Federal Rec Fees : The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

If you read my blog regularly, you'll know that I think the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act is bogus. The people never asked for it, and probably never would have approved it, but somehow for the last 10 years, the legislation regarding fees to visit our federal lands have passed through Congress as non-debated riders. We the people are literally paying the price. And so, with that perspective in mind, I present news from recent days about fees required to visit our National Parks.

The Good
The State of California has just introduced legislation to ask the federal government that fees collected as part of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act be repealed within their state. This legislation is very similar to those passed in the state legislatures of Alaska, Oregon, Montana, and Colorado. Here's the full text of California's Assembly Joint Resolution 21, introduced by Assemblyman Anthony Portantion of Pasadena on the 14th of March.

The Bad
The State of Washington has also introduced a bill (HJM 4003) which would have asked the same thing of the federal govt. I covered this issue a little while ago with an interview of Washington State Rep Chase who had introduced the bill. Quite unfortunately, the Memorial got stuck in committee before it could reach the floor for a vote. I spoke with Rep. Chase's office this weekend, and was told that, even with a surprising amount of last minute email traffic asking that the Memorial be allowed to move, the committee chairman kept it from the floor. The reason, as told to me by Chase's office, was that there wasn't time this session. Of course, the super-suspicious mind of a blogger (me) wants to suspect that someone with some influence spoke with the committee chairman directly and asked him to sit on the Memorial. I have absolutely zero (let me repeat, ZERO) proof or even rumor to back that claim up, but, the events leading up to the freeze on the Memorial seem so out of place, that I want to suspect something more than "there isn't time". Chase's office told me they will introduce the bill again, during the next session.

The Ugly
National Park entrance fees are going up, up, up. It has recently been announced that fees to enter Yosemite National Park and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks will jump up to $25. This jump is consistent with recent fee jumps at Yellowstone and Grand Canyon which are now $25. This on top of recent announcements that fees at the Everglades will double ($20 per car from $10), and earlier announcements that fees would double for Lassen, as well as go up for Crater Lake and Lava Beds. I could keep going here ... Zion, Big Bend, ... all on top of the biggest injustice, a 60% jump this year ($80 up from $50) for an annual pass to all parks. And what's to stop it? Not much.

For my own good, I need to end this post on a positive note. I should change the answer to that last question. The answer should be "we can stop it". There are times when if feels like no one in D.C. is listening, but that shouldn't stop us from trying. I am pleased when I see that individual states are taking the initiative to ask simply that the FLREA be reevaluated, and at least be given the opportunity for an open debate rather than slipped in among pages of other bills in Congress. If you live in California, call up your state assemblyman and tell them to support AJR 21. If you live in Washington, drop an email to Rep Chase, let her know you support bringing HJM 4003 to the hopper again. If you live in another state, maybe it's worth calling your state representative and letting them know about the actions of these western states to give the FLREA a critical look. The odds are, your Rep doesn't even know the issue is one worth pursuing unless you ask.

It is not the fact of liberty, but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.
~Dorothy Thompson