Senate Hearing on "RAT" Fees - Oct 26, 2005
Bottom Line: On Wednesday, October 26, there is a Senate Subcommitte hearing on excessive implementation of fees by the USFS and BLM. Senate committee members need to hear from you with your opinion and any examples of non-compliant fee sites you can provide. Both Oregon Senators are on the Public Lands Subcommittee.
WESTERN SLOPE NO-FEE COALITION
P.O. Box 403, Norwood, CO 81423
October 19, 2005
Robert Funkhouser, 802/867-2298, email@example.com
Kitty Benzar, 970/259-4616
SENATE HEARING TO REVIEW EXCESSIVE IMPLEMENTATION
OF FEES AND PERMITS AT FOREST SERVICE AND BLM FEE SITES
HELP ROLL BACK THIS ACCESS TAX
On Wednesday, October 26 at 2 pm, the Subcommittee on Public Lands and
Forests of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold an
Oversight Hearing on implementation of the Federal Lands Recreation
Enhancement Act (FLREA) by the Forest Service and the BLM.
As you know, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act became law in
December after being attached to the must pass appropriations omnibus bill
and made the Fee Demo program permanent. While this bill contains some
apparently restrictive language regarding the scope of implementation, it
does little to roll back current Fee Demo sites or limit the expansion of
fees to new areas and has lead to vast excesses in Forest Service and BLM
implementation of fees and permits for accessing our public lands.
The Western Slope No-Fee Coalition is working with groups, individuals,
local and state governments in different parts of the Nation to roll back
the FLREA and in this we need your help. Below are several action items that
you or your organization can partake in to help protect public your
ownership and access to your public lands.
The hearing on the 26th is to hear testimony on growing evidence that these
agencies are not implementing their fee authority in compliance with the
specifics in the law. The WSNFC has been conducting Fee Site Surveys of
Forest Service and BLM fee sites to determine if the agencies'
implementation of the FLREA conforms to the law. We will be releasing our
Survey Report and Analysis in conjunction with this hearing.
Our Survey has found three main areas of agency non-compliance:
1) High Impact Recreation Areas (HIRAs) that are not authorized in the law
but are being implemented under FS and BLM policy. These are groups of
recreation sites with little or no federal investment that are under one
umbrella fee. Many of these HIRAs encompass tens or hundreds of thousands of
acres. These are de facto entrance fees, which are prohibited on Forest
Service or BLM land by the language in the FLREA.
2) Trailhead Fees are being charged at thousands of hiking, horseback,
mountain bike and OHV trailheads nationwide. The FLREA prohibits charging
for general access or for dispersed backcountry, but by charging a trailhead
fee, usually for parking, they are essentially doing just that. Most of
these trailheads lack the six amenities required for fees at day-use sites,
but even when all six are present these fees are not in compliance with the
provisions against charging for access to backcountry.
3) Special Recreation Permits, which used to apply only to large organized
events and commercial uses such as outfitters/guides, are now being required
for individual private use. SRPs are being required for hiking or horseback
riding in Wilderness Areas, OHV and mountain biking use and other
undeveloped, dispersed backcountry. They are a charge for a particular type
of use, rather than for use of a particular facility. This violates the
provisions in the law against charging for general access or for just
passing through an area without using any facilities.
We have identified numerous instances of fees that fall into one or more of
these non-compliant categories, and testimony about them will be presented
at the Hearing.
In order to maximize the impact of this hearing, we need you to take
specific action. Here is what you can do.
1. It is essential that your Senators hear loud and clear that these are
important issues to you. Call or write both of your U.S. Senators. Letters
have the most impact, and should be faxed to avoid delays caused by
increased postal security. If one of your Senators is on the Public Lands
Subcommittee (see below for list) be sure and urge them to attend this
Hearing. If there is an example of a non-compliant fee area near you, tell
them about it. You can obtain addresses and fax numbers of your Senators
from the Senate website, www.senate.gov, from your local newspaper, or from
your County Clerk. You can also contact any Senate office via the Capitol
2. Submit written testimony to be included in the official record of the
Hearing. You can do this by e-mail to Kristina_Rolph@energy.senate.gov UNTIL
OCTOBER 4th. [NOTE, that's an underscore between Kristina and Rolph] Be sure to mention any non-compliant fee sites near you, and ask that your message
be entered as official testimony into the Hearing Record.
