May 2004. Grand Canyon noncommercial boaters probably foot the nation's highest Fee Demo bills. If you would like to make sure this does not occur on other public lands, you need to once again weigh in. The following is furnished by the Western Slope No Fee Coalition.
The Department of the Interior and the Forest Service have had a cold response from the Senate Committees to their efforts to expand and make permanent the Fee Demo program for all land management agencies. Both Senate Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairmen, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and Senator Craig Thomas (WY-R), have held the line on permanent fees for the agencies other than the National Parks. Senator Thomas' bill S. 1107, which calls for fees in the Parks only and will allow for the program to die in the other agencies, appears likely to move to the Senate floor for passage.
Having met with stiff resistance in the Senate, the agencies and their supporters have gone to the U. S. House of Representative's Committee on Resources where they will try and push through their permanent Fee Demo bill HR 3283.
YOUR INPUT IS AGAIN NEEDED. YOUR LETTERS ARE, BIT BY BIT MOVING FEE DEMO TO ITS END.
Also, please write a letter to your newspaper editor, no matter where you live in the country.
HR 3283 was introduced by Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH), the Congressman, who authorized Fee Demo in 1996 through the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Regula is the untiring champion of permanent recreation fees for the US Forest Service, BLM, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service - as well as lakes administered by the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers.
A public hearing on HR 3283 was held Thursday, May 6th in the House National Parks, Recreation & Public Lands subcommittee, chaired by Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA). Radanovich strongly favors permanent recreation fee authority. For that reason, all but one of the witnesses testifying that day are in favor of fees. Fee opponents were represented by Colorado's Western Slope No Fee Coalition. While the Senate hearing on 4/21/04 was supportive of our efforts, this hearing was inclined to support making the fees permanent.
IT IS IMPERATIVE TO FLOOD THE SUBCOMMITTEE OFFICE WITH FAXES AND CALLS OPPOSING HR 3283.
SAMPLE LETTER BELOW!
How to contact the subcommittee (IMPORTANT: Comment period letters must be in by Sat pm, May 15th):
Please fax to (202) 226-2301 (after hours is ok)
Please phone (202) 226-7736 (9 am - 5 pm EST)
Mention the following problems. HR 3283:
(1) establishes a permanent recreation fee authority for ALL LANDS managed by the US Forest Service, National Park Service, BLM, US Fish & Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation;
(2) criminalizes failure to pay the fee with a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $5,000 and 6 months in jail;
(3) throws out the constitutional protection of "presumed innocent until proven guilty" - public lands users must prove their own innocence and owners of cars loaned out for a trip to your local public lands will be charged with a criminal offense, along with the driver;
(4) repeals the "golden" series of senior passes, allowing the cost of such passes to jump up in cost;
(5) mandates that the taxpaying public buy a national pass for up to $100 a year for entry onto our public lands.
HR 3283 was introduced by 7 Eastern Republican Congressmen; it has little support in the western states, but WE have to demonstrate that, by a strong outpouring of faxes and phone calls!
SAMPLE PHONE CALL MESSAGE (please vary a bit):
"I'm opposed to HR 3283 for making public lands recreation fees permanent and for criminalizing those without a pass." (The office is going to get a LOT of calls, so a brief message will be fine with the person who answers.) Say your name and what state you live in.
SAMPLE LETTER (please vary and add your own comments. Brief is OK, but using your own words will carry much more weight than a duplicate of this sample letter.)
Congressman George Radanovich,
Chair, House National Parks, Recreation & Public Lands subcommittee,
Washington DC 20515
Dear Congressman Radanovich,
I am strongly opposed to HR 3283. Recreation fees must not be made permanent, except for National Parks. Failure to pay a recreation fee must not be made punishable by 6 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
A 2003 report by the General Accounting Office found that Forest Service Fee Demo used $10 million of appropriated tax dollars to subsidize the program. This makes the cost of collection and administration about 50%. Fee Demo isn't worth it in any of the other agencies.
Please include this letter in the public comments for the hearing on HR 3283 on May 6th.
(Please print your name and address VERY CLEARLY.)
Who else can you persuade to call and/or fax?
Thank you for all your efforts to end this Fee Demo mess. We ARE getting there.
Robert Funkhouser, President
Western Slope No-Fee Coalition