 
laws that are blatantly being disregarded across our area or nation? I very 
much doubt it. You work for us, Garry Edson, not for yourself. Why don't you 
invest your time, our money and our resources enforcing the environmental 
laws that are continuously being disregarded by these huge corporations, 
instead of chasing campers?

If the Forest Circus leaders were elected instead of "appointed" by buddies 
in D.C. surely we would have the right doing the right jobs for the right 
causes. Here is a challenge to all the leaders in government: stand up to 
your boss, do the right thing and listen to (and hear) what your constituents 
want. But then again, like father, like son - or like president, like Forest 
Circus. Everyone should demand our government be held responsible for their 
deeds. They are already too far out of hand.

J.D.		
		

 

 

Maybe we need another Tea Party

		
To the editor, Salt Lake Tribune,
 
It is with great dismay that I read Judy Fahys' article on fees.
(http://www.sltrib.com/07062001/utah/111294.htm) People are laboring
under the misinformation that their fees are going to improve and
maintain parks, trails, campgrounds and other government-controlled
areas.  WRONG.  In Washington State in 1999 (the last year that I have
a report for)  a measly 19% of money collected on "fee demo" permits
actually went where it was supposed to go, trails, access, parks, etc.
Fully 81% of money collected went toward collection of the
money--personnel, offices, signs, and so on.  Why "fee demo" dollars
should be buying radios for Forest Service personnel, for example, is
beyond me.
 
Who appointed Derrick Crandall as spokesperson for The American
public?  He is PAID by those who provide recreation for a fee.  The
people I talk to are incensed to have to pay to park at a trail head.
The American public does NOT think it is fair.  They do not support
the fee.  They also do not want fines and jail time for enjoying the
outdoors.  To say that the fact people are paying for a pass means
they support the fee is outrageous.  They are being coerced into
buying the passes.
 
It is amazing to me that one person, U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, is able to
prevent a hearing in the House.  It seems that the members of Congress
need to do the job for which they were elected.
 
I live near the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest.
Each year more and more trails and roads are closed.  "They" say it is
because there is no money to maintain them.  People are being
channeled onto fewer and fewer trails.  It is necessary to put your
name into a lottery for permits to some popular areas in Washington
State a full year ahead of the time you intend to visit that area.
Where is the accounting for the "about $176.6 million collected" just
last year?  Wake up, Congress.  Maybe we need another Tea Party.

E.H.	

 

 

Letter to Editor, Forbes Magazine

		
Hi, I'm writing in response to the insinuations and misinformation
contained in your recent article on the USFS fee demo program on
public lands. Attempts to evade, obfuscate and thus dismiss the very
real issues and concerns being raised by many diverse American
citizens who are opposed the USFS fee demo program are an example of
poor journalism. Such journalism is an insult to the intelligence of
your readers as well as a disservice to the reputation and integrity
of your publication.

In a nutshell the issues are relatively simple and clear: 1. Public
lands agencies already have a budget to cover recreational management
costs-the fees do not contribute to this budget, represent double
taxation and are unnecessary. 2. Many of the recreational
"improvements" the USFS is proposing are not wanted as they will only
result in further degradation of natural ecology environments-eg: more
asphalt, roads, and loss of native wildlife habitat,etc. 3. Public
lands are one of the last of the people's Commons, one of the last
areas of common territory left in our nation where people can exist
without fees, rent, purchase-and all they represent, eg: being tied
into the dominant economic system and having to pay for a spot to
stand upon on this earth. A place to exist should be an inherent birth
right of all peoples and species born on this earth.

This program represents an usurpation by the USFS of this birth right,
of the people's last remaining commons-will it take a wide public
Robin Hood style rebellion to retain that which we all own in common?
Are we to let city dwelling computer bound bureaucrats literally "take
all the trees, put them in a tree museum, charge all the people a
dollar and a half  (inflation? greed? --$5 a night/$30 a pass??) just
to see them"? I grew up in the woodlands and forests of this nation.
Some of my ancestors were here before the first European set foot in
these once wild and free lands. I, and many other forest and rural
dwelling American citizens continue to claim these lands as our
Commons, our inherent birthright as both citizens and living beings.

Instead of further reducing the people's commons, we should be looking
at revoking the charters of the corporations which have seized much of
the people's and native citizen's lands-and at exercising oversight
over corporate lands, mandating sustainability, ecological recovery,
and restoration, as well as providing employment and citizen access
over the lands in our communities now claimed by greed driven
corporate paper fictions.

There is an innate difference between corporate lands and citizen
private property,  just as there is between amusement centers and
tourist resorts and public common lands. Let's not let the inanity of
Forest Service usurpation programs fool us from addressing the real
issues facing us today. And let us not loose our commons to the money
gouging antics of the USFS, or anyone for that matter.

A.R.
		

 

 

Your story is a disgrace to capitalism

		
Forbes Editor -- This story misses on every point.

As chief economist of a billion dollar company, I am an avid
capitalist.

As legislative affairs director of our local chapter of Backcountry
Horsemen of America, I am an active recreationist.

As a board member of our county parks department, I am an fervent
conservationist.

As a member of the faculty of a local university, I teach MBA students
decision-making skills using all the information.

As a taxpayer, a Republican, a conservative, and a voter, I'm
embarrassed by your misinformation.

I'm not a backpacker, don't wear Birkenstocks, avoid granola, and
abhor socialism.

Your story is a disgrace to capitalism, an insult to recreationists, a
slur on conservationists, and an affront to the truth.

I remain a staunch opponent of user fees.  I've already paid my taxes
to support public lands.  I don't relish paying twice.

I write my congressman on a regular basis, requesting adequate general
fund financial support of our public lands.

Your writer should quit name calling, and start behaving like a
journalist.

Randy Barcus
Spokane, Washington
(name used with permission)		
		

 

 

Pay-for-use is wrong

		
Dear Editor:  I just returned from a glorious weekend of solitude and
reflection in the mountains.  The quiet lake, the magnificent
rockface, the lovely songs of countless birds renewed my spirit.  When
I returned to my car from the trail yesterday, I found a "friendly
reminder" from the Forest Service because I did not display a
recreational use permit.  Apparently the note I had left on the
dashboard, which stated that I was in the area for spiritual, not
recreational, purposes, was ignored.

I actually paid the Forest Recreation Fee for several years, but I
eventually realized that doing so reinforces an alienated relationship
with the natural world.  It makes spending time in the forest just
another consumer choice, like going to the movies or to an amusement
park.  To me, the forest is not a commodity.  It is my spiritual home;
it is the habitat of virtue.

