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Stop Public Lands Access Fees!
This effort is truly a grassroots affair, passed from organization to organization and from family to family around the nation. There is no wealthy big-name nationwide group leading this movement. You, and thousands of others like you who believe in the long-standing principle of fee-free access to undeveloped federal public lands, must participate for us to succeed!
Your elected officials have made it very easy for you to contact them by email. Just go to www.Senate.gov and www.House.gov. Locate your Senators (2) and Representative (1) and use their webforms to submit comments. Constituent input is the strongest influence a member of Congress uses when deciding how to vote. It works! Try it!BACKGROUND:
The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) was enacted as a rider to the 2005 omnibus appropriations bill. It replaced the Recreation Fee Demo Program that had been in place since 1996. It was never voted on in the House and was never introduced in the Senate.
An oversight hearing on Wed June 18th, 2008 before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands was titled "Paying to Play: Implementation of Fee Authority on Federal Lands." The subcommittee examined all aspects of implementation of the FLREA and identified numerous areas of concern.
In the US Senate, bills to repeal FLREA have been introduced twice, with bipartisan sponsorship, but have been unable to get a hearing.
WHAT TO WRITE:
Please send comments to your federal elected officials that are as specific as possible. Do not copy the phrases below verbatim. Change them around and make them personal. Add additional concerns that you have about access fees.
Some points to include in your comments:
The FLREA specifies that access fees are prohibited simply for hiking, biking or horseback riding on public lands. Yet thousands of trailheads are still subject to access fees on Forest Service and BLM lands (name some such trailheads which you use).
Protest the Forest Service's creation of HIRAs (High Impact Recreation Areas), where fees are levied for access to thousands of acres of undeveloped land. The FLREA restricts access fees to developed sites that have six amenities present (permanent toilets and trash cans, picnic tables, interpretive signs, designated parking and security services), but these restriction are being largely ignored by the agencies.
Mention that National Park visitation has fallen 5% since 2000, and that Forest Service visitation declined 17% between 2000 and 2007.
State your concern about the Forest Service's Recreation Facility Analysis, a nationwide program that proposes to permanently close thousands of recreation sites which the agency considers unable to pay their way with fees. This is going on with little or no public notice.
Recreation Resource Advisory Committees, set up by the Forest Service to give the green light to new and/or increased access fees (as required by the FLREA), are conducting their business without meaningful public input. Moreover, the costs of these committee meetings are not being counted as an administrative fee program expense by the agency.
Many National Parks charge additional fees (on top of entrance fees) for access to backcountry areas, for interpretive programs, and for mandatory transportation systems set up to protect some Parks from excessive traffic.
Include examples of places where fees are being charged by the Forest Service and BLM for: parking, scenic overlooks, hiking/riding trails, general access, use of undeveloped backcountry, and camping in undeveloped areas, even though all of those are prohibited from fees by the FLREA.
Relate any experiences you may have had with enforcement authorities.
Say that you support a return to the fee policy that existed from 1965 to 1996 under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, when the Forest Service and BLM charged fees only at developed camping, boating, and swimming sites, and the entrance fees at National Parks covered access to interpretive programs, backcountry activities, and mandatory transportation systems. Fee revenue should be subject to oversight by Congress, not levied as a double tax by local managers who get to keep the money and make the spending decisions. Ask your elected officials to return to this previous, successful, policy.
Please spend some time asking friends and family to submit comments as well! The more comments that are received, the stronger will be the case for repealing the FLREA. Thank you all for your help.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION TODAY TO RESTORE PUBLIC ACCESS TO PUBLIC LANDS!