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Senator WALLOP. Thank you, Mr. Howell.
STATEMENT OF T. DESTRY JARVIS, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL
PARKS AND CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION Mr. JARVIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear here today and for the courage of this committee to take up an issue which has had such a long and bumpy history. Two of the most recent bumps in that history were the 1979 attempt by the Carter administration's OMB to increase fees and then capture them to offset budget deficits, and the ill-fated legislation of former Secretary Watt to charge fees for access for hunters and fishermen to the public lands.
That history, I think, should lead the committee into this issue with great trepidation, but hopefully the committee can proceed to resolve, at least for the present, a high degree of controversy and do so in a manner that will have broad public support.
I think from the point of view of my association, there are eight principles which should apply to the establishment of entrance fees. I'll speak separately about user fees. Those include the principle that 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 appropriations, but to augment or expand existing programs.
The agency which collects the fees should retain the funds derived. Funds should be held in a central repository or dedicated account, rather than being retained at the individual local unit which happens to collect the fees.
Allocation of revenues collected should be based on resource needs to avoid gilding the most popular areas and to assure that managers do not allow fee collection to become a dominant management factor.
Allocations of collected fees will have to be subject to appropriations by Congress from this separate fund. Entrance fees should not be considered an access fee or right of access. Rather, fees should be based on the impact of the visitor on the resource and that visitor's use of the park's resources and should be so justified to the public.
Any fee program should have flexibility-probably its most important principle-to assure that proper consideration be given to the feasibility of collection, the public policies provided, to the visitor benefits, and to comparable charges on non-Federal agencies and private lands. Fees should not be prohibitively high so as to prevent the use of national parks by citizens at any level of the socioeconomic ladder.
And finally, public land fees are appropriate at widely differing levels wherever special facilities, services, or activities are provided. The level of fees should be based to some extent on comparability with fees in the private sector, but this comparison should be used only to determine maximum fee and not to be used as a factor in setting the minimum fee.
Principally, I think what this committee should keep in mind as it proceeds to resolve this controversy is the fact that there is a Federal responsibility inherent in the 1916 Organic Act of the National Park Service that requires the Park Service, and thus the Federal Government, to preserve park resources for present and future generations.
To me that means that the basic funds for the core mission of the agency should be derived from the Treasury through the appropriations process. These resources, the natural and cultural, recreational resources of the National Park System, belong to all Americans and they collectively should see that their minimum essential condition is maintained. However, entrance fees should appropriately be applied to augmenting, expanding, enhancing or raising the quality of those resources.
Any attempt to recover an arbitrary sum, such as the 25 percent suggested in the administration's budget request, is going to erode the support of the public for a fee collection program. And that public support is one of the most essential ingredients in Congress moving forward with legislation or the administration moving forward with implementing that legislation. Unless there is understanding and support by the public, the program will be doomed from the start.
Let me move finally to user fees which I think have to be viewed in almost an entirely separate context. User fees are tied, obviously, to the service or the function provided by the Federal agency, and in that regard I think the committee should look at users not just in the recreational sense, but all users of the public lands and view that fee collection that is appropriate from them in a hierarchical sense. I think for general access to public lands where no special services are provided, no fee should be charged. This is what Chief Peterson spoke of, about the multitude of entrances to a national forest or to BLM lands in the West. It's not feasible, nor is it desirable.
I think a nominal charge should be provided for primitive back country facilities, and I'm talking like 50 cents would seem desirable, where the Federal agency has constructed a trail, has put in rudimentary fire pit or refuse pit, and that's it.
A more modest fee, such as the somewhat developed Park Service front country, walk-in campsites, and BLM campsites, the optimum or average fee would apply to those areas which are the standard Park Service developed campgrounds and similar campgrounds of other agencies such as at Corps of Engineer recreation facilities.
The maximum fee would apply to extractive recreational activities such as rock hounding, firewood collection, hunting and fishing. And I think in the case of hunting and fishing, such a fee already exists through the licensing that is already required by the States, and therefore no additional fee would be appropriate for hunting and fishing purposes.