Furthermore, public lands belongs to us, the public, and we pay the
government to take care of them for us.  I will not pay the $5 fee,
and I will no longer purchase the $30 season pass.  This pay-for-use
system is wrong.  Nevertheless, Congress has just extended the fee
"demonstration" for another year.  President Bush has already asked
Congress to extend the program for another four years and Senator Bob
Graham (R-FL) has introduced legislation (S.1011) to make the fees
permanent.  Those of us who cherish public lands, who wish to keep
them public for our children and their children, must speak up now to
let our representatives know that we oppose the marketing of our
forests.

P.B.		

 

 

Some objectionable parts of "Fee Demo":


1.  It imposes second tax, although labeled as a "fee", on citizens
for forest expenses that  have already been paid for, over the years
and currently, through taxes.

2.  Lack of Congressional funding for Forest maintenance and so forth
clearly shows lack of Congressional concern for the very problems
supposedly "solved" by this program, the most burdensome,
undemocratic, aggravating, potentially troubling, potentially
dangerous, inevitably nature-harming, unbalanced, costly, regressive
"solution" imaginable.

3. Low income people would be arbitrarily and discretionarily denied
access to their own  public natural resources.   Money is NOT a
requirement for U.S. citizenship.

4.  Funds collected through fee programs, though they may sometimes be
used to "improve" on nature or offer legitimate public services,
represent substantial public subsidies to the private recreation
industries which plan to use public lands for their own private
business purposes.  Those who visit public lands will be compelled to
contribute to these subsidies under threat of fines or arrest.

5.   Much of the funds go to administration of the program.meaning
vehicles, video cameras to document violations, staff to enforce fee
compliance, toll booths and the like.   Unlike on highways, etc.,
where one might be required to show "papers" to police for various
reasons, in public lands, the natural experience is diminished greatly
as everyone in a park or monument will now be scrutinized for proof of
fee payment by gun-wearing, uniformed officers.  It is not amusing or
clever that the USFS sells "passports" to give citizens access to the
public lands.  Passports are documents required of visitors to most
foreign countries, NOT to visit natural parts of one's own country.

6.   Some of the funds are used to "improve" trails etc for motorized
"recreational" vehicles which are utterly incompatible with the
natural experience and, in fact, cause extensive damage to the natural
state.

7.   The program has been run as "Demonstration" program to evaluate
public response. Reportedly, anyone who pays to enter a park or
monument is counted by the Forest Service as  "yes" vote for the fee
system.  However, this is, to be accurate, fraudulent because people
have no option but to pay or else risk fines or arrest.  The Forest
Service offers no way to vote "no".   Those who would visit a park but
do not due to the costs are not, and generally cannot, be counted.
Further, the USFS has absolutely no incentive to tally as "no" votes
any letters or calls or other protests that they may receive. In fact,
the USFS has great incentive to ignore such "votes". An independent
tabulation system, done by an entity with no conflict-of-interest, is
clearly called for.

8.    No private business in these public lands will be content to
maintain any level of business but, instead, will do all possible to
expand.  This will entail, inevitably, increased fees, increased
destruction of the wild lands.and increased outrage from anyone
concerned about preserving the wild lands.  It is not hard to predict
that formerly natural destinations will become virtual fortified
battlegrounds.to the detriment of any and all entities involved
(including the forests and other lands).with the possible exception of
commercial prisons and police equipment suppliers.

9. The open injustice of requiring citizens to pay to merely visit
their public spaces is evident in that private extraction industries
involved in logging, mining, drilling and grazing are subsidized by
the public to, often, destroy any parts of the natural landscape they
find profitable. Such industries pay obscenely, obsoletely low fees
that are insults to any definition of justice, fairness or even
legitimate business practices. Further, as documented thoroughly, many
of these industries are rarely indicted, if indicted at all, for
repeated violations of all sorts of federal laws.  Often they are not
even required to pay reparations to the public for damages.

     To tolerate this aspect alone tells the entire public, and even
those overseas, that justice is not a priority or even an interest of
the U.S. government.  Adequate fines and payments to the public from
private extractive industries could pay many times over for the very
things now claimed to be reasons for regressive fees on visitors.

10.  The entire public benefits from the public lands, whether or not
some ever visit those places. They benefit in clean air, clean water,
preservation of species and maintenance of the very balance of nature.
Therefore ALL must share the costs, not just the relatively few who
visit.    This comes to only about a penny per person a year, if that.

Thank you for whatever you may do to stop this legislation and to
investigate and address reasons why any elected official would ever
propose such a thing.

         J.J. 

 

 

Public Lands are part of our heritage

		
This note is in response to Outside Magazine's online artice by 
Jennifer Villeneuve regarding the federal fee demo program for public 
lands (http://www.outsidemag.com/news/headlines/story_thu2.html). 
Several quotes in the article by NPS personnel and one recreation 
organization give the impression that the public doesn't mind paying 
fees to visit public lands they already own, as long as they know how 
the money is getting spent and as long as the fees do not 
discriminate among visitors.  The tone of the article leaves readers 
with the impression that the public is at least moderately in support 
of fee demo.

This is a very false impression!  People are going to court all over 
the West to defend their opposition to being coerced into paying fees 
simply to walk on land that already belongs to them and that they 
already support through their tax dollars.  People have been 
approached at trail heads by armed USFS rangers and threatened and 
intimidated in efforts to extort the fee from them. Those who pay the 
fees are counted as "supporters" of the program.  Those who refuse to 
pay are not counted as "opposition."  Those who stop visiting 
favorite trails and backcountry areas in order to avoid the unpopular 
fees are not counted as "opposition."  The agencies only count those 
who go along with this program that has been foisted upon them.  By 
not counting all the opponents, the agencies hope to convince the 
broader public that the program is actually popular!

As your article does point out, the American public has never been 
granted a formal comment opportunity to voice our true opinion of fee 
demo.  We are simply being expected and even coerced to comply.

It is true that it takes money to maintain existing trails, hire 
wilderness rangers, and enforce visitor use limits in popular areas. 
But it is not true that fee demo is "necessary" to supply those 
funds.  Congress had little trouble at all allocating millions and 
millions of dollars the past several decades to support commercial 
logging by private industry on our public lands.  Revenues collected 
from logging did not come close to covering the costs paid by the 
government to construct logging roads and administer commercial 
logging activities.  Now, with commercial logging in decline on 
public lands, Congress could just as easily choose to allocate 
adequate funds to non-motorized recreation on public lands.  Instead, 
the agencies are working in concert with the commercial recreation 
industry to establish fee demo as a permanent program that requires 
the public to pay each time they choose to visit their u ndeveloped 
public lands.

