April 27, 2009

Crapo Seeks To Stop Public Lands Fees

Cites double payment in reintroducing fee repeal act

Washington, DC - Legislation to stop Americans from paying twice to access their public lands has been reintroduced in the United States Senate by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Max Baucus (D-Montana). The Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act, S. 868, repeals legislation passed in 2004 that allowed federal agencies, with the exception of the National Park Service, to institute fees for public access to many campgrounds, trailheads and other public uses.

Crapo and Baucus heard complaints from many people using backcountry sites that the fees constitute duplicate payments for taxpayers who already fund agency improvements through paying federal taxes. Both the Idaho and Montana state legislatures have endorsed the no-fee bill.

"We should pay for backcountry improvements through the federal budget process, not so-called 'pay-to-play' plans which can limit access and affordability," Crapo noted. "As an outdoorsman and a legislator, I support fair access to our public lands, and recognize the need to adequately fund recreational activities on those lands. I will continue to see that the funding needs of our land management agencies are met through normal funding channels."

The bill repeals the Federal Lands Recreational Enhancement Act (FLREA) and replaces it with the fee authorities established under the 1965 Land and Water Conservation Act. The legislation also caps the amount that can be charged to visit national parks.

Crapo said he and Baucus are working with outfitters to make sure the legislation does not create hardships, such as overlapping or unreasonable fees, for backcountry businesses. The legislation has been supported by the Western Whitewater Association and the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition.