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Fee Demo program made permanent through last minute political deal!

12.06.04  Recreation Access Tax (RAT) made permanent. Protests planned for spring of 2005

    12.01.04 We may have another chance!  See below

"Shenanigans, dirty politics and brutally applied abuse of raw power has, once again, trumped the Democratic process. As a result of actions taken by Congress earlier in this day, the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program is no longer a “demonstration” program and, as a result, America’s public lands have become less public.

It’s unfortunate that I must report that an important battle in what has already been a seven year long struggle was lost today. But the war is anything but over. Never doubt that the public will trump the special interests who are responsible for creating and forcing this program upon an unwilling and resentful public.

Pasted below are two press releases. The first is the Western Slope No Fee Coalition. They tell it like it is. The second is from those who passed legislation so unpopular that it could not have become law unless attached as a rider to ‘must-pass’ legislation such as the Omnibus Appropriations bill.

In the days, weeks and months ahead, I will be sharing with you increasingly aggressive strategies that, when executed, will ensure that the newly passed recreation fee program will fail. Your ongoing support and personal efforts will be even more important in the future than they have been in the past. I thank you for everything you have done. I thank you in advance for all that you will do in the future."
--Scott Silver

Wild Wilderness



Western Slope No Fee Coalition
November 20, 2004

For more information:
Robert Funkhouser, 802/235-2299, Robert Funkhouser
Kitty Benzar, 970/259-4616, Kitty Benzar

Western Senators Try But Fail to Stop Controversial Measure

An Ohio congressman with no public lands in his district has forced a measure through Congress to implement permanent access fees for recreation on all land managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Reclamation.

Ralph Regula (R-OH), the original architect of the unpopular Recreational Fee Demonstration Program (Fee Demo), succeeded in attaching his bill as a rider to the giant Omnibus Appropriations Bill recently enacted in the lame duck session of Congress. The bill was never passed by the House and was never introduced, given a hearing, or voted upon in the Senate. Omnibus bills are considered “must pass” legislation because of the potential for a government shutdown. Some members of Congress use riders attached to them as a way of getting funding for pet projects often referred to as “pork.”

Regula’s bill, HR 3283, allows the federal land management agencies to charge access fees for recreational use of public lands by the general public. The bill has been highly controversial and is opposed by hundreds of organizations, state legislatures, county governments and rural Americans.

HR 3283 passed the House Committee on Resources in September under strong pressure from Regula, who is expected to become the next Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. His bill is a radical change in the way public lands are funded and stands in contrast to a more moderate competing bill passed by the Senate. There, Senator Thomas (R-WY) sponsored S.1107 that would let the National Park Service retain their entrance fees for local use but would allow access fees to expire in the other agencies. Thomas’s bill passed the Senate in May by unanimous consent but never had a hearing in the House.

Early in last week’s lame duck session, Regula’s attempts to attach his rider 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.

By Thursday, however, Regula had 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.

“This was a victory of pork over principle,” said Robert Funkhouser, President of the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, which has worked to oppose the Fee Demo program. “Ralph Regula is responsible for the first tax increase of the Bush administration. He and Senator Stevens have sold out America’s heritage of public lands for the price of a road.”

The Regula bill will go into effect when Fee Demo expires at the beginning of fiscal year 2005 unless the new congress acts to derail it. Its key provisions include permanent recreation fee authority for all National Forests and BLM land as well as all land managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Park Service. Failure to pay the fees will be a criminal offense punishable by up to $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail. Drivers, owners, and occupants of vehicles not displaying either a daily or annual pass will be presumed guilty of failure to pay and can all be charged, without obligation by the government to prove their guilt. The measure encourages agencies to contract with private companies and other non-governmental entities to manage public lands and to enforce fee collection. The bill also establishes a national, interagency annual pass called the America the Beautiful Pass, expected to cost $85-$100 initially.

These provisions have encountered strong opposition in the west and in rural areas nationwide. The program is considered a double tax by many and puts the burden of funding the management agencies on the backs of rural Americans. Regula’s bill failed to attract a single western sponsor but was co-sponsored by seven eastern congressmen.

“This is an abuse of position by Congressman Regula” according to Funkhouser. “Changing public land policy in the middle of the night via a rider is despicable. Once again the Congressman has proven to be hostile to rural and western values and will stop at nothing to push his agenda”.

The provisions in HR 3283 are intended to replace the former Fee Demo program, also created by Regula. Fee Demo was similarly passed as a rider on an Omnibus Appropriations bill in 1996. Originally a two-year demonstration, it was repeatedly extended and is now in its eighth year. Fee Demo has sparked protests nationwide and widespread non-compliance. Hundreds of organized groups, as well as four state legislatures and dozens of counties, opposed the program.

