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collection, for appropriation back to the same Corps divisions for use in the
operation, maintenance, refurbishment, and improvement of recreation areas.
Collection of user fees is generally accomplished by the use of contract
In addition to collection of fees, these attendants
distribute information, limit access, and monitor campground activities.
Corps experience has been that the payment of fees and the presence of
attendants has, in combination resulted in less vandalism and fewer incidents
involving law enforcement actions.
It is our view that the visiting public is
willing and able to pay for services which improve the quality of their
The Department of Army budget proposal for Fiscal Year 1986 reflects an
expansion of the present fee collection program to allow recovery from the
users of a much higher percentage of the annual cost to sustain recreation
However, changes in the authority of the Corps to collect fees
would be needed in order to realize this increase.
On February 20, 1985, I submitted to the Senate the proposed "Water
Resource Development Act of 1985".
This proposal. was introduced as S. 534 on
February 28 by Senator Stafford, by request. It contains a provision to
repeal the Flood Control Act of 1968 provision which restricts the Corps to
collection of fees for use of highly developed recreation areas only. The
Administration believes that current law should be changed to authorize
collection of fees from all users of recreation areas, not just from the users
of campground facilities.
It is the Corps of Engineers belief, as well as that of the
Administration, that any new recreation fee legislation should authorize the
collection of reasonable entrance fees, remove statutory limitations on user
fee collection, and revamp the price and structure of the Golden Eagle
It should also authorize the sale of permits and the collection of
fees by volunteers, businesses and nonprofit organizations. Finally, it is
important that revenue generated be returned to the collecting agency for use
in the operation and maintenance of recreation facilities.
would allow the Corps, along with our sister agencies, to develop an equitable
and uniform fee system for Federal recreation without unfairly competing with
non-Federal and private sector suppliers.
With increased authority, the Corps would expand the number of areas where
camping fees are collected from 600 to about 800, and would initiate an
entrance fee wherever reasonable to do so at the 2,200 recreation areas they
We estimate this would increase gross revenue from $10.5 million
per year to well over $25 million per year after construction of the
facilities required for fee collection.
The cost of collection of fees would
increase as well, probably in a proportional amount.
NEED FOR LEGISLATION
The legislation included in S. 534 would help permit us to continue
providing high quality recreation opportunities. Economic and budgetary
realities are limiting our ability to meet recreation funding needs, yet the
number of visitors to the Corps projects continues to increase.
this proposal would remove an existing Corps specific restraint to the
collection of user fees.
However, further legislation would be required to
authorize the collection of entrance fees from all users of Corps recreation
Expanded revenue from recreation fees will recover a substantial share of
the cost of operating, maintaining, refurbishing, and improving Corps
This fee approach will more equitably distribute a portion
of the total cost of the recreation areas among those users who benefit most
Senator WALLOP: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Senator WALLOP. I appreciate your indulgence of letting the panel finish.
Senator BUMPERS. That's quite all right. I ask you now simply that my full statement be inserted in the record.
Senator WALLOP. By all means. It will be now.
[The prepared statement of Senator Bumpers follows:) STATEMENT OF HON. DALE BUMPERS, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Mr. Chairman, I am very pleased that the Subcommittee is conducting this oversight hearing on recreation fees. I think that this will be a major issue for us in the weeks and months ahead and you are to be commended for taking the lead in making a record for the Committee on this matter.
As the Senator may recall, when I was Chairman of this Subcommittee in 1979, I sponsored the legislation in the Senate freezing National Park entrance fees. That legislation was enacted into law and remains on the books today. I did not take that approach because I was opposed to fees per se. What I opposed then and what I will continue to oppose are ill conceived and short-sighted recreation fee proposals that focus only on the revenues to be derived for the Treasury. If budgetary rather than sound resource management decisions dominate the fee issue, we are doomed to a never ending series of escalating fees, a confused and outraged public, and ultimately more congressional moratoria and freezes.
I am convinced that the American people don't mind paying reasonable entrance fees to visit their national parks. Likewise, I do not believe they object to paying reasonable fees for well equipped and maintained campgrounds and other facilities provided at government expense. What the American people will not, and in my view should not tolerate, are quantum increases in entrance fees everytime somebody decides we need to make a few more bucks for the Treasury or admission fees or permits to picnic or spend a few hours in our national forests or public lands.
In my view, the Administration and the Senate Budget Resolution miss the mark by starting from an assumption that recreation users must pay a fixed share of the cost and then asking the agencies and this Committee to figure out how to reach what amounts to a totally arbitrary sum. Instead, we should begin by looking at what makes the most sense from a management and resource perspective and how we can best implement a fee system that is cost effective and fair to the park visitors. If we can approach this issue in this manner, Mr. Chairman, I am certainly prepared to work with you and the other Members of the Committee in designing such a system.
