In an era of dwindling federal dollars for such things as campground upkeep, a report on the federal Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) failure to charge appropriate fees for camping and picnic areas must serve as a wake-up call, the Bend (Ore.) Bulletin said in an editorial. If the agency is to maintain its public use areas, it will have to charge reasonable fees to allow the public in.

A report released Tuesday (Feb. 24) by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s inspector general said the agency has failed to do just that, at least some of the time. The result, the report said, is that the agency misses millions of dollars in revenue that could go to such things as improved garbage collection, better sanitation and more protection for nearby natural resources.

BLM does not charge for use of areas that lack such amenities as permanent toilets and parking, nor should it. But, the report notes, it has recreation sites that could, at relatively low cost, be improved to the point that usage fees could be charged.

That makes sense.

Perhaps less sensible is the notion that the BLM should charge “market value” for the use of its facilities. As an example of the agency’s failure to do that, auditors cite a BLM campground in Arizona and a privately owned campground nearby, which charges visitors higher fees.

Auditors say that while the views are better at the private campground, the sheer size of the public one makes it more desirable. That may be a matter of taste, decided differently by different users.

In fact, the BLM is not a private operator and direct comparisons with private operators should be made cautiously.

For the full editorial, click here.