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Malcolm "allop, Chairman, Public Lands, Reserved water and
Resource conservation Subcommittee


Public Lands, Reserved water and Resource Conservation
Subcommittee Oversight Hearing On Fees Authorized by the
Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (P.L. 90-401) AS
10:00 a.m., June 27, 1985, Room SD-366

Legislative History of the Federal Recreation Fee Collection

The policy of collecting recreation fees at national parks and other Federal areas began prior to the origin of the National Park Service. Fee collection began in Mount Rainier in 1908, Sequoia-kings Canyon in 1910, Crater Lake in 1911, Glacier in 1912, Yosemite in 1913, Mesa Verde in 1914, and Yellowstone-Grand Teton in 1915.

Eee collection became general executive policy in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Acministration. From 1939 through 1942, a total of 40 units of the National Park System became designated fee areas. No specific authorization to support the expansion of outdoor recreation fee collection existed. However, the Act of August 31, 1951, 165 Stat. 290) authorized that any Federal government "service," "benefit," or "privilege" should be "selfsustaining to the full extent possible."

The Land and water conservation Fund Act was the first legislation to authorize specific fees íor outdoor recreation. Following is a chronological listing of the legislative actions that have affected the outdoor recreation fee collection program since 1964.

On September 3, 1964, the Land and water conservation Fund (L&WCF) Act (P.L. 88-578) created a separate fund to preserve, develop and assure available outdoor recreation resources to the American public. All proceeds from entrance, admission and other recreation user fees collected by Federal agencies would be


credited to this fund. Entrance fees could only be charged at Federal areas where recreation facilities were provided at Federal expense.

P.L. 88-578 authorized the President to designate land or water areas administered by Federal agencies where fees would be charged. The Act specifically prohibited fee collection for use of any waters. An annual fee of $7 was established to permit admission to fee areas for the purchaser and persons accompanying him/her in a private vehicle.

On July 15, 1968, Congress amended the L&WCF Act (P.L. 90401) by: a) earmarking receipts from oífshore oil leases to serve as a nei revenue source for the Land and water conservation Fund; b) guaranteeing a minimum of $200 million per year in the Fund, doubling its previous average; and c) repealing authority for a coordinated approach to Federal recreation fee collection, effective March 31, 1970. Congress repealed the fee program because of disappointing fee revenues, iifficulty in collecting daily user fees, overrepresentation in revenue from the National Park Service, lack of public support, and high collection costs. Also, any fees collected on recreation areas were to be credited to a separate fund in the general Treasury, not the Land and water conservation Fund.

On August 13, 1968, Congress passed the Rivers and Harbors and Flood Control Act (P.L. 90-483). Section 210 of this Act disallowed entrance or admission fees at public recreation areas located at lakes or reservoirs under the jurisdiction of the Corps of Engineers. User fees were to be collected only for "highly developed facilities" requiring personnel for continuous maintenance or supervision. The corps suspended fee, collection at all corps-managed areas for almost 2 years until the Secretary of the Army published a list of fee areas consistent with Section 210.

On July 7, 1970, P.L. 91-308 amended the L&WCF Act by extending the original fee authorities of the Act by 21 months, raising the annual permit ("Golden Eagle Passport") to $10, and charging the Secretary of the Interior to submit a report on fee policies to Congress. The law did not mention Section 210 of the Rivers and Harbors and Flood Control Act, thus exempting the Corps of Engineers from participating in the fee program.

On July il, 1972, P.L. 92-347 outlined the structure of the current Federal recreation fee program. The law included the following provisions:


Collection of entrance or asmission fees limited to designated units of the National Park System and national recreation areas administered by the Department of Agriculture.


b. Establishment of a $10 annual acmission permit, "Golden Eagle Passport," for persons entering in "private, noncommercial vehicles" and fees for single visitors who do not purchase the annual permit.


Creation of a free annual entrance permit, "Golden Age Passport," to allow persons 62 years of age and older access to fee areas and a 50% discount on caily user fees.

d. collection of daily use fees for specialized sites, facilities, equipment or services related to outdoor recreation and furnished at Federal expense.


Credit of revenues collected uncer the recreation fee program to a special account in the Treasury to be administered in conjunction with, but separate from, the revenues of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and to be authorized for outdoor recreation purposes.

f. Compilation of an annual fee report to Congress including revenue collected, number and location of fee areas and visitation at fee areas.


Guidelines for use of the Golden Eagle insignia and royalties credited to the Land and later conservation Fund.