3. Contact the Members of the Public Lands Subcommittee and tell them about
non-compliant sites. Urge them to attend the Hearing. Let them know how
important public access to public lands is to you and that the FLREA is
limiting your use of your public land
Here is the contact info for members of the Subcommittee on Public Lands and
Forests, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM)
P; 202-224-6621 F: 202-228-3261
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
P: 202-224-5521 F: 202-224-2852
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) (Chairman)
P: 202-224-2752 F: 202-228-1067
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Ranking Democrat)
P: 202-224-5244 F: 202-228-2717
Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT)
P: 202-224-2644 F: 202-224-8594
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-AK)
P: 202-224-6361 F: 202-224-2126
Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY)
P: 202-224-6441 F: 202-224-1724
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
P: 202-224-2551 F: 202-224-1193
Sen. James Talent (R-MO)
P: 202-224-6154 F: 202-228-1518
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
P: 202-224-5842 F: 202-228-5765
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
P: 202-224-3753 F: 202-228-3997
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
P: 202-224-5824 F: 202-224-9735
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
P: 202-224-4944 F: 202-228-3398
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
P: 202-224-3841 F: 202-228-3954
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
P: 202-224-6665 F: 202-224-5301
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
P: 202-224-3441 F: 202-228-0514
Sen. George Allen (R-VA)
P: 202-224-4024 F: 202-224-5432
Most Senate hearings can be heard online in real time. Specific information
about this one has not yet been announced. If you would like to listen,
check the Senate website for details. The Hearing is scheduled for 2 PM
Eastern, Wednesday, October 26th.
Our recent Press Release about this Hearing follows. Thank you again for
Robert Funkhouser, President, Western Slope No-Fee Coalition
October 15, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information: Robert Funkhouser, 802/235-2299,
Kitty Benzar, 970/259-4616, firstname.lastname@example.org
SENATE COMMITTEE SCHEDULES HEARING TO REVIEW
FOREST SERVICE AND BLM ACCESS FEES
Oversight Hearing To Study Implementation Of New Fee Law
The Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests of the Senate's Energy and
Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Idaho Senator Larry Craig, has
announced that it will hold an oversight hearing October 26 to review how
the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are implementing public
lands fees under a new law.
The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act was enacted in December 2004,
as an appropriations rider. It replaced the widely unpopular Fee Demo, under
which "demonstration" access fees proliferated across the country between
1996 and 2004. The FLREA, gives the Forest Service and BLM permanent
authority to charge fees for access to day-use sites that provide certain
A nationwide survey of actual implementation of the new law conducted by the
WSNFC has identified a pattern of widespread non-compliance by both the BLM
and the Forest Service. The excesses fall into three broad categories:
In a number of locations the agencies have grouped many individual sites
together into a something called a High Impact Recreation Area or HIRA. The
law prohibits charging an entrance fee for an entire National Forest or BLM
unit, but entrance fees are being charged for HIRAs, which comprise vast
tracts of largely undeveloped land. In Southern California alone, almost
400,000 acres has been locked up in 31 HIRAs on four National Forests. HIRAs
have also been declared in Arizona, Colorado, and Utah.
The second concern is the large number of fee trailheads that control access
to hiking, OHV, mountain bike and horse trails. The law prohibits charging
for parking or for access to undeveloped backcountry, but in many locations
the agencies are requiring vehicles parked at trailheads to purchase and
display a parking pass. Many of these sites have few or no facilities, and
the WSNFC maintains that even those where amenities exist are essentially
charging for access to backcountry, which is prohibited by the RAT.
Finally, the survey has identified numerous areas where the law's provision
for charging a fee for Special Recreation Permits is being used to
circumvent prohibitions on charging for undeveloped camping and use of
dispersed backcountry. SRPs are being imposed on all use in numerous
Wilderness Areas nationwide, which are undeveloped by definition.
A summary report of the findings of the WSNFC survey report will be released
in time for the Senate hearing. "We are very pleased that the Senate
Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests has decided to take a look at how
this law is being implemented on the ground," said Robert Funkhouser,
President of the WSNFC. "As the Forest Service and BLM continue to limit
recreational opportunities on our public lands, it is imperative that the
public retains their ownership and right to use these lands. The use of
Forest Service and BLM managed lands is a right, not a privilege."
The FLREA (or RAT) is supposed to limit day-use fees to only developed sites
that have improved parking areas, permanent toilets, picnic tables,
permanent trash containers, interpretive displays, and security services.
Entrance fees for National Forests and BLM lands are prohibited, as are fees
just for driving through an area or for access to dispersed backcountry. The
restrictions were intended to address some of the objections to the
unlimited fees that were allowed under Fee Demo.
The RAT was buried in the omnibus spending bill for 2005. It was never
passed by the U.S. House and was never introduced, had hearings, or voted on
in the U. S. Senate. The state legislatures of Colorado, Montana, and
Oregon, and the Alaska House, along with nine county and municipal
governments, have already passed resolutions calling for repeal of the RAT.
The hearing will take place on October 26, 2005 at 2:00 pm in room 366 of
the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
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