The commercial recreation industry is pushing fee demo because it 
allows them greater control of public lands recreation as a 
marketable commodity.   The recreation industry is busy forming 
"partnerships" with the public lands agencies.  The public has never 
been given the opportunity to say whether or not we want our public 
lands agencies to be entering into "partnerships" with commercial 
interests, or whether we want our public agencies to start following 
"business principles."  These commercial "partnerships" are aimed at 
monetary profit, not at protecting natural quiet, wilderness 
solitude, and the freedom to roam at will across our public domain.

Under fee demo, the recreation industry gains greater monetary 
profits as visitation and recreational use increase --  more 
recreationists means greater marketing and sales opportunities. The 
agencies are now referring to visitors as "customers."  More 
facilities, larger parking lots, smoother roads, easier stream 
crossings, nicer toilets, and other developments bring in more people 
-- thereby yielding higher financial profits for industry and for the 
public lands agencies through fees collected.  Therefore, the 
ultimate result of fee demo will be increasing development of remote 
areas -- privatization and commercialization of our public lands.

It has never been the purpose of public lands to provide financial 
profits to government or to commercial entities.  Public lands are 
part of the public trust heritage available for all Americans to 
enjoy. Public lands provide public goods that the private market is 
not equipped to provide.  Fee demo will reduce our public trust 
heritage and instead emphasize "services" and "facilities" favored by 
those who are willing to pay the most to play.  It will not favor 
those with modest incomes or more modest recreational interests, such 
as those who enjoy simply strolling, picknicking, or daydreaming on 
our public lands undisturbed by armed rangers extorting fees.  Fee 
demo will deliberately and methodically lead to the disappearance of 
wilderness and wilderness freedoms, in favor of developing our 
remaining wild lands into playgrounds where recreation can be 
mass-marketed for industrial profit.

 T.E.

 

 

My reasons for opposing fee-demo

		
I am sending you this message as I was told you folks were performing
a survey in regards to "fee-demo" and paying for our access to public
lands.  Enclosed here are my reasons for opposing fee-demo.
 
1)  Wilderness and our sense of wildland perservation and recreation
is a product of freedom. Our system of government gave the world its
concept of wildland preservation. Free and unfettered access to public
lands has always represented the physical manifestation of what it
meant to be free. National Parks are the exception - they allowed
limited fees to support a more structured form of recreation for those
unfamiliar with the outdoors. Tour buses and concessionaires were
provided for the 'soft' recreationist. But on Forest Service , BLM and
other federal lands, I sought just the opposite. I am a 'hard'
recreationist. I do not want the services or the concessionaires. The
rules and regulations of such things contain me. I seek escape from
such things. To summarize, when I go hiking, I am not just exercising
my physical body but that of my free nation as well. I have a right to
be free. Forcing us to a recreational model takes away our freedoms -
it necessarily implies wilderness and wildland preservation will also
eventually be lost. In this case, our wildlands will become a
commodity traded on the stock market.
 
2)  By the nature of the implemenation itself.  There has been no
public comments accepted by Congress and the government agencies
involved with fee-demo. It essence, it is being forced down our
throats. That in itself tells me there is something very wrong with
our government and necessarily implies that there are motivations here
that do not benefit those whose voices are being suppressed.
 
3) Accountability.  We have one federal tax so that we might hold the
government accountable for how much we 'pay' the government.  It also
allows us to account where the money goes. Ten percent here, twelve
percent there, etc.  One tax with a distribution model.  That is the
ethical and moral way for a government to operate under a free state.
 
4) True exploration is contradictory to intensive management.  They
are mutally exclusive. All things desire to explore the wonders of
their world.  I can be forced to stand on the trail as a 'ranger'
tells me all about the things that we are looking at.  Or, as a child
would, I can step off that trail and explore for myself... to
recognize and EXPERIENCE my place among those marvels.  One represents
sterilzed recreation (motivated by political and monitary interests),
the other is holistic in seeking a true understanding of ourselves and
our place in the world in which we find ourselves.
 
5)  A tax on the peoples pleasure.  Our pleasure 230 years ago was
tea.  It was taxed. We had a Boston Tea Party - the birthing pains of
a new nation.  Today our pleasure is outdoor recreation.  The
political precepts (political and monitary motivations) are the same.
It really has nothing to do with environmentalism but with history,
social equitability and accountability of ones' government.
 
Those in Congress who support these fees have lost sight entirely of
what America is all about. They have intentionally turned a blind-eye
to the founding principles that had defined and sustained this free
nation. Quite frankly, should it be possible, I would suggest that
they be prosecuted.  They certainly lack the integrity to be called
true Americans.

K.B.	

 

 

Whatever Happened to our National Parks?

		
Dear editors,
 
I was disappointed to find that you have presented the fee-demo issue
in a light which minimized the level of opposition to the program,
ignored the level of industry backing pushing for privatization, and
misstated the actual financial mechanics underlying the collection and
spending of the fees.
 
Your attributed quotes from Federal employees nicely captured the spin
techniques that they have been spoon-fed by their corporate
benefactors.  Already the framework of the fledgling propaganda
campaign is taking shape: "people like to pay the fees", "the fees are
reinvested in local infrastructure", and so forth.  What we don't hear
is that this is just the beginning, as the program will eventually
evolve into full privatization of the public lands.  What is not
expressed is that most infrastructure improvements involve pouring
concrete and building gift shops and other hallmarks of KOA's
definition of "improved" facilities.
 
The facts on the ground are different. The facts on the ground show
individuals and small groups rolling a stone uphill in acts of
advocacy and education, peaceful civil disobedience (including
arrest), and other forms of activism.  The facts on the ground show
the usual array of corporate campaign contributions, phony grass-roots
organizations, and disingenuous public statements made by the backers
of the program.  A review of the organizations lobbying for the
program includes the likes of KOA, Disney, and a collection of ORV
manufacturer groups.  Is this your reader demographic?  (is this your
advertiser demographic)?
 
This program is quite simply the next wave of for-profit companies
exploiting the public lands at taxpayer expense.  Last time the
taxpayers subsidized companies to graze and log our lands.  This time
around, we will subsidize the industrial recreation industry as it
paves and privatizes the National Parks and Forests.  From strip-mines
to strip-malls.  As with previous experiences, these large companies
with their millions of dollars in PR budgets and lobbyists are
inundating us with spin and false populism.
 
One underlying premise is correct: the Forest Service needs more
money.  But that problem was deliberately created by Congress through
a series of defundings.  The problem can be fixed by them too.  Write
Congress now and urge them to end fee demo and re-fund the Forest
Service.
 
Outside Magazine is setting themselves up for a future feature
article: "Whatever Happened to our National Parks?"