On August 1, 1973, Congress again passed an amendment to the L&WCF Act (P.L. 93-81). This amendment of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act prohibited fees for recreational use of facilities or areas used by most visitors. Examples of these facilities cited in the bill included lightly developed or backcountry campsites, picnic areas, boat ramps with no mechanized equipment, drinking water, roads, trails, visitor centers, scenic drives, toilet facilities, and overlook sites. In addition, the law specifically defined prerequisite services needed in campgrounds before user fees could be charged. P.L. 93-81 clarified the definition of a "single visit." The objective of the legislation is to allow park visitors to purchase entrance permits that shall authorize exits and reentries to a single designated area for a period from one to fifteen days. The passage of this law oiscontinued the collection of use fees at federally operated campgrounds.

On June 7, 1974, Congress again passed an amendment to the L&WCF Act (P.L. 93-303). This amendment provided for:


Broader coverage for Golden Eagle and Golden Age access to include non-vehicle entrance.

b. Designation of the Golden Age Passport as a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens and eligible. aliens domiciled in the U.S.

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Prohibition of user fees for services such as drinking water, roads, wayside exhibits, and visitors' centers.

Less stringent prerequisites for charging fees in campgrounds, eliminating the requirements for flush restrooms and showers.

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Contracting of visitor reservation services. f. Prohibition of admission fees charged at areas operated and maintained by a Federal agency and used for outdoor recreation purposes, other than those fee areas already designated. g. Availability of Golden Eagle passports at any Federal recreation fee area rather than at post offices.


Availability of at least one primitive campground with no charge at corps of Engineers lakes and reservoirs where camping is. permitted.

Consequently, this amendment reinstated fee collection at federally operated campgrounds.

On October 12, 1979 P.L. 96-87 was signed into law. Primarily, this law authorized a commemorative marker on Appalachian Trail. But, Section 402 of the Act froze entrance fees at all units of the National Park System as of Ja ry 1, 1979.

On September 8, 1980 P.L. 96-344 became law. P.L. 96-344 created the Golden Access Passport, a lifetime entrance permit to Federal fee areas for blind and permanently disabled persons. The privilege also extended to a 50% reduction in special recreation use fees. A "single visit" was redefined and limited to a 15-day stay.

On December 12, 1980 the FY 1981 Interior Appropriations Act (P.L. 96-514) amended the L&WCF Act. In this appropriation bill for the Department of the Interior, the revenues from recreation fee collections by Federal agencies would be paid into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This law changed P.L. 90-401 enacted in 1969 which created a special account in addition to the Land and Water Conservation Fund for revenues collected through recreation fees.

on December 4, 1981, in the FY 1982 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act; (P.L. 97-88), the Corps of Engineers was exempted from the provisions of P.L. 96-514 and user fees collected by the Corps of Engineers are still deposited in a separate account.


The Golden Eagle/Golden Age/Golden Access Passport Program

The Golden Eagle, Golden Age, and Golden Access Passports allow free unlimited entrance to Federal parks, monuments, and recreation areas. The Golden Eagle Passport is available to anyone for a cost of $10 and is honored for the calendar year in . which it is purchased. The Golden Age Passport is a free, lifetime passport available to persons 62 years of age or older who are citizens of or domiciled in the United States. The Golgen bccess Passport is also a free, lifetime permit. The Golden Access Passport is issued only to persons who have been medically determined to be blind or permanently disabled for purposes of receiving benefits under Federal law. Unlike the Golden Eagle Passport, the Golden Access and Golden Age Passports allow a 50 percent discount on user fees (e.g., camping, boat launching, parking).

Background--Who Does What and to whom

Seven Federal land managing agencies (Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamations, Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, National Park Service, and Tennessee Valley Authority) are authorized to charge fees at areas where specialized outdoor recreation facilities, equipment, or services are provided at Federal expense.

The seven Federal land-managing agencies involved in the fee program collect three types of recreation fees: user, special permit, and entrance fees. User fees are charged by all seven agencies for the use of specialized sites, facilities, equipment, or services furnished at Federal expense. Examples of user fees include: camping, boat launching, and parking fees.

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Special permit fees are generally considered to be a subset of user fees. Large group activities (e.g., renting a picnic shelter) and special recreational events (e.g., a one time offroad recreation vehicle race) are examples of uses for which a special permit fee might be charged. The Bureau of Land Management charges such fees to outfitters and guides who use Bureau lands for conducting off-road recreation vehicle (ORV) and river running excursions.

The National Park Service is the only agency to collect entrance fees. Entrance fees are charged for gaining access to designated national parks, monuments, recreation areas, seashores, and historic and memorial parks and sites.

The attached tables show amounts of user and entrance fees collected, by agency, from 1980 to 1984.

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