Senator Thomas’s office - 202-224-6441
Congressman Regula’s office - 202-225-3876
Senator Stevens’s office - 202-224-3004



Committee on Resource, US House of Representative
For Immediate Release
Saturday, November 20, 2004

Contact Brian Kennedy or Matt Streit at (202) 226-9019

Recreation Fee Demonstration Bill Passes

Washington, DC - Today the Congress passed H.R. 3283, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, introduced by Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH). The bill will improve recreational facilities and visitor opportunities on federal recreational lands by reinvesting receipts from fair and consistent recreational fees and passes.

“This legislation ensures continued access to recreational opportunities on our federal land while protecting the public’s pocketbook,” said House Committee on Resources Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA). “We have given federal land managers the ability to assess reasonable fees for specific activities and uses. This bill will put an end to fears that fees will be misused by federal land managers since we have laid out very specific circumstances under which these fees can be collected and subsequently reinvested.”

The Recreational Fee Demonstration Program (Rec Fee Demo) was originally proposed in 1996 as a tool to generate needed revenue to manage the growing occurrence of recreation on public land. The program has been both praised and assailed by federal land users. Since its inception, federal land managers have been able to actively reinvest fees assessed into the site or activities used.

After numerous concerns and reauthorizations, the House Resources Committee, the committee with authorizing jurisdiction, undertook reauthorizing the Rec Fee Program. Rep. Regula’s bill will extend the program for 10 years and specifically states where and what a fee may and may not be charged for, while also establishing types of fees.

The bill also incorporates public participation by establishing Recreation Advisory Committees that will consist of members of the local government and recreation community. This group will provide recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior regarding the establishment, elimination, or adjustment of a fee. Additionally, a Federal Lands Pass will be established for all entrance and amenity fees for federal lands.



Congress Replaces National Recreation Fee Demonstration Program
News from the American Recreation Coalition

Washington, D.C. (November 24, 2004) – The National Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, created in 1996 as a three-year experiment, will soon be replaced by a new recreation fee program covering five federal agencies and providing a ten-year fee authorization. The new Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, created under Section J of HR 4818, the omnibus appropriations measure for Fiscal Year 2005, is based upon legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Ralph Regula (OH-16) and amended and approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources. Mr. Regula played a central role in the development of the fee demo program and its extension as the Congress sought to craft long-term recreation fee policy.

Commenting on the new legislation, American Recreation Coalition President Derrick Crandall said, “Congressman Regula has worked for more than a decade to supplement Congressional appropriations with fees paid by those enjoying visits to federal recreation sites. (1.) We applaud his hard work and the good-faith efforts of the Administration, which has listened carefully to the concerns of those who support fees but were concerned about specific elements of the fee demonstration program. This is a good framework for improved recreation experiences on America’s public lands and we are excited by the opportunity to work together on the America the Beautiful pass, the new regional passes and the volunteer provisions of the legislation. (2.)The result of this legislation should be $200 million or more in new resources every year above and beyond appropriations. Fees will remain only one part of caring for our legacy of public lands, and (3.) the fees authorized under this measure will not block access to public lands by anyone, regardless of their financial situation.”

Web Note:
(1) The Administration only listened to those who supported the fees!  (2) That is $200 million in extra taxes out of the pockets of middle income folks in the Western states.  (3) Poor folks will get to visit the forest annually on at least one FREE day, or they can volunteer at below the minimum wage and get a FREE pass for say 40 hours of cleaning toilets for a Forest Service contractor.  --Webmeister



Editorial - CantonRep (an OHIO Newspaper)
Friday, November 26, 2004

Hate the deficit, love that pork!

We hate the growing federal budget deficit, but not so much as to hate the pork that Ralph Regula can barrel and ship to Stark County. Contradictions are a part of life, and congressional production of good works back in the district is a part of how the U.S. government serves constituents.

Congressman Regula has provided an early Christmas present. A federal spending bill approved by Congress includes $1.9 million for development of the Mills Industrial Park in southern Canton. It contains a million for a traffic problem in Hartville, a half-million for the water treatment plant in Canton, and nearly a million each for the county’s two biggest hospitals, Aultman and Mercy; neither one will feel favored over the other. Regula also has secured $1 million each for two YMCAs to be developed in western Stark County.

Regula, who has been representing Stark County and the rest of the 16th Ohio Congressional District since 1973, is one of the most powerful congressmen in Washington. His seniority and leadership position within the majority Republican Party give him the ability to provide all sorts of pleasant surprises for the folks back home.

That’s how the system works in Washington. Seniority and majority make Stark County more worthy than a hundred other communities in the nation that could use the same measures of federal largess. Someday Stark County will not be in this position; another community will be.

Those who complain about this system can stand outside at night and bay at the moon, for all the good it will do them.

Web Note:
This is dirty business indeed!  What are you going to do about this system? The most that I can do is continue to Protest (Fee Demo)
the new "Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act
".  --Webmeister


We may have another chance! Act now!  12.01.04

“An unexpected delay in final passage of the massive omnibus appropriations bill has given public lands fee opponents ANOTHER CHANCE to defeat Ralph Regula’s scheme to legislate permanent public lands fees behind closed doors using a parliamentary sleight of hand, without debate or public hearings.