M.M		

 

 

I will not pay for what is already mine

		
Thank you for addressing the Recreation Fee Demonstration Project.  This
issue needs more attention from magazines with a wide audience such as
yourselves.  It appears that most  Americans blindly follow the powers that
be and ante up their user fees each time they pass the toll booth, not
realizing that this is a demonstration program, instead of a mandatory fee
program.  We each have a choice (for now).  We can pay up at the door to
use "public lands" that we have already paid for through logging, mining,
and grazing subsidies that flow like water through the tax streams or we
can protest this asinine program dreamt up by ATV users and grumpy old men
in suits, living in Washington D.C.

Many people do not realize that their hard earned tax dollars are being
paid to corporate America so that the extraction industry can rape the
forest by building new roads to access harvestable timber and precious
minerals.   Until I stop involuntarily paying these subsidies, I will not
pay to play in our public lands.  I will not pay while ranchers are allowed
to use public lands (at prices that are 20% of private enterprise grazing
costs) to graze cattle which crush native plant life, cryptobiotic soils,
ruin trails, and pollute our backcountry streams with their waste.  I will
not pay while the majority of the user fees go towards paying the  Rangers
to enforce this program.  What little money remains after the enforcement
activity is paid goes towards new and improved bathroom facilities (i.e.
Maroon Bells in Aspen, CO) & maintaining paved roads so that more people
can access everything, everywhere, from the comfort of the automobile.  I
will not pay when needed funds could easily be appropriated by our
Congressman from billions of tax dollars we already send Uncle Sam each
year.   I will not pay for what is already mine and what is already yours.
I urge each of you that have an interest in the future of our national
forests to research this subject further and form your own, informed
opinion.  

S.R. 

 

 

Forests for Fat Cats?

Recently, 50 of 100 protesters in southwest Colorado received tickets
for not paying the Fee Demo charges at Yankee Boy Basin, between
Telluride and Ouray. Our peaceful protest was met by an armed,
full-fledged roadblock, with officers brought in from around the
state.

More are speaking out. The Sun Valley Idaho Mountain Express ran two
editorials, “Forests for Fat Cats?” and “Shell Game.” An article in
the Denver Post called “fees for public lands a medieval concept.”
“Field and Stream” covered the privatization aspect of Fee Demo.
California, Oregon, and New Hampshire legislatures have resolutions
against the program. Arizona now has the Arizona No Fee Coalition, and
Colorado, the Western Slope No Fee Coalition. Over 200 other varied
groups are in opposition.

Congress lacks the integrity or backbone to restore funding to public
lands, yet subsidizes promotion of McDonald’s french fries and Gallo
wine overseas, and adds unrequested billions in appropriations to the
Pentagon. Now, they will allow greedy corporations a free ride with
our public lands, while charging us to access and enjoy them.

Referring to newly introduced Senate Bill 1011, “Shell Game” says,
“The bill unmasks the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program and finally
shows it for what it is: a government shell game foisted on a gullible
public.” This bill, which would make Fee Demo permanent, also releases
the Forest Service from a prohibition on displacing regularly budgeted
funds, with income derived from fees. That means higher or new fees to
replace more new budget cuts. That’s where “Forests for Fat Cats”
comes in.

J.H.

 

 

Forest Service note spoils trip

		
I just returned from a glorious weekend of solitude and reflection in
the Cascade mountains in Oregon. The quiet lake, the magnificent
rockface, the lovely songs of countless birds renewed my spirit. When
I returned to my car from the trail yesterday, I found a “friendly
reminder” from the Forest Service because I did not display a
recreational use permit. Apparently the note I had left on the
dashboard, which stated that I was in the area for spiritual, not
recreational, purposes, was ignored.

I actually paid the Forest Recreation Fee for several years, but I
eventually realized that doing so reinforces an alienated relationship
with the natural world. It makes spending time in the forest just
another consumer choice, like going to the movies or to an amusement
park.

Furthermore, public lands belong to us, the public, and we pay the
government to take care of them for us. I will not pay the $5 fee, and
I will no longer purchase the $30 season pass. This pay-for-use system
is wrong. Nevertheless, Congress has just extended the fee
“demonstration” for another year. President Bush has already asked
Congress to extend the program for another four years and Senator Bob
Graham (R-FL) has introduced legislation (S.1011) to make the fees
permanent. Those of us who cherish public lands, who wish to keep them
public for our children and their children, must speak up now to let
our representatives know that we oppose the marketing of our forests.

P.B.

 

 

Lobbies behind Fee Demo

While not a resident or regular visitor to the area, I am concerned
that the USFS and many other management agencies are being forced down
the new Fee Demonstration path by powerful corporate lobbies in
Washington, despite tremendous outcry from average citizens. It makes
me wonder who owns our country these days.

What is happening here? Isabella Lake is merely a symptom, though the
problem is nationwide and systematic. A formal “corporate Chamber of
Commerce” called the Recreation Roundtable has, over a series of
years, spent millions of dollars lobbying and purchasing influence in
Washington in a well-documented attempt to effectively privatize all
aspects of recreation on lands which the American people own. That is
the real meaning of the relentless change to the Fee Demonstration
(Fee Demo) private management model. Big players include Coleman,
Disney, Amfac, Delaware North and many others, whose business is to
sell aspects of recreation at the highest cost the market will bear.

The Forest Service is especially hard hit by the profit-making scheme
being pushed by the big corporate bullies. Collectively, their goal is
“public” lands run and operated for their private gain.

Don’t let them gain ground at Lake Isabella. Instead, please raise
your voice for the maintenance of modest public budgets upon which
land managers can keep the gates open, and facilities simple and
without cost for all citizens.

G.A.

 

 

Fees against laws of nature

Our system of government gave the world its concept of wildland
preservation. Free and unfettered access to public lands has always
represented the physical manifestation of what it meant to be free.
National Parks are the exception— they allowed limited fees to support
a more structured form of recreation for those unfamiliar with the
outdoors. I do not want the services or the concessionaires. The rules
and regulations of such things contain me. I seek escape from such
things. I have a right to be free. Forcing us to a recreational model
takes away our freedoms— it necessarily implies wilderness and
wildland preservation will also eventually be lost. In this case, our
wildlands will become a commodity traded on the stock market.

K.B.

 

 

They have no right

Those who support and are out to gain from the pay for play scheme
fail to understand that there are thousands of people like myself that
grew up in the forests. Had there been a fee when I was growing up I
would not have learned what I did as a boy. We were a poor family and
our only real recreation was outings, camping, fishing and hunting.
There are still those families out there today.

To impose a fee for all those who wish to trek into the backwoods or
hunt and fish is going to prevent families such as mine from being
part of our natural heritage and passing it on to their children.

And what will those children do? Your guess is probably as disturbing
as mine. It will more than likely be that they will resort to being
part of one of the many worldly activities that drag our children in
to the depths of isolation, rejection and separation of our society to
day. There is no medicine for the spirit better or as good as time
spent as a family in the outdoors.

