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M. Mahalom


During recreation user fee oversight hearings on June 27, 1985, before your Subcommittee, questions arose as to the general policy of the Administration in this area.

This letter is to inform you of the guiding principles of the Administration's policy on fees for use of the Federal outdoor recreation estate, and of our views on the general content of legislation needed to enable modification of agency user fee systems in accordance with those principles. The primary thrust of the Administration policy is to call upon those who use the Federal outdoor recreation estate to pay more towards its upkeep and maintenance than is paid by those general taxpayers who do not use it. At the same time, we believe the fees charged should be related to the Federal cost of providing the services and facilities used, and be perceived as generally fair by those who pay them.

Thus the Administration believes that an equitable fee system for users of the Federally managed outdoor recreation estate should:

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recover from users, rather than the general taxpayer, at
least 25% of the Federal cost of providing recreation
services as proposed by the President's 1986 Budget and
deficit reduction plan, to enable reducing Federal budget
costs without cutting back on programs and services.
be reasonably consistent among Federal agencies as to the
sorts of areas, facilities, and services for which fees are
charged, and the general level of fees.

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include entrance fees for recreation areas wherever feasible and appropriate, recognizing that each has unique natural, managerial, and visitation characteristics that must be considered.

include fees for use of facilities and services unless the cost of collection would exceed fee revenue.



include a permit fee or other special fee for use of areas where special management action is necessary to protect the safety of recreational users or to protect the natural resource from damage by users.

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in setting Federal fee levels, consider the prices charged by the private sector, as well as by state and local governments, for use of comparable outdoor recreation facilities and services.

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make entrance and user fee revenues available to the
collecting agency for operation and maintenance of
recreation areas and facilities.

On the other hand, the fee system should not:

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assess charges where no good or service is being provided.

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dedicate fee revenues for the capital cost of acquiring additional recreation lands or the construction of roads.

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require issuance of fee bearing permits for hunting or

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assess fees for the entry of multiple-use lands for general recreation use not necessitating special management or facilities.

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assess entry fees for areas that do not have relatively controlled access, or that are for other reasons infeasible or inappropriate entrance fee-bearing areas.

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compete unfairly with non-Federal government or with private outdoor recreation providers.

We believe that new recreation fee legislation in 1985 should, at a minimum, not foreclose implementation of any of the above principles and should:

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remove limitations on increasing and extending entrance fees at units operated by the National Park Service, and extend permit fee authorities to other agencies managing recreation lands and facilities.

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authorize an increased price for the Golden Eagle passport.
remove statutory limitations on the types of recreational
facilities and services for which fees may be collected and
statutory requirements to provide free recreation
provide for the selling of permits and collection of fees by
volunteers, businesses and nonprofit organizations.

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provide for the return of revenues from fees into an account of the collecting agency to be used for operation and

maintenance of that agency's recreation facilities. As for the general procedure, we believe that a considerable degree of executive discretion should be permitted in setting entrance and user fees. This is because the large number of Federal recreation facilities (literally thousands), their wide diversity of characteristics, and the range of services offered make it very difficult if not impossible to impose a single national fee schedule, or even to group the facilities into a limited number of fixed classes on which to impose national fee schedules. We also believe that needed periodic adjustment in fee levels for specific individual areas or services to react to changes in conditions, services, or visitation patterns can best be done administratively.

I hope that this adequately explains our general posture on recreation user fees, and will be of some use as your Subcommittee continues deliberation on this matter.

Best wishes.

Sincerely yours,

James de Miller III

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