Thursday, March 27, 2008

Recreation Fees Rising in Wake of Fires’ Costs

This was published in the NY Times a couple of weeks ago. Here is an excerpt:

HAMILTON, Mont. — Reeling from the high cost of fighting wildfires, federal land agencies have been imposing new fees and increasing existing ones at recreation sites across the West in an effort to raise tens of millions of dollars.

Additionally, hundreds of marginally profitable campsites and other public facilities on federal lands have been closed, and thousands more, from overlooks to picnic tables, are being considered for removal.

"As fire costs increase, I've got less and less money for other programs," said Dave Bull, superintendent of the Bitterroot National Forest here in Hamilton. The charge for access to Lake Como, a popular boating destination in the national forest, will be increased this year to $5 from $2.

Last year, the Forest Service collected $60 million in fees nationwide, nearly double the $32 million in 2000. The Bureau of Land Management, the country's biggest landlord, doubled its revenues over the same period, to more than $14 million from $7 million. The agency projects revenues from the fees will grow an additional $1 million this year.


Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has introduced a bill that would repeal the authority of the Forest Service and other agencies to raise or institute many of the fees.

"The authority given land managers is being abused," Baucus said. "They are using it to pad their budgets at the expense of the public. I think it's just wrong."

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