Our government is now grabbing at any and all prospects to reap money
from the people to cover their mismanagement and excessive, blind and
selfish spending. The people of the outdoors should not be just
another source of income. The forests are ours. The government does
not own them.

They have no right to charge us to use what is rightfully ours.

M.F.

 

 

Nature should not have price

I heartily oppose recreation fees in our national forests, currently
implemented as a pilot project called the Adventure Pass. It places a
disproportionate burden on individuals recreating on forest lands—
mining, timber and cattle concerns pay far less and consume far more
resources.

Additionally, enforcing the Adventure Pass strains Forest Service
employee resources. Forest rangers have plenty of other tasks to
attend to; it would be a sad thing if the program demanded the hiring
of more rangers merely to enforce it.

There’s also the matter of selling off concessions and services. It’s
not clear how the outdoors have managed to become a commodity instead
of a place to relax and be quiet, but it’s symptomatic of something
very ugly -- pricing people out of nature. Count me in to fight it all
the way.

D.W.

 

 

Keep America’s public lands public

Charging the taxpaying public for the use of their own public lands or
national forest land is wrong, and was never the intention of John
Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, when these lands were set aside for the
enjoyment of all. The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) is a
powerful corporate lobbying effort made up of dozens of giant
multinational corporations that are currently lobbying our elected
servants in Washington, D.C. to privatize our public lands for a
profit. They would just love to sell our publicly owned land back to
us for a price. The cozy relationship between the Forest Service and
ARC must be stopped dead in its tracks.

The corporations that are involved in the effort to privatize our
public lands for profit stand to take a cut of the profits and this is
why they are involved. Once they get their feet in the door through
the auspices of our bought and paid-off legislators, these corporate
giants will develop and build hotels and resorts; they will charge
fees at previously free campgrounds such as Isabella Lake, and in
turn, charge the public a fee for this “service.” Currently, the Fee
Demonstration program is a pilot program set to be extended a few more
years, and ultimately made permanent if ARC has its wish, but we can
stop that from happening by contacting our congressmen and
congresswomen and senators and telling them in writing how we feel
about that.

Keep America’s public lands public

B.H.

 

 

We need more free campgrounds

No to fees! Charging fees for our three remaining free campgrounds is
a big mistake. It will hurt tourism and our local economy. It will
discriminate against the elderly on fixed incomes, the young and
people of lower economic status.

The Fee Demonstration Program has proven to be a disaster. We have
seen the quality of facilities and the cleanliness of campgrounds
decline under this program as fees have been imposed. Why are we being
charged to use the public lands that we have bought and maintained
with our federal taxes? This is double taxation. We need to urge
Congress to restore the budgets of the Forest Service and other public
agencies so they can administer these public campgrounds properly
without extorting money from us every time we step onto our public
lands. In the mean time we all know there is plenty of “fat” in the
Forest Service budget that could be trimmed, making it possible for
them to continue to maintain these camping areas on a fee free basis.
We need more free campgrounds, not less!

K.R.

 

 

Money is all they can see

I am appalled and hurt to the core hearing about all the
commercialization of our open spaces. I see the politicians want to
make one big Disneyland of our great country. It makes me sick. Money,
money, money is all they can see. What is going to happen to all our
beautiful open spots?

H.H

 

 

Fee Demo is doublespeak

Many different groups all across the country are protesting this
Fee-Demo act that the Forest Service is trying to use to charge fees
to use the only real “beach camps” on Isabella Lake.

The groups contesting it range from the Sierra Club to off-road
bikers— groups that usually oppose each other’s stand completely. But
neither one feels paying fees for access to our public lands is
justified.

Now, take notice of the title of the bill, “Fee Demonstration
Program.” Oh, that just means something they are going to test; try it
out to “demonstrate” that fees in some cases can be a good thing,
right? That it’s not really to set up permanent fees, right? Phooey!
That’s just more government doublespeak. Fees to use our land (not the
government’s) is simply more taxes.

Tell the people in Washington to transfer some of that money used
(wasted) to protect the spotted owl, the willow flycatcher or the
desert tortoises to pay our park and forest rangers. We don’t need to
pay more taxes to use our land. It’s time for the government people to
wake up and see the obvious. It they manage to move taxpayers to the
top of the endangered species list, they are obviously next in line!

C.P.

 

 

Dear Mr. Crandall

Derrick A. Crandall
7628 Huntmaster Lane
McLean, VA 22102

Dear Mr. Crandall:

I am writing to assure you that I am among those citizens who believe
that we pay for the right to visit our National Parks and Forests
every April 15 when we submit our taxes. The Fee Demo program
advocated by you and others of ARC is, in my opinion, a way for the
recreation industry to gain control of these precious national
resources for personal gain, namely economic income. The
commercialization of these natural resources will continue the erosion
and destruction of their beauty. In particular, motorized vehicles
with their accompanying noise, air and water pollution, as well as
destruction of topsoil and vegetation, and seriously disturbing the
wildlife, are the topmost reason for my firm opposition to the fee
demo program. It is obvious that these fees are meant to make
commercialization and motorization of the parks and forests increase
at a rate that will bring more profit to those who produce and market
the products.

In addition, research shows that the fees are keeping low income
families from enjoying these resources that belong to them and all
Americans, not just the wealthy.

There really is nothing to be done to "fix" the fee-demo program,
because it is wrong and Americans refuse to accept it.

S.Y.	

 

 

ARC - keep your hands off

Dear Mr. Crandall,
 
In response to your article in RV Executive (Oct. 99)I wish to inform
you that it is not  the "billions in maintenance backlog" or the
"almost no expansion of facilities and services" which is keeping me
from enjoying my usual recreational activities on the Los Padres
National Forest. It is the Recreation Fee Demo Program (Adventure
Pass), making me feel like a criminal every time I go to the forest
without one of "your" permits to recreate on my own public land. You
see, I steadfastly refuse to pay for a permit to recreate on my own
land. It would be like my gardener charging me admission to enjoy my
own garden, and I'm sure you can imagine what I would say to him
(right before I fired him).
 
It's time you faced the truth, Mr. Crandall, and publicly admitted
that the Adventure Pass program is wrong for public lands. Most of us
who enjoy our quiet wilderness time do not want any more of "your"
services and facilities in our National Forests, thank you very much!
 
Kindly keep your hands off of our public lands!

J.H.

 

 

The insidious Fee Demo program

		
Congrats to the Denver Post for a great editorial on the insidious Fee
Demo program.  First, you had the courage to admit that you, too, were
fooled by the sweet promises that accompanied the initial program.
Second, you had the guts to lay out the real problems: Congress and
the agencies' own spending priorities.
 