You may have heard in the news that a clause offensive to privacy rights advocates (it would allow certain members of Congress and their staffs to view previously off-limits
IRS tax returns) was discovered in the spending bill. The bill, with the offending clause, had already received House approval. The Senate deleted the IRS clause before they voted. The House and Senate versions are therefore different, and so final approval has not yet been achieved and the bill has not yet been sent to the President for signature. The Congress has been called back for a second lame duck session beginning December 6 to settle the issues.”

We are urged to telephone the following access lines of the Congressional leaders:

THIS WEEK, before December 3rd, contact the key congressional leaders listed below, by phone or fax. Also call or fax your own Representative and both of your Senators.

A massive outpouring of opposition, not only to the bill itself but to its method of passage, WILL have a major impact!

Sample letter or phone call: “Please remove HR 3283 as a rider on the omnibus spending bill. Substantive legislation, especially with criminal penalties involved, should go through a full legislative procedure of public hearings and debate. I am outraged at this abuse of the appropriations process. HR 3283 should not be passed without ever seeing the light of day.”

Here is who to contact:
Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House
Phone: 202/225-2976
Fax: 202/225-0697

Tom Delay, House Majority Leader
Phone: 202/225-5951
Fax: 202/225-5241

Rep. Ralph Regula
Phone: 202/225-3876
Fax: 202/225-3059

Bill Young, Chair, House Appropriation Committee
Phone: 202/225-5961
Fax: 202/225-9764

Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader
Phone: 202/224-3344
Fax: 202/228-1264

Ted Stevens, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee
Phone: 202/224-3004
Fax: 202/224-2354

Try calling the phone numbers yourself. It does not cost much and it feels good to vent to a real staffer who usually answers the call. Get it out of your system. I told them I was going to lead a grass roots crusade to change their "pork for re-election" bylaws provisions that can create power for the worst politicians!


“Our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our cases before the conscience of the local, national, (and the international) community."

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.




Read more . . .
Western Slope No Fee Coalition
Arizona No Fee Coalition

  Fee Demo and Climbing Fees
Fee Demo fees replaced by new Recreation Access Fees

Fee Demo groundwork may save Geocaching on our public lands
Fee Demo program made permanent through last minute political deal!
Reserve your next backcountry adventure!
Fees, forests don't always fit, by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho
Congressman Greg Walden limits fee demo
Fee demo program discriminates against our poor folks

Fee Demo looses to grass roots outrage
Fee Demo Forest Pass dropped at 20 sites on the Deschutes National Forest! 
Senator Regula's Fee Demo support and The Wilderness Center, Inc.
Senator Craig calls Fee Demo a failed program
Outdoor recreation in Oregon far from free 
Oregon Field Guide: “Pay to Play on Public Land”  

National Park Service plans climbing fees increase! 
Fee demo rejected by USFS employees 
Fee demo has "fallen short" - Senator Craig 
Fee demo demonstrations 

  The Badlands Wilderness
BLM posts Reward for information on Juniper rustlers
BLM weighing public input on management plan
Oregon's Badlands hit by old growth Juniper rustlers  Photos
Congressman Greg Walden to visit The Badlands
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by COTA
OpEd - Unregulated OHV use is being reviewed across the western states
OHV use curtailed by new USFS policy decisions 
Sierra Club's Juniper Group supports Badlands Wilderness 
OHV regulation discussed at BLM meeting in Bend, Oregon
OpEd - Badlands part of BLM's recreation management area
OpEd - We need the Badlands Wilderness 
OpEd - Off-roaders have no reason to fear Badlands Wilderness designation
Speak for the Badlands at Town Hall Meeting 
Hiking poles are becoming essential gear 
Vandals destroy ancient pictographs in the Badlands
Senator Wyden tests support of Badlands Wilderness
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by Bend City Commissioners
The Badlands: proposed for Wilderness status

The Badlands, a brief history  
The Badlands pictographs reported 75 year ago

Map of huge exclusive OHV areas adjoining the Badlands  

Mark Fiore animates the Bush Roadless Rule  You will love this!  
Reserve your next backcountry adventure!
Nation's forests might be on the road to ruin, by President Bill Clinton
Wilderness at risk from new Bush policies
Steens management scandal may affect wilderness study areas  
BLM outsourced Steens Management Plan to mining industry leaders!
Owyhee River wilderness study area inventory with ONDA
OHV vandals charged in Yellowstone
Oregon's B and B Complex fire closure modified 
Senate says NO to Big Oil in Alaska 
Gloria Flora - Environmental Hero 
Re-introducing wolves into Oregon 
George Bush overlooking the environment

  Eastern Oregon Adventures
Backpacking Big Indian Gorge in The Steens 
Owyhee Canyon wilderness study area in south east Oregon 
ONDA's Owyhee wilderness inventory camp near Rome, Oregon 
NOLS group on an Owyhee River Canyon adventure 
Owyhee River desert lands - Jordan Valley Rodeo 
Steens Mountain wedding in Eastern Oregon