The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal agencies would no longer be able to increase fees at campgrounds, trailheads and other public-use areas under a bill introduced Dec. 10 by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
The measure also would require analysis before new fees could be charged at national parks, cap the amount that can be charged for entrance to national parks and reinstate the National Parks Pass system, according to Missoulian.com.
The bill would repeal provisions of the 2004 Federal Lands Recreational Enhancement Act and reinstate previous legislation that limits the use of fees on public lands. With the exception of the National Park Service, the new measure would revoke the authority the 2004 bill gave federal agencies to institute new fees and increase existing fees.
“Americans already pay to use their public lands on April 15,” Baucus said in a statement. “We shouldn’t be taxed twice to go fishing, hiking or camping on our public lands. It just doesn’t make any sense. That’s why Mike and I are going to fight like the dickens to get this bill passed.”
The National Park Service would still be able to establish new fees for entrance to national parks and for the use of developed campgrounds, boat launches and other services at parks.
No entrance fees would be allowed for children under 16, noncommercial school outings, and at specific parks such as the USS Arizona Memorial, the Independence National Historical Park, the Flight 93 National Memorial and a few others.
In establishing any new national park fees, the Interior secretary would have to analyze the fee’s costs, benefits, ease of collection, fit with management and policy goals and other factors. The secretary would have to publish a notice in the Federal Register and wait one year before starting to collect the fee.
At least 80% of the receipts would have to be used at the site where they were collected.
The Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act of 2007 would also reinstate the National Park Passport Program.
The 2004 legislation extended a demonstration program that allowed the Forest Service, BLM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to charge the public small fees to hike, launch boats and camp in national forests and other public lands. It also added the Bureau of Reclamation to the list of included agencies.
Supporters say the fees are necessary in light of the tight federal budget to maintain the areas.