While so-called "free market environmentalists" trumpet Fee Demo as a
stimulus-response panacea to problems on public recreational lands,
they overlook one important issue.  Our form of government is not "the
agencies run themselves."  If this was the case, we could simply turn
over our tax dollars to the government -- and Congress would be
unnecessary.  Government would tell us what was good for us, what they
were going to do, and how much it was going to cost us.  Then they
would levy the fees, hire armed rangers, build entrance stations, and
bust us if we didn't pay up.  Under Fee Demo, this is essentially what
happens.  Individual agencies get to charge citizens to access public
recreational resources and then use the money for anything they want
-- with NO public oversight.
 
Obviously, the need for funding, as bureaucracies bloat and capital
construction runs rampant, would never end.  Americans would be faced
with a continual spiral of increasing fees as unelected bureaucrats
decide what's good for us -- and how much it will cost.
 
Alternatively, and in line with the principles upon which the country
was founded, is the concept that our ELECTED representatives in
Congress keep a tight rein on government by deciding whether capital
improvements like the million dollar outhouse mentioned in your
editorial are absolutely needed.  If they are, the job of Congress is
to appropriate the money to fund them.
 
Fee Demo stands this fundamental principle of a representative
democracy on its head -- neither the people nor the Congress has veto
power over the spending proclivities of federal bureaucracies.  Like a
kid in a candy store, they can build whatever they want -- and pass
the charges off on us, no matter how outrageous.
 
The right of the American public to access the lands that already
belong to us is unquestionable.  Just as it would be unthinkable that
you would have to pay a fee to walk into your own home, it is
unthinkable that citizens would have to pay to walk on the soil of
their own country.
 
Again, thanks for calling bullshit on the bureaucracy for its wild
spending habits and on the chickenshit politicians who would abdicate
their duty to responsibly apportion existing funding, letting
non-elected agencies run, as you accurately said, "amok."

G.O.

 

 

Dear Mr. Crandall

Derrick Crandall
7628 Huntmaster Lane
McLean, VA  22102

Dear Mr. Crandall,

I read again today, with interest, your 1999 report on the progress of
the Rec Fee Demo program.  I am neither an "activist seeking a cause"
or a misguided recreation community leader. I am just an old lady who
highly values her freedom to visit our National Forests and other
public lands freely anytime I wish. I want that freedom for my
grandchildren and great-grandchildren also. That is why I am working
very hard to see the END of Rec Fee Demo. Any so-called
"misinformation" on this subject has been coming from you and your
organization and up to now has been swallowed by some in Congress.
BUT, grass roots, plain folks like myself and thousands of others are
beginning to be heard loud and clear on the hidden agenda behind Fee
Demo.  Hopefully we will be able to keep our public lands free from
the commercial and private sector you represent. Your efforts would be
better served on other projects!

E.N.	

 

 

Fee Demo perverts management interests

		
I write to you as a voter who watched with great pleasure as you won
your seat in the election this past November.  I follow the record of
the Minnesota delegation on environmental issues, and I inform a
number of friends, including several who live in your district, of
various imporant environmental issues as they arise on the Hill.  (For
example, I know how you voted on the CAFE standards.)  I write to you
now to let you know how I feel about one issue that you are currently
considering, as a member of the recently re-named House Committee on
Resources.

The issue is the proposed re-authorization of the "fee demo" program,
which is, in my considered opinion, a very bad idea for two reasons.
First, I have lived on a limited income before.  During that time, as
a recent college graduate in a non-profit job in Washington state, I
was paying back student loans and surviving on a salary that afforded
me about $30 of discretionary spending money each month.  Luckily for
me, I was also surrounded by a marvellous endowment of federal lands,
including half a dozen National Forests and two National Parks that I
visited on many occasions.  Even when though the enjoyment of the land
itself was free, I was hard-pressed to visit as often as I liked,
because that took gas money. Had I had to pay parking fees and trail
use permits, I would not have been able to enjoy the public lands that
are held in trust for ALL THE PEOPLE of this country (not to mention
the thousands of species dependent on those lands).  The FEE DEMO
program, quite simply, WOULD HAVE PRECLUDED MY USE of the federal
lands I love so much.  I know that many others in my position would
also be prevented from using the public lands.  It is always difficult
for people who are comfortably well-off to really imagine the effect
of even seemingly small financial disincentives on those whose money
is tight enough that every dollar counts.  Please do try to imagine
the effect the fee demo program will have on the poorest citizens who
whish to enjoy our public lands, and be a voice for ending the fee
demo program.

A second reason the fee demo program is bad and should be ended,
rather than permanently extended, is the way it will harm the lands
themselves.  There are two ways in which this harm will occur:  A)
SKEWED MANAGEMENT INTERESTS. By tying agency (USFS, USPS, BLM, etc)
funding for management of the lands to recreational user fees and
special use permits, the agencies managing these lands will find
increasingly strong incentives - in fact may be forced - to
dramatically change management plans to accommodate and encourage
greater levels of use of the lands and greater permission of damaging
uses of the lands, particularly in the form of motorized ORVs.  As
noted above, charging fees to park and use the land will act to
restrict use of the the land by people who like to hike and do the
least expensive and least damaging forms of recreation, without
discouraging (and in fact probably encouraging, through building of
more vast ORV trail systems, as the Forest Service has been doing over
the past several years of the Fee Demo program) wealthier users who
are more likely to own ORVs.  This skewing of use and management
priorities will increase more destructive and noisy uses of the land
at the expense of quieter and cheaper uses which are more
environmentally friendly and which I think most people still prefer.
Management decisions should be made in an environment that is neutral,
and not biased toward maximizing revenue from permits, so that
management decisions accurately reflect the interests in maintaining
the land for future generations; B) DISENFRANCHISEMENT OF VOTERS.  I
suspect that as the Fee Demo program will cause the public lands to be
seen, more and more, to be the property of those who can pay to use
them, rather than the property of all, including future generations.
Those who can pay the fees and who use the land most frequently will
feel more entitled to determine how the lands should be managed, even
as poorer people come to feel (or are seen as being) less entitled to
a say.  Moreover, all the citizens (and species) who don't recreate on
the land (or who just live there), but who still have an interest and
a right to have a say in management of these public lands, will come
to count less and less in the agency calculations over whether more
parking lots should be build, more ORV trails blazed, or more efforts
made to protect sensitive areas.  (Do not be fooled by the claim that
more user fees will increase the money available to protect and better
manage the lands; this is the same sophistry that the US Forest
Service pulled with Congress in the 1980s in arguing that the more
logging they did, the more funds were generated to repair the damage
done to wildlife values.  The argument is false because it always
costs more to repair than to destroy, and sometimes full reparations
are simply impossible, ecologically speaking.)

