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level of government and among different levels of government. This fee structure will serve to stimulate provision of similar services by private operators who will otherwise be faced with competition from free government facilities.


In 1972, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was amended. majority committee report reiterated the idea of user fees:

Most members of the committee believe that those people who are
fortunate enough to be able to take the time to use and enjoy these
areas ought to be willing to help, to some reasonable degree, to
defray the cost of providing them with these opportunities. No one
wants to price anyone out of these outdoor areas, but neither do
they want to unduly burden those who never visit such areas
either for economic or other reasons with all of the costs of
making these areas and their related facilities available.

It seems so abundantly clear as to be almost axiomatic. Users of federal recreation areas should contribute more to federal recreation programs than non-users; frequent users should contribute more than occasional users; users of more sophisticated facilities should pay more than users of modest facilities; and users of modest facilities should pay more than non-users of any special facilities.

In 1979, the Carter administration's Office of Management and Budget suggested that they would reduce Park Service budgets by $12 million and order the Park Service to raise an additional $12 million by raising fees. Congress reacted negatively to this suggestion: the late Congressman Phil Burton managed to have an amendment enacted that froze entrance fees at the 1979 levels, where they remain today.

In 1982, the Reagan administration submitted to the Congress a legislative proposal entitled 'Recreation Fees and Improvements Act of 1982.' This act would have repealed the 1979 moratorium and would have charged fees to hikers, hunters, and fishermen. The legislation was described as being "necessary for full implementation of the President's program for economic recovery." This proposal also produced a strong negative response from Congress. Facing such determined opposition, that legislation was withdrawn by former Secretary Watt four days later.

Also in 1982, the General Accounting Office produced a study entitled * Increasing Entrance fees National Park Service." It based its analysis of whether to charge fees on the six fee criteria added to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act in 1972: All fees shall be fair and equitable, taking into consideration: 1. the direct and indirect cost to the Government; 2. the benefits to the recipient; 3. the public policy or interest served; 4. the comparable recreation fees charged by non-Federal public agencies; 5. the economic and administrative feasibility of fee collection; and 6. other pertinent factors.


The report concludes that:

The Congress should repeal the moratorium on increasing and initiating pack entrance fees. The Park Service should determine what the fee levels should be for units in the National Park System, using the six legislative criteria. Had the Park Service used the criteria, the concerns of the Congress would have been addressed when it froze entrance fees in 1979. Higher and more widespread entrance fees would shift a more reasonable portion of park costs from taxpayers in general to pack visitors.

Despite these various reports and these various actions, the bottom line today is that the federal fee policy is confused as to its objective, is inconsistently applied, is subject to continual Congressional and administration policy changes, and is lacking broad support and understanding. All of these defects must be corrected before there will ever by any kind of rational fee program.


Two major recreation fees are currently being charged within the National Park System, the user fee and the admission or entrance fee. The proceeds from both fees are currently deposited in the LWCE account in the Treasury. Therefore, neither of these funds finds their way back to the activity from which they were originally generated.

In general, NPCA philosophically supports user fees which are defined in the LWCF Act as fees collected for specialized outdoor recreation sites, facilities, and equipment. While these fees are generally accepted by park visitors, we believe that a portion of the revenues collected should be returned to the collecting point with the remainder distributed to needed projects at other sites or parks. The continuation of user fees should be contingent upon their use to enhance the activity that generated them and to mitigate impacts to the park's resources caused by the use.

The entrance fee has been and continues to be the subject of extensive debate. It is this fee on which a moratorium was placed in 1979 and it is the fee that we will discuss in depth today.

NPCA would support an entrance fee at appropriate NPS units if crucial conditions were met which are based on the following philosophical criteria:

* Fees should not be assessed with any idea of making national park programs self-sufficient.

* Fees collected should not be used to offset or reduce funds available through appropriation, but to augment or expand the existing programs.


* The agency which collects the fees should retain the funds thus derived. These funds should be held in a central repository (or dedicated account) rather than being retained at the local unit which happens to collect the fees.

* The allocation of revenues collected should be based on resource needs to avoid gilding of the most popular areas and to assure that managers do not allow fee collections to become a dominant management factor. Allocations of collected fees will have to be subject to appropriation by Congress from a separate fund.

* Entrance fees should not be considered an access fee. Rather, fees should be based on the impact of the visitor on the resource and that visitor's use of the park resource and so justified to the public.

* Any fee program should have flexibility to ensure that proper consideration be given to the feasibility of collection, public policy, visitor benefits, comparable charges of non-federal agencies and other pertinent factors as described in the 1972 Land and Water Conservation Fund Act Committee report.