And finally, what I have termed the exploitation fee, perhaps overly harshly. Nevertheless, it will be difficult in my mind to justify a rational fee program to the public for recreation as long as, for example, the 1972 mining law does not require any fee to be paid for taking hard rock minerals out of the public lands. And therefore I think one should view the imposition of recreation user fees in a larger context.
In conclusion, let me just say that any fee program that this committee considers or that the administration, the National Park Service, or one of the land managing agencies considers, must view with great trepidation and view askance the role that the Office of Management and Budget will inevitably try to play, which will frustrate the entire program if they are allowed to dominate.
Therefore, I think the committee in writing its legislation, in writing its committee reports, the legislative history, et cetera, must be very careful to explicitly state what the purposes of the fees are, how they're to be assessed, how they're to be collected, and for what purpose they're to be used; because otherwise OMB's penchant for deriving and tapping supplementary revenues will overshadow the many benefits that an adequate fee program can provide.
Again, I think also central is the educational aspect of this that must accompany it. The Park Service in its interpretive programs, at its entrance stations, through the modest brochure that they pass out, should explain to the public the fee is not charged for a right of access, but because of the services that are provided, because the lands are there for them to use, they create some impact that the Park Service must manage for, and therefore it's appropriate to charge a fee.
I think the support of the public is essential to the survival or the success of any fee collection program.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON PUBLIC LANDS, RESERVED WATER
AND RESOURCE CONSERVATION
AN OVERSIGHT HEARING ON RECREATION FEES AS
JUNE 27, 1985
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am T. Destry Jarvis, Vice President, National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA), headquartered at 1701 18th Street NW, Washington, DC. Since 1919, NPCA has served as a private, nonprofit defender of the resources and purposes of the units of the National Park System. We appreciate the opportunity to appear before the subcommittee today to discuss the issue of recreational fees on public lands. The collection of fees authorized in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act has a long and bumpy history, which has resulted in total confusion over what the objectives are or should be for a federal recreational fee policy.
Many of our National Park System units offer visitor services, activities and facilities, where capital expenditures and specialized staffs are needed and appropriate. These areas are experiencing greater demand on the resource and, at the same time, coping with smaller budgets. The challenge of coping with this disparity between more use and less money continues to test the ability of the Park Service to ensure the perpetuation of the resource and the opportunity to use it with the support of park visitors. One of the major components in any discussion of fees is obtaining and holding the support of the user. Sound recommendations for a broad policy that covers all federal recreation areas will be necessary. We can no longer accept haphazard, irrational, case-by-case decision-making on the application of fees.
It seems to me that there are two key questions that we have to address and respond to in any kind of recreational fee program consideration. And those are, obviously, who pays and who benefits? The Congress and the various administrations, over the years, have debated this issue repeatedly, but concise conclusions and workable solutions have been evasive.
National Parks and Conservation Association
Telephone (202) 265-2717
If we look back over the history of fees, the Pack Service began its fee program in 1916 at Yellowstone. In 1926, the first Director of the Park Service, Stephen Mather, was called before the House Appropriations Committee to defend his fee program, which was an auto use fee based on the number of road miles in the parks. Steve Mather had this to say to the Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Committee after being grilled by an antagonistic committee :
When we fixed the automobile fees, we did so on a sort of haphazard
It should be noted that by statistical comparison with these early park fees, the fees today are extremely low. Mather's $10 fee at Yellowstone and $7.50 fee at Yosemite would work out to about $83 in Yellowstone and about $65 at Yosemite.
In 1939, the Secretary of Interior said, "In making appropriations for the National Parks, Congress had imbued a development of a system of fees which would help to support their costs." In 1964, Morris Udall spoke for the majority in preparing the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act and said, "I cannot believe that American people are going to blame those in Congress who suggested those who use the facilities provided by taxpayers' money should pay a little bit more than those who do not when we're trying to acquire parks we need in the east, west, north and south.
The rationale concerning fees that was exemplified in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was based on a recommendation of the first Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC) in 1962. That commission articulated the principle that:
Fees should be charged for those activities which involve exclusive