The citizens of the US are all supposed to be constituents of equal
worth, whose opinions should be weighed equally by the agencies; if
those agencies' funding comes more and more from fees, then those who
pay the fees will become the first-class constituents, while those who
cannot, or who cannot do so as often, will be relegated to
second-class status, just as you might treat my comments as less
important simply because I live near your district, not in it.  But
while the tiering of importance of constituents is acceptable from a
US Representative whose obligations are weighted to her constituents,
it is not the way the executive branch is supposed to work. The
federal agencies are supposed to work for the entire nation, not for a
particular geographic or recreational constituency.

The Fee Demo program will pervert the management interests and
motivations of federal agencies, and for that reason, as well as the
other reasons I outlined above, it should not be renewed.  Please
stand as the strong environmentalist I hope and expect you to be, and
oppose the extension of the Fee Demo program.

M.N.

 

 

We wuz robbed!

Despite a milder than expected fire season, the U.S. Forest Service
will overspend its firefighting budget by about $230 million.
According to an AP story, "The overrun comes even though this year's
fire season burned roughly 520,000 acres, about one quarter of the 2.1
million acres that burned last year. It also happened despite the $1.9
billion that Congress sent the Forest Service to bolster firefighting
ranks and reduce fire hazards after the major Western wildfires of
2000."

As a result of this overspending, the USFS will now take money from
it's recreation budget to cover the shortfall. The Forest Service
will, in it's own words, "suspend more than $12 million in national
forest spending, including trail and campground construction and
replacement of decaying public toilets" to replace money overspent in
its fire-fighting budget.

Let's put the size of this cost overrun into perspective. In
Congressional testimony on Wednesday, September 26, Forest Service
Acting Associate Deputy Chief, Denny Bschor, stated that the USFS had
collected $71 million from recreation user fees CUMULATIVELY since the
introduction of the highly unpopular Fee Demo program in 1996. That
means the USFS's 2001 fire-fighting cost overrun is three times the
cumulative gross fee-demo revenues collected in five years!

While we're paying to park and hike or picnic on our public USFS
lands, and being told this money is for trail maintenance and other
recreational lands improvement, the forest service is stealing the
money to spend on other projects. No one disputes that fighting forest
fires is important, but isn't paying for it supposed to come from the
forest service budget?

Please consider that in Oregon and Washington, where the USFS has been
most aggressive in collecting recreation user fees, the fee
demonstration program grossed $5.9 million dollars last year. However,
approximately 45% of that money was spent on projects with 55% going
toward overhead, enforcement, collection and administration. In 2000,
in the Pacific Northwest fee-demo provided less than $3 million in
supplemental revenues for actual on-the-ground work. But on September
26, the USFS announced that they will take $12 million in funding FROM
the Pacific Northwest's recreation budget and spend that money
elsewhere.

In other words, "we wuz robbed!"

P.K.

 

 

126 Organizations send comments to Congress

		
To the Honorable Representative Scott McInnis:

I write to you on behalf of the Public Lands Coalition as the secretary
of the coalition.   Please make this letter and the enclosed documents
part of the public record in regards to the September 25 oversight
hearing on permanent authorization of the Forest Service Recreation Fee
Demonstration Program (Fee Demo) held by the House Subcommittee on
Forests and Forest Health.

The Public Lands Coalition opposes permanent authorization of the Forest
Service Fee Demo Program.  We would rather see the Forest Service
recreation budget fully funded through the normal appropriations
process, thereby eliminating the need for fees.

Additionally, we oppose the private investment and partnerships clause
of Fee Demo as this could lead to a further shift from National Forest
recreation areas managed by the government for all citizens to National
Forest recreation areas managed by the private sector for private
profit.  The National Forest system was created with the philosophy of
lands held in the public trust and should remain that way.

Enclosed with this letter is a copy of a letter authored by the Public
Lands Coalition.  The letter makes a specific statement of opposition to
Fee Demo, and has been endorsed by 126 organizations in 28 states.  The
list of these organizations has been attached as well.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this most important issue
facing the future of National Forest management.
	

 

 

Letter to Editor

	
Your November 14 editorial "End Forest Pass Experiment" misses the
mark. You declare the Fee Demo Program (Northwest Forest Pass) a
success, and call on Congress to make it permanent and expand it
nationwide. This is hogwash. The program is opposed by over 230
groups, several state legislatures, and counties and cities throughout
the nation. Most people who buy forest passes do so because they are
threatened with fines if they don't buy them.

In truth, Fee Demo is a corporate sponsored privatization scheme that
threatens to eliminate free public access and introduce the profit
motive to public recreation. Public Law 104-134 created Fee Demo. It
directs the Forest Service and BLM to: "encourage private investment
and partnerships to enhance the delivery of quality customer services
and resource enhancement, and provide appropriate recognition to such
partners or investors."

The last thing we want are corporations as "partners" in public lands
management! Public lands should be managed in the public interest, by
public agencies. Bureaucracies have their shortfalls, but once
corporations call the shots, public oversight goes out the window.
Profits will supplant stewardship.

How ironic that Fee Demo is touted as a conservative "pay-as-you-go"
initiative. Get the government off our backs? Trim federal
bureaucracies and reduce their power? Establishing the Forest Service
as entrepreneur is a recipe for bloated budgets, higher fees, and more
restrictions. A walk in the woods is not an entertainment experience
we should purchase from the government. To learn the truth about Fee
Demo, see www.freeourforests.org

S.M.

 

 

Free-Days Don't Solve Problems

	
Is this an example of Forest Service philanthropy? (That's sorta like
an oxymoron.) Or simply a desperate attempt to mitigate the
unavoidable exclusionary effect that fees have on the economically
disadvantaged?  The USFS just doesn't get it. Twelve "fee-free" days
out of the year is only 3%. The poor are still being barred from their
public lands for 97% of the year. This is totally unacceptable!  The
poor are already prohibited from visiting the gems of our nation -
Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, etc. - because of the
exorbitant fees there (which increased even more because of the forest
fee program).  Now they cannot even take their children on a picnic in
their local national forests without the rangers shaking them down for
their hard-earned money.  And where does the Adventure Pass money
really go?  The rangers' standard claim is that "at least 80% of the
money will be used right here" for the upkeep of facilities and the
protection of the forest.  But both the General Accounting Office
audit of 1998-1999 and the Department of the Interior report of 2001
show that the actual percentage was only 34% and 27%, respectively -
far from 80%.

Judging by the proliferation of Adventure Pass propaganda and
green-garbed Gestapo interrogating and intimidating forest visitors,
it seems a huge chunk of the money goes right into running the
Adventure Pass program itself.  Of course, the forest fee program was
never meant to benefit the forests anyway.  It's simply a
government/corporate experiment to see if they can get away with
taking money right out of your pocket without you having any say in
the matter.

