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We have also agreed that there should not be a charge for drinking water, wayside exhibits, roads, overlook sights, visitors' centers, scenic drives, toilet facilities, picnic tables, or boat ramps where specialized services such as lifts are not provided. Turning the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Beach Drive into toll roads should help us considerably, and we can probably expect to see that proposal emerging in the near future since it would be in the finest traditions of the Office of Management and Budget.
Present law also requires the Corps of Engineers to provide at least one primitive campground without fee at sites where camping is permitted. Fees are also prohibited at campgrounds if there are not toilet facilities and drinking water as well as reasonable visitor protection. I have not heard anyone offering an amendment to fund improvements in these campgrounds so that fees could be collected under existing law.
I think it is also fair to mention that user fees are annually adjusted to reflect the fair value of such services based on similar services in the area offered by either private or public entities. That does not portend a very elastic demand for Federal facilities to radically increase fees.
Had it been possible, I would have offered an amendment which would have decreased the amount of revenues which would have been achieved. My intent would not have been to eliminate the subject from serious consideration, but rather to set a mark which would have had some chance of enactment. We do a considerable disservice not only to the American people but also to ourselves and this institution when we make promises which we are unable to keep or when we set goals which are unreachable.
I would be willing to attempt to achieve approximately half of the assumption over 3 years. I do not know it that would be possible until we have had hearings. I do not know whether a simple increase in fees would result in any additional revenues at all. Perhaps if we eliminated concession operations and directly collected fees we would, at least on paper, show some increase, but I wonder what the cost would be for the Federal Government to provide the kind and level of services which concessions now provide.
In offering my amendment I would be simply attempting to inject some sense of reason into this process. I do not hold out any great hope that we would be able to accomplish what my amendment would have proposed. I can assure you that the assumptions in the resolution are impossible. I am willing to try to accomplish some revenue enhancement, I am not prepared to tilt at windmills.
In addition to the setting of fees, there is the problem of collections. I assume that no one is proposing to hire thousands of new Federal employees to collect the fees, so we will need to consider alternatives. One alternative, of course, is that since almost everyone in the United States at some time or another uses Federal areas, we could annually collect a fee of about $1 which would entitle everyone of use the facilities as provided by current law, paying an additional amount at those areas where significant services are provided.
To make it easy, and to avoid needless paperwork, we would take advantage of existing Federal agency support and collect the $1 from families on or about April 15 of each year. That approach would allow American people to not only contribute to the direct use benefits but also to the indirect benefits which accrue to all generations from the preservation of our natural heritage. I realize that would be a radical suggestion, completely at variance with current practice, but it does have some appeal to those of us who have dealt with this issue over the years.
I do have one question which I almost fear to ask and, that is if we plan to recover 100 percent of the salary of the Secretary of the Interior as administrative costs on the mineral leasing receipts returned to the States, and also recover 100 percent from timber receipts, and 25 percent from recreation fees, will we need to increase the salary of the Secretary to cover our savings? Or maybe if he takes a pay cut we will not be able to balance the budget-this is all very confusing.
I do look forward to the overwhelming support which the implementing legislation for the amendment is certain to elicit. I would like to encourage my colleagues to carefully consider the various sites within their States which have no national significance, or which at best are only junior varsity versions of Disneyland, and let me know their names so that we can expeditiously report our legislation.
The CHAIRMAN. I look forward to receiving the testimony today, but I'd like to make my position clear. While I'm willing to look at the issue of fees, I am not prepared to sacrifice proper management or public access to an arbitrary revenue estimate. I am not pre
pared to even consider either direct or indirect efforts to include hunting or fishing fees as a general proposition.
As a matter of fact, if there are special considerations in special areas, they are going to have to be addressed as exceptions, and I'm going to be extremely cautious with the precedent that sets exceptions to the general rule might raise. I intend to insist that any additional administrative costs associated with any proposal be explicitly stated.
I do not want to encourage a cycle where we need to increase administration in order to collect fees, driving up the cost of fees to cover increased administration. That seems to me to be a profitless endeavor.
I do agree that where the Federal Government directly expends funds for more than rudimentary benefits to visitors, the user should expect to pay a reasonable fee. However, I completely reject the argument advanced by some that the national parks are nothing more than the Federal equivalent of Disneyland or the San Diego Zoo.
I do not want to even entertain the possibility that we should be encouraged to build facilities solely for the purpose of raising revenues, or acquiring lands not for resource protection, but to raise
There are more than enough studies already which demonstrate that the public may be the major threat to some of our most precious resources and that the problems of reconciling resource protection with public access is one of the most difficult tasks facing our Federal land managers. I do not want to encourage any decision to prevent resource deterioration for the sake of raising additional revenue.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to the testimony, reading that testimony, and to the deliberations which will follow.
Thank you very much.
Senator WALLOP. Thank you, Senator McClure. I appreciate your being here this morning and the interest that you have shown, both as chairman of the full committee, and as am I and Senator Hecht, representatives of public lands, public resource, and public recreation opportunities throughout States that we serve.
I think we have perhaps a little more sensitivity to the consequences of management decision as well as fee decisions than many. And I think we can come to grips with it, both more directly and more honestly than can some who don't have those major kinds of facilities and diversity of facilities in their State.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Chairman, would you yield for just a moment?
I want to also underscore one other thing that deals with hunting and fishing in particular. This committee, and certainly this Senator, have been absolutely unbending in devotion to the principle that in the public lands generally, not the national parks and wildlife refuges which have somewhat different mandates. Public lands generally, the Federal Government is the manager of the public land resource and the habitats on that resource, have that responsibility. But the resident fish and game species are the responsibility of the State in which that public land is located. And I
think we must maintain adherence to that principle as we go through this question of fee.
Senator WALLOP. I thank you very much.
I will insert in the record at this point a statement from Senator Johnston.
[The prepared statement of Senator Johnston follows:]
STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHNSTON
RECREATION FEE OVERSIGHT HEARING
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your scheduling this oversight hearing today on recreation fees. It is an important issue that needs to be considered carefully by this Committee and the Congress, and I look forward to working with you in developing a fair and workable proposal.
I think that a consensus can be reached on this issue only if we approach the problem not from how much revenue we can raise but how fees fit in the whole scheme of federal recreation and land management. The President's FY 1986 budget assumes in excess
of $80 million in recreation fees, including entrance fees
for forests and public lands. I think that anyone who has worked on this issue as long as I have will agree that such a figure and assumptions are simply unrealistic. I am hopeful that the Administration is prepared to move beyond this proposal so that we can make some progress.
While I am not opposed to the charging of reasonable recreation fees, I cannot support the view that national parks, forests, and recreation areas must pay for themselves or that visitors to these areas should be expected to bear an unreasonable portion of the cost of maintaining these areas. These are federal lands, already owned by the people and supported by their tax dollars. I fear that if we fall into the trap of significantly cutting back on general revenues to operate and maintain these lands with the expectation that visitors will gladly pay an ever
increasing and unrealistic portion of these costs, I think we will be making a big mistake.
Finally, it is my view that if this Committee and the Administration are going to address this issue, I think it should be in the context of a comprehensive fee proposal rather than a piece meal approach. The Congress and the American people deserve to see the whole fee package before we begin increasing fees here and there without any idea of where we are headed or where we will end up.
I commend the Subcommittee Chairman for his leadership on this matter and look forward to working with him.