Early in the week beginning July 14th, 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote whether or not to extend the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program for yet another two years. Extension language has already been included in the Interior Appropriations bill. The Fee Demo Program, as it is known, has proved to be contentious and is due to end next year. Fee Demo opponents are hoping to defeat an extension and therefore end the Program.
The program began in 1996 by a rider on appropriations bill and has been extended through the appropriations process four times. It is set to expire in October 2004. Another extension would lead to a "de facto permanence", according to a letter being circulated by the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition. "To legislate public land policy through the appropriations process is contrary to House Rules and the taxpayer's best interest", the letter goes on to say.
Fee Demo opponents point out that American citizens already own the public lands and pay for their maintenance through taxes, and that the fees deny access to many Americans, especially low income families, and amount to a 2nd taxation. Also, there is no adequate congressional oversight on the collection and use of these fees. Considerable resources are expended on collection and enforcement of fee payment.
Fee Demo comments should be directed to your House Representative via phone or fax. Email is generally disregarded and mail is very slow. Check http://clerk.house.gov/members/index.php for the appropriate contact information for your Congressional representative.