D.N.

 

 

Shared Common Ground

	
Taken together, the National Park articles by Shannon Joyce Neal and
“Trail fees cause furor” by Aaron Porter demonstrate how much park
managers and those who protest the Recreational fee Demonstration
Program have in common.

The National Park articles repeatedly demonstrate that Congress will
appropriate money for fancy, highly visible amenities, and the
resulting maintenance overextends the park’s financial resources.

Black Canyon’s Steven Riley described it this way. "This is the third
time they've said, ‘Let's dump a lot of money into the parks,’ but
there's not much base increase. They did the same thing in the ’80s
and we didn't have the money to maintain it."

As if the creation of maintenance intensive amenities weren’t enough,
Congress and high-level public servants are also calling for land
managers to increase the number of people using public lands, while on
the ground managers pointed out that they don’t have the money to
handle the increased use. Especially problematic is that those
visitors have already contributed tax dollars towards the management
of these lands, yet the parks are left underfunded due to inadequate
appropriations.

The articles call for increased appropriations, and fee opponent Kitty
Benzar agrees. “We are totally in favor of using appropriations money,
because the money could be put to good use.” Fee opponents realize
that a steady flow of maintenance money will only come from
appropriations, not from fees. With fees, “the parks cannot predict
how much money will come each year.” Opponents couldn’t agree more.

D.S.

 

 

Fee-Demo is unpatriotic

	
In this a year following a year of our greatest disaster ever to threaten our 
freedom I have heard so much about freedom itself.

    Our government does not own the forests. We the patriots do. The 
government is paid by us to manage our land for us. If our government cannot 
do its job then it is time we form a new Management For, From and By the 
People.

    I am a disabled Vietnam Veteran and I am ashamed to stand on the same 
dirt with this snake.

    I fought as did many men and women in all wars for our freedom. We did 
not fight for this snake of a government and private individuals to take 
advantage of out freedoms. We in fact fought wars to destroy this very same 
snake as it tried to take control in other countries of the world.

    This Planet was given us to care for and learn to live on as human 
beings. If we let these actions take hold we are failing in our God given 
assignment.

    The devil itself may have been tossed from Heaven but has through the 
years sprouted legs and risen out of the slime and is walking amongst us in 
the body of the great pretenders in Washington and elsewhere that live on 
power and greed in devour the name of Democracy. 

    I think it is time to put our heads together and let it be known we will 
not stand for this dictatorship in this Free Country!

    Now if you don't know what I am opposing. It is the Fee Demo Pay for Play 
Program. The Charging of fees to use our natural heritage and
the obscene idea that our children must grow up in a society that has lost 
all realization of what life is all about.

M.F.

 

 

Do Not be Intimidated

	
We Americans seem to have renewed appreciation for freedom. Let’s not
overlook privileges that are close to home, specifically, the right to
use our public lands as we always have. This birthright is changing as
a result of the federal government’s controversial Recreation Fee
Demonstration Program.

Unfortunately, most people in this area don’t seem to be aware of this
program which charges access fees to users of specific public lands.
This so-called test program now has congressional approval to extend
until 2004 after which, if not stopped, will be in place permanently
without limits to the number of sites or amount charged. This is a
fee, in addition to camping or parking fees, to visit public lands:
U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands, national forests, parks and
wildlife refuges. As Americans, and therefore owners of these lands,
we formerly had the privilege to hike, fish, or drive most of these
areas, without buying a permit to do so. Now, we face a government
employee, a fee and a possible fine for accessing our public lands
that seem to have become a commodity with our government.

Since the 1980s, financial support for public lands has been reduced.
Lack of money is not the problem. Rather, it is one of allocation.
Responsible funding can provide the necessary money to maintain public
lands without this double taxation.

As a user of public lands, do not be intimidated into paying these
fees. By paying, albeit grudgingly, you will be on record as
supporting this demonstration program.

This program can be stopped, but we must act now. We must write to our
senators and representatives and tell them they will lose our votes if
they continue to back this abhorrent program. Support the Western
Slope No-Fee Coalition as it goes to court today in Grand Junction to
fight this infringement on our freedom.

S.J.

 

 

End Subsidies, Fund Forests

		
Your Editorial regarding the Fee Demo program and the protesters in
Durango deserves many responses. I'll be happy to provide one. The
Daily Sentinel Editorial stated "For the record, we believe that it's
entirely sensible to have recreational users of public lands help pay
for the costs they create, just as it does to have ranchers, timber
companies and mineral firms pay for the costs their respective
activities impose on public lands."

I don't know where your Editorial writer has been the past decade, but
he/she may be interested to know that ranchers, timber companies, and
mineral firms do not pay the costs for their respective activities on
public lands. The timber companies are subsidized by the US Forest
Service to the tune of over $1 billion per year. Ranchers are also
subsidized by the US Forest Service and the BLM to well over $1
billion per year. Finally, hard rock mining companies steal literally
billions of dollars in royalties annually that the US taxpayer never
sees.

Demanding that citizens pay to walk on public lands is arrogance at
its best when corporations are sucking off the public taxpayer tit.
Why doesn't your Editorial writer demand that welfare ranchers,
welfare loggers and welfare miners begin paying their fair share?

D.B.

 

 

Paying one's fair share

		
Your Editorial regarding the Fee Demo program and the protesters in
Durango deserves many responses. I'll be happy to provide one. The
Daily Sentinel Editorial stated "For the record, we believe that it's
entirely sensible to have recreational users of public lands help pay
for the costs they create, just as it does to have ranchers, timber
companies and mineral firms pay for the costs their respective
activities impose on public lands."

I don't know where your Editorial writer has been the past decade, but
he/she may be interested to know that ranchers, timber companies, and
mineral firms do not pay the costs for their respective activities on
public lands. The timber companies are subsidized by the US Forest
Service to the tune of over $1 billion per year. Ranchers are also
subsidized by the US Forest Service and the BLM to well over $1
billion per year. Finally, hard rock mining companies steal literally
billions of dollars in royalties annually that the US taxpayer never
sees.

Demanding that citizens pay to walk on public lands is arrogance at
its best when corporations are sucking off the public taxpayer tit.
Why doesn't your Editorial writer demand that welfare ranchers,
welfare loggers and welfare miners begin paying their fair share?

D.B.

 

 

 


This document was prepared by Wild Wilderness. To learn more about ongoing industry-backed congressional efforts to motorize, commercialize, and privatize America's public lands, contact:

Scott Silver, Executive Director
Wild Wilderness
248 NW Wilmington Avenue,  Bend  OR 97701
Phone (541) 385-5261    E-mail: ssilver@wildwilderness.org