* Fees should not be prohibitively high as to prevent the use of national parks by citizens at any level of the socio-economic ladder;

* Public land fees are appropriate at widely differing levels wherever special facilities, services or activities are provided. The level of fees can be based to some extent on comparability with fees in the private sector. This comparison should be used only for determining the maximum fee and should not be used as a factor in setting the minimum fee.



Federal responsibility for inaintaining national parks:

There is a legal requirement regarding the upkeep of the units of the National Park System which can be found in the 1916 Organic Act of the NPS. The act requires the NPS to preserve the resources for the use of the public now and in the future. It should be noted that this requirement is not contingent upon the amount of revenues collected from the visiting public. We support the long-held notion that the natural and cultural resources of the National Park System, as well as those resources located on the remainder of our public lands, belong to all Americans, whether they use them directly or not. Therefore, the use of appropriated funds from the general treasury to carry out the basic operations of the Park Service should remain the primary means of maintaining our national park units. Any entrance fees collected from the public should not be used to offset regular appropriations for basic operations nor should those funds be deposited in the LWCF account for land acquisition purposes (ocs leasing receipts are sufficient for this purpose).


A dedicated account, similar to the LWCF, should be established to receive entrance fees. As discussed further on, it should be very clear to the public, the Administration (OMB), and the Congress, that the revenues from this dedicated account can only be used to augment park operation needs based on visitor use.

Recent surveys and studies indicate that general support exists for requiring those who use the national parks or public lands to pay a little something extra for the privilege. Nevertheless, the basic responsibility for funding resource management activities, maintenance, interpretation, and law enforcement must remain with the general public through appropriations from the general Treasury. Any attempt to recover an arbitrary sum, such as 25% of administrative costs, is going to ecode support for any fee collection program.

NPCA Position in Brief: A reasonable fee collected at designated park entrances, and deposited into a separate account to be distributed annually for prescribed programs, can benefit the park visitor by helping to maintain and protect the resources that they come to see.

2. Retention of collected fees for specific activities related to visitor impact:


The federal land managing agency that collects the fees should retain those fees for approved resource protection or enhancement programs. These programs will differ from park to park and agency to agency, based on how the individual areas are used by the visitor. For example: Park Visitors Management Account in the National Park Service could receive all entrance fee collections. A portion of the funds could be distributed annually to the parks that collected the money, with the remainder being distributed to parks on a priority basis determined by visitor impacts on pack resources. This method of distribution would minimize the possibility of fee collection becoming a dominant management factor at parks where heavy collections are clearly documented.

The success of such a program is dependent upon the public's positive perception of its purpose. Entrance fees should not be considered access fees, but fees that are used to minimize visitor's impact on park resources. Thus, the NPS's education of the visitor regarding this purpose must be a high priority. Visitors should be informed about why the money is being collected, i.e., that their contribution will be used to protect the resources that they come to see.

NPCA Position in Brief: Collection of fees should only occur if those funds will be retained by the agency that collected them and used to augment basic operations. The public must be informed of why those funds are being collected and to what use they will be put.


3. A flexible fee program:

Based on the results of the 1982 General Accounting office study mentioned earlier, and the existing legislative criteria within the 1965 LWCF Act, flexibility to determine where to charge and how much to charge will determine how successful any entrance collection program will be. Any fees charged should be no more than fees charged at similar state, local or private operations. Further, studies indicate that it is not feasible to take collections at every site.

flexibility also must be extended to the various federal agencies providing recreation to reflect their individual missions and the needs of the visiting public. Generally, however, some comparability must exist among all federal agencies to avoid totally confusing the visitors.

Fees should never reach a point where they are so high as to discourage any citizen from visiting a federal area. These areas are preserved and protected for the enjoyment of the people. Any policy that would discourage visitors because of price is a bad policy. Common sense must be used in developing any policy.

NPCA Position in Brief:

Entrance fees can not and should not be identical at every site. Flexibility to determine where and whether to make collections will more accurately reflect individual situations, within the NPS as well as the other federal agencies. USER FEES

NPCA suggests that there is justification for a comprehensive federal user fee program heirarchy with at least six categories. They are:

1. NO FEE. No fee is applicable to general public lands for access where no special service is provided.

2. MINIMUM FEE. A nominal charge for the use of primitive backcountry campsites and trails.

3. MODEST FEE. This is for the minimal facilities: Park Service front country, walk-in campsites and BLM campsites for example.


OPTIMUM FEE. Where most of the federal fees fall today. The standard charge for Park Service and Forest Service developed car campgrounds in front country, Corps of Engineer recreation facilities, recreational vehicle usage, and so forth.

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