Bishop proposes fee reform on public lands

Thursday , July 31, 2014 - 8:55 AM

WASHINGTON — Utah’s Rep. Rob Bishop introduced legislation this week to help national parks and other federal land agencies retain and better manage their recreational fees.

Agencies like the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service use visitor fees to maintain facilities like camprounds and vistors centers, as well as run educational and interpreative programs. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, or FLREA, gives agencies the authority to use those fees, but the act is set to expire next year. Bishop’s bill, The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act of 2014 (H.R. 5204), would both reauthorize FLREA and also work to “modernize” it.

Much of that modernization comes through tweaks meant to improve fee collection and fee transparency. The term “standard amenity recreation fee,” for example, would change to “day use fee.” The bill provides clarity on when fees are waived for educational purposes and includes more extensive detail on  special recreation permits and fees.

The bill would charge motorcycles and snowmobiles the same fees as cars when they’re used to enter parks. Prices for “America the Beautiful” annual park passes would be adjusted for inflation every three years. 

The proposed law also pushes more fee transparency by requiring fees to be published on agency’s websites, as well as any proposed fee changes, and encourages the use of technology and automated payments. 

The bill has received praise from some public lands preservation groups, mostly for its reauthorization of FLREA. The National Parks Second Century Action Coalition, which includes the National Parks Conservation Association, the Outdoor Industry Association, Zion Natural History Association, among others, issued a statement in support.

“Congressman Bishop’s legislation helps preserve a vital part of the funding stream for our national parks and other federal lands however, the coalition will continue to work with Congress to make adjustments to the bill as it moves through the legislative process.” stated Craig Obey, senior vice president for the National Parks Conservation Association and chair of the coalition. 

Bishop’s bill, which had no co-sponsors, was referred to the committees on Natural Resources and Agriculture on July 25. 

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