The issue of paying for access to public lands -- our national parks, forests, and Bureau of Land Management areas, just to name the three largest public land managers -- is prickly. After all, supposedly our taxes go to pay for the upkeep of these lands that in theory are owned by all of us.
So why do the land-management agencies continually search for new revenue streams from us, the paying public? Why higher entrance fees? Why higher camping fees? Why even have to pay a fee to take a hike, fish, or snap a photograph of a wildflower?
The answer, of course, is that Congress is not properly funding these agencies and that there are some in the administration who believe outsourcing of services and perhaps even privatization of these lands is the way to go.
Fortunately, not everyone is going blithely along with these
trends. In the state of Washington there's a movement in the
legislature to ask the president and Congress to bring an end to these
While this request would be specific to Washington state, perhaps other states will agree these ever-increasing charges to visit and enjoy what we already own are going too far and need to be abolished and that the land-management agencies need to be properly funded.
For insight into what's going on in Washington state, check out this post and audiofile at Park Remark.
Think there's not enough money out there to properly fund the land agencies? Think again. According to the 2007 edition of the Pig Book published by Citizens Against Government Waste, there's quite a bit of money that's been wasted on odd projects. In the departments of Defense and Homeland Security alone the group points to $13.2 billion of questionable appropriations. That much would more than wipe out the Park Service's maintenance backlog.
Let's look at some of the "pork" that the group has found:
* $4.5 million for research involving shrimp heads to help make better bandages.
* $11.5 million for a telescope at the University of Hawaii to watch for space objects that might collide with Earth. Isn't this NASA's job?
* $9.5 million for something called an "Extended Cold Weather Clothing System." Folks like The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and Marmot, just to name three private-sector companies, seem to be doing a good job in this field.
* $1.35 million for an "Obesity in the Military Research Program." How 'bout more bootcamp?
* $4.5 million for alcohol breath analyzers for the military. I thought drill sergeants could sniff alcohol on a soldier's breath from 200 paces.
* $12 million for the American Trucking Association to recruit and train "highway professionals to identify and report security and safety situations on the nation's roads." As CAGW aptly replied in regard to this earmark, "What happened to the good old-fashioned highway patrol?"
There's more in the Pig Book, folks. Take a look when you have the time.