« PreviousContinue »
Senator WALLOP. Clearly this is an issue which I think this committee should review in depth and in a comprehensive fashion.
Our array of departmental and private witnesses will certainly have some very interesting views and information to contribute this morning, so it is now my purpose to move on.
Senator HECHT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You state the case very eloquently and there is no reason to go any further. Thank you very much.
Senator WALLOP. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES A. McCLURE, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I commend the statement you have made, and I commend its thoughtful listening to and reading to those who have to address this question because I think you summarized a great many of the concerns that many of us have had over a number of years with respect to this issue.
I am pleased that the oversight hearing has been scheduled. On May 16 as part of the Senate discussion of the budget resolution, I commented on what I thought was possible and where I thought revenue estimates were exceeding proper management consideration.
Rather than repeat those comments, I would ask that a copy of those remarks be included in the record of this hearing.
Senator WALLOP. By all means.
[Chairman McClure's statement from the Congressional Record dated May 16, 1985 follows:]
RECREATION USER FEES
Mr. McCLURE. Mr. President, the various administration proposals for the budget resolution made some rather elaborate assumptions as to the amount of additional revenues which can be obtained from an increase in recreation user fees. I do agree that some increase in such fees is possible and, in fact, should be obtained. The resolution, however, assumed an overly simplistic formula that the Federal Government should recover 25 percent of administrative costs. That assumption fails to consider the varieties of public lands, the purposes for which such lands are managed, or the real impact of an increase across the board. The assumption also is defective in that it asserts that visitor use would remain constant regardless of the size of the fee when in fact revenues are a product of the fee times the number of people paying the fee.
Anyone familiar with the Metro system here in Washington should realize that ridership is a function of the price and the convenience and that, at a certain point, as the cost increases the ridership declines-the net revenue results seem always to be less than the projections. The resolution assumption also fails to consider the increase in costs associated with collections. It conveniently ignores how we are going to police one-third of this Nation so that citizens pay their fair share for watching the Sun go down across the public domain.
There are certain areas where the Federal Government has invested funds to provide recreational facilities, and it would be rational to expect those who take advantage of those facilities to pay a reasonable fee for their use. I do object to any suggestion that we are going to start charging fees to cross Federal land, hunt or fish, walk or hike, or watch the clouds. We are not going to institute a sliding scale in the Tetons where people pay 10 cents for every elk they happen to see nor are we about to deputize the Florida panther population to begin a pay or be eaten campaign. The Federal Government does a variety of things for the American people as
a whole, for this and future generations, and those obligations should be borne by the people as a whole.
I am certain that by now everyone has seen the April 15 grey covered document entitled Senate/Administration Deficit Reduction Plan. It compares the National Park system with Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo. That would certainly come as a surprise to Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, and Stephen Mather. OMB will probably next propose that we put golden arches in Canyonlands. The truth is that we do not encourage the Federal Government to provide significant services in the National Parks, but rather use concessionaires.
The Federal Government through the National Park Service has one mission only for the National Park System and that is:
"To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
Indiana Dunes, Zion, the Grand Canyon, Gates of the Arctic, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Redwoods, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Shenandoah and Great Smokies, Haleakala, Canyonlands, Crater Lake, North Cascades, and the list goes on. These are not Disneyland nor are they the San Diego Zoo.
It is true that some increase in the entrance fees can and probably should be obtained over a period of time and based on careful studies. Those fees however should be based on Park management not on some gnome's magical formula based on administrative costs. We are not about to recover 25 percent of the salary of the Secretary of the Interior from visitors to the national parks, nor are we about to take pennies from schoolchildren visiting Independence Hall to cover 25 percent of the costs of OMB analysts.
Aside from the national parks, the Federal Government does provide some recreational facilities at places such as Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation sites, and I agree that where the Federal Government has invested in more than minimal facilities or health and safety that the user should be expected to pay a fair share of the cost of such facilities. There is no administrative cost however to the Federal Government to have the Sun daily set in the West, nor should we charge people to watch it. We are not going to start metering homes in Jackson Hole and charge them for a sunset.
Mr. President, given the problems with the budget, I do not have a problem with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources being asked to consider and report legislation addressing recreation user fees. I wish that a full and comprehensive study could be initiated first rather than developing revenue estimates first, but this is not the only area of the budget where numbers dictate over sound policy.
It would be nice to have the results of the newly created Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, but it may be possible to achieve some increase in revenues over a period of time without turning our natural heritage into Disneyland and without dramatically increasing personnel and costs to enforce and collect those fees. I want to make it clear that we are not going to initiate hunting or fishing fees, but intend to focus clearly and specifically on those sites and areas where the Federal Government has actually made an investment for the direct benefit of visitors.
Although the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and its predecessor, the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, has carefully considered the questions surrounding fees over the years before OMB lifted the veil from our eyes, we will need considerable help in achieving anything which is remotely rational. We will need far more if we must actually achieve the OMB asumptions underlying the resolution. We will need considerable help in determining how the citizens of Massachusetts can best contribute to the administration of Cape Code National Seashore short of borrowing a shark from the San Diego Zoo to collect entrance fees. It will be difficult to patol the entire beach, but perhaps we will be able to make suntans circumstantial evidence of failure to pay the fee. I look forward to the wise suggestions from the senior Senator from Alaska on the proper level for fees to use the transportation system at Denali, and of course Gateway, Golden Gate, Cuyahoga, and Jean Laffite, not mention Chattahoochee should all make their contribution. I am certain that the delegations from those State which have Corps of Engineer reservoirs will be lining up to cosponsor the legislation to impose user fees on those sites, so I am optimistic that the committee will have no problem in implementing the assumption underlying the resolution.
It probably is only fair to mention some of the present limitations of existing law which will have to be re-examined. Out of the many years of legislation dealing with fees we have agreed that fees should not be charged to the blind or premanently disabled.