Senator WALLOP. Would you care to begin the inquisition?
Senator BUMPERS. Let me start by just asking a couple of general questions about the Senate budget resolution which anticipates that we will raise user and entrance fees by roughly $82 million; is that figure correct, Mr. Mott?
Mr. MOTT. I believe that is correct.
Senator BUMPERS. In looking over the summary of revenues from just the Forest Service and the Park Service. I see that last year entrance and user fees for the Park Service totalled $21 million. The figure for the Forest Service, Max, I think was $12 million.
Mr. PETERSON. That's correct. That excludes ski areas and some of those types of things.
Senator BUMPERS. Yes.
Now, the Park Service and the Forest Service generate the lion's share of user and entrance fees. When you start talking about raising $82 million, does that mean we're going to have to almost triple entrance and user fees in order to comply with the Senate budget resolution?
Mr. Mort. From the standpoint of the Department of the Interior, our approach to this is that we can achieve our goals, not the first year, but we think that in the period of a couple of years we can achieve the goal. But we don't look at this as a basis for developing fee schedules to try to raise a specific amount of money. I think what is important is to use the fee scheduling as a means of properly taking care of the maintenance costs that we need to take care of in order to do the job that the public expects.
Whether that's the figure that you've quoted or some other figure, I think that what is important is that we do the job of providing the public with a quality experience when they come to the parks, and that the fee schedule is a management tool rather than a fund raising operation.
Senator BUMPERS. I agree with you on that, Mr. Mott. But one of the things that concerns me is that if the Congress adopts through the reconciliation process a requirement that you raise fees $82 million, then you won't have any discretion but to do that. And that really troubles me. That's the course we're headed on right
I was chairman of this committee back in the glory days when we were in charge of the Senate and was the chief architect of the fee freeze in 1979. And I am willing to lift the freeze now, even though I might say that what's going on down the hall now with William Bradford Reynolds is probably peanuts compared to the kind of outcry we may wind up with if we raise these fees really significantly. So many of the users of both the parks and especially the national forests are repeaters, people who use them continually. They're the people who are keenly aware of these fees, and, for the most part, I think they would not object to something modest in the way of increases particularly if they were assured that this money was going to go back into the maintenance of the parks and recreation areas.
Now, you have said in your statement we're talking about fees, user fees and entrance fees, that will be used to maintain high
quality standards in the parks. But we would really be just replacing general revenues that are now being used for maintenance, would we not?
Mr. MOTT. That isn't our concept.
Mr. Mott. We're assuming that this additional revenue that we raise through these fees will be used to supplement what we now receive in our budget for maintenance and operation. We need that in order to do the kind of a job that I think is necessary to maintain the facilities in the national parks and in the other areas that we're interested in.
If we continue to let maintenance go downhill, if we don't take care of it every single year, then we reach a crisis at some point and we have to spend a lot of money to get back on track again. And so it seems to me that what we're saying is that the money that's collected from fees and charges-and I think this is what the public is going to expect that that be in addition to the normal basic budget that we're receiving:
Senator BUMPERS. I think you're on a collision course with your boss because I don't believe that's what he anticipates, and I don't believe that's what the budget resolution anticipates.
I'm on your team. I agree with you.
You have stated in your testimony that fees collected by the Park Service represent 3 percent of the Department's budget. Now, I understand that, but I don't think that's a particularly significant measurement.
What I would like to know before I would vote to lift the freeze that is now in place is how much money we're collecting in each park, historical site, and so on. I would also like to know what the budget for each particular site is. I'd also like to know the proposed increase for each one of those parks, monuments, and other facilities, and then I would like to know what we plan to do. I think Congress ought to have some idea as to what you intend to do with the increased revenues if those increases are allowed. That wouldn't be asking too much, would it?
Mr. Mott. I don't think so, and we'd be prepared in less than 3 months to give you each park and what we recommend as the entrance fee schedule for that particular park.
And I might say that we're not thinking about any substantial increases. I can tell you that we would not be increasing any of the fees in excess of $5. In other words, Yellowstone is now $2. We're thinking in terms of $5. And we can tell you that that will be our ceiling.
Senator BUMPERS. Well, that's interesting, and that's the kind of information we need. Now, is that $5 per vehicle?
Mr. MOTT. That's correct.
Senator BUMPERS. The GAO report you cited recommends an entrance fee increase from $2 to $7 at Grand Teton and Yellowstone, so I assume you don't agree with the GAO report on that.
Mr. Mort. Well, I think that we are in general agreement, but I think that there are some fees that we think should be lower and there may be some that we think should be higher. And there's also a practical aspect to this. Where you have people coming in and they are anxious to get into the park, collecting $5 is a lot