Recreation Access Tax
The truth about how the current authorization of access fees on public lands was really passed.
In November of 2004 the old "Fee Demo" program was replaced with the permanent RAT, or Recreation Access Tax. This new permanent fee program is brought to over the strenuous objections of four key senate committe chairs as well as public opinion courtesy of Rep. Regula (R-OH) and Sen Stevens (R-AK).
Here is how this unfolded:
"Early in the lame duck session, Regula’s attempts to attach his rider to the omnibus appropriations bill were strongly rejected by the Chairmen of all four pertinent Senate committees. Senator Thomas of the National Parks Subcommittee, Senator Domenici (R-NM) at Energy and Natural Resources, Senator Craig (R-ID) of the Public Lands Subcommittee, and Senator Burns (R-MT), Chair of the Interior Appropriations Committee, all westerners, succeeded in forcing Regula to remove his rider on Tuesday.
"However, Regula reneged on the agreement. He went over the heads of the Senate’s public lands chairmen and struck a deal with Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Regula reportedly agreed to give Stevens funding for a road in a remote community in Alaska in exchange for allowing Regula’s bill to be reattached.
"That left the four Senators who had negotiated the original deal hopping mad and disappointed millions of fee opponents who expected that such a seismic shift in policy would receive public hearings, not be done behind closed doors. "
So we basically traded away free access to our own public lands for a road somewhere in remote Alaska. Several states have passed, or are passing, resolutions against the RAT. Interestingly enough one of them is Alaska. One has to wonder if the resolution also includes abandoning the plans for the remote road.