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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.
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